Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Over on Salon, Helen Benedict has a story about women soldiers fighting off men soldiers ("The Private War of Women Soldiers", (

This has been discussed at length here in the Post "Facts on the Ground"

I'll just synopsize it this way: The situation this article describes is serious and merits much attention. However we must not yield to the dynamics of the original mistake: to permit a complex and huge change in a monstrously sensitive and crucial area of national functioning without serious deliberation.

The matter of women-in-the-military was pushed through in the past two decades with only the simplest of characterizations – bordering almost on the cartoonish, and it was cast as merely a subset of and ‘just the next logical step in’ the ongoing liberation of women.

It was hugely more than that. The actual vision was hardly simple, composed of three large and largely un-examined demands: that women be allowed into the active-duty military and not merely as ‘auxiliaries’; that women participate in combat; that women serve in mixed-gender units. Any one of the above would have generated significant and vital debate, discussion, and deliberation – as should happen in a deliberative democracy and among a democratic People. But such is not the modus operandi of revolutions, especially in our modern American reality where Identities and their professional advocacies cast each large demand as an undeniable redress for an ancient evil that must be righted today if not yesterday.

In an effort to create ‘facts on the ground’, regardless of the possible consequences, the demands were incorporated back in the days when the US was flush with cash and the USSR had just collapsed, making the prospect of further serious ground combat and military risk appear to be almost nil. All three demands were more or less met.

Let’s focus for a moment only on the third: mixed-gender units. Just why there had to be mixed-gender units was never satisfactorily established. Certainly the ineluctable consequence – sexual activity, unlovely in so many ways and hugely distracting in any case – should have given serious pause. It did not. The fiction imposed was that inter-troop sex is merely the result of a failure in ‘leadership’, and that unit commanders would be held responsible. The fatuousness of suggesting that sex between two human beings – voluntary or not – is primarily a function of the leadership of a third stuns.

Predictably now we are bethumped with horror stories and horrific reports of women being molested. But such a casting of the problem – as essentially a Lifetime woman-in-trouble script – cannot be accepted as the defining parameters of the problem. The option of single-gender units would have hugely reduced this ancient and ageless probability of ‘sex’ and can still do so now. Surely the alternative – to imagine that sexual relations are amenable to the imprecations of advocacies and the harrumphings of Congress – is as feckless as King Canute trying to command the tides.

This is not a plea for a return to macho rapine nor a dismissive insensitivity to women. All of the troops over there now – and it surely is old-fashioned combat – have their hands full being boots-on-the-ground without the distractions of being ‘facts on the ground’ for this or that ill-considered and poorly thought-out experiment.

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