Monday, August 04, 2008

SEX AND SOLDIERING

Lord, it’s turning into a full-court press. Now a retired colonel is claiming that there is a DOD cover-up of sexual assault in the military. “Sexual Assault in the Military: A DoD Cover-up?” (http://www.truthout.org/article/sexual-assault-military-a-dod-cover-up).

I wouldn’t be surprised. The Pentagon has gotten pretty good at covering up just about everything in the past few years. Actually, it’s been going on for a lot longer than that, although the increasing professional imbecility of the mainstream media has helped immeasurably. And it’s not just out-and-out cover-up; the pregnancy rates on Navy ships heading to the first Gulf War were so scandalously high (for a variety of reasons, rape not being one of the largest) that the Navy simply ordered its doctors not to keep records. No records, no unpleasant and potentially complicated ‘facts’.

The colonel-author here is exercised because the DOD hasn’t really been spending a lot of time nurturing one of the many flora blossoming in the over-crowded garden of that cottage-industry known as ‘women’s issues in the military’: the SAPRO (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office) committee of 15 civilians, chaired by one Dr. Kaye Whitley.

Why, you ask yourself, would a thoroughly modern military want to neglect such a bureaucratic entity? The fact that it is losing two wars and maybe a third could be one reason. Fighting wars is, after all, one of the more important functions of a military, and there are even some who would assert that fighting and winning wars is the primary and overriding purpose of the military.

The fact that the budget is kinda tight – even with all the money the Pentagon is getting – and the dollar bids fair to lose much of its fabled national and international status – might be another. Ferrying yet another committee around? All over the world? Wherever women have issues? Wherever there is sex? That could eat up some cash and tie up more than a few resources.

But I’ll go out on a limb and suggest another possibility: the military quietly realizes that in the military setting (and especially if there’s a war or three going on) the ‘prevention’ of ‘sexual abuse’ as it is currently defined, is about as possible as the prevention of sex. And given the wide definition of sexual abuse, the two almost amount to the same thing. And that having allowed itself to become the stage for the ongoing drama of women’s issues back in the salad days of the early ‘90s when there was scads of money, no USSR, and no prospects of any shooting or heavy lifting, it is in no position now to throw more money into the upkeep and expansion of the series and all its mini-series; there’s a war on.

The shooting and heavy-lifting of ‘old school’ military life has come back with a vengeance; and there’s not even money to try to make modern military service conform to the tasteful décor and button-pressing non-exertion of a Galaxy-class starship. So the thoroughly predictable problem of whether nature ever intended the female psyche (even in its sensible-shoes variant) to immerse itself in the brutal chimpish frakfesting of modern (or classical) war – and 4GW at that … that thoroughly predictable problem has raised its head. But it can’t be discussed – the mothers of the revolution insured that, pulling along the Democratic Party by its increasingly short hairs.

But even more basically, the mother (if we may) of all problems has reared its head: how do you control sexual interactions among a) teens, b) who have not necessarily enjoyed the most comprehensive up-bringing, c) and ‘liberated’ by decades of sexual ‘freedom’, d) under conditions of the closest physical intimacy, e) and far, far from home in a strange land, f) and under the unrelenting pressure of combat operations, and g) where almost all the more ‘advanced’ stress-relievers and distractions of modern American youth are unavailable?

The feminist ploy was to quickly move the issue to one of ‘command responsibility’ – i.e., that officers who are paid and trained to command can solve the problem if they want to. Or problems plural. Or problems innumerable.

It was a shrood and kewt trick, but like so many other feministical ploys of the Second Wave, it was itself a cover-up. The mothers of the revolution rushed the whole argument right by the fundamental questions: Is it even humanly possible to control sex under these circumstances? Is it even worthwhile to try?

This, to the mothers, was over-thinking things. And oppressively so. ‘Just do it’ or it will prove that ‘you just don’t get it’, and then we’ll sic our Dem dogs on you, and they’ll cut your funding off and you’ll never get promoted. Peacetime militaries are receptive to this type of presentation. Alas.

Now, of course, the feminist Advocacies in this cottage sub-industry of women-in-the-military are in a kinda tight spot: there’s an election coming up, and they have to make some hay while they can. But the wars aren’t going well, and their complaints – and they have to be ‘complaints’ for the industry to stay in business – might tend to seem a little out of proportion, all things considered. What to do?

Apparently, the plan is to bawl loudly about ‘sexual abuse’ while selectively highlighting just a few of the very worst (and least numerous) type of cases. Yet avoid casting aspersions on the male troops. Indeed, the colonel reveals a not-altogether relevant factoid that 12% of the sexual assaults are on males. But there’s a method to her irrelevance: thus, you see, the ‘women’ aren’t really blaming the ‘men’; indeed, they’re doing this ‘for’ the men. Shrewd. And charming. Although I thought the whole feminist vision involved not doing things for men anymore. It’s hard to keep up with the memos. But as best can be made out, the new scheme is to claim that the 'women' are not the only ones 'abused', that the men are victims too, and that the women are doing all this for the men.

This sudden and doctrinally –if I may – extraordinary shift merits a closer look. Sexual assault has traditionally been the feminists’ main gambit against ‘men’. It is the basis of both the domestic violence initiative and the sex-offense mania. It has been successful in this objective (although its presumably unintended consequences have been hugely damaging of the country’s constitutional ethos and democratic politics, as noted in previous Posts).

Why would one of the linchpin tactics of the entire feminist strategy in regard to the military suddenly be changed? Why expand the scope of ‘sexual assault awareness’ to now include males rather than to indict them?

One possibility is that in the context of the desperate and unsuccessful lethal military operations over there the original tactic appears mean-spirited and out of proportion to the dangers posed. A public realization that the demands of the feminist gambit are bereft of any sense of proportion would break the spell of victimhood that has lubricated the entire anti-male campaign for decades. And such a breaking of the spell would lead to public skepticism; and that skepticism would fuel a closer, more thoughtful and critical analysis – something that for decades the feminists have struggled mightily and ruthlessly (and truthlessly) to prevent.

And such skepticism would not be limited to feminist agitations in the military. It would most likely spread to other gambits in even wider realms of the common weal, and result in a clearer public awareness of just how much damage has been done. There is every possibility that obstructions of justice, miscarriages of justice, false information, junk science, and all manner of shady manipulations will be uncovered, extending to the professional Advocacies, the mainstream media, the law enforcement and even judicial organs, and even to the legislative chicanery that induced sweeping and ill-advised laws to be passed with almost no careful analysis. Such revelations would do to the feminist cause what similar examinations have done to the credibility of the current Administration’s preventive wars and its corrosive assault on civil liberty and the constitutional ethos of America itself.

Another possibility is that despite the hype there are not so many incidences of ‘sexual abuse’ as public opinion has been led to believe. And that in order to ‘keep up the numbers’ and keep up the stampede of public opinion – in order to stay in business as well as prevent closer examination – then the potential field of victimizations has to be expanded. But this is a risky gambit, because to embrace ‘men’ as a survival tactic threatens to dilute and dissipate the intense gender-identity that is the core of feminism’s ‘true believers’ or ‘old believers’, that Second Wave who spear-headed this first and largest of the Revolutions of the Identities. After all, this is not simply the tricky gambit of enlarging the ‘tent’ but of bringing into the tent the very enemy against whom the tent was constructed (and fortified) in the first place .

But I think that it’s a little more nuanced than that. The strategic thinking of the feminist Advocacy has been – in its short-sighted way – too astute to simply reverse itself so quickly and massively as to unseat the most fundamental dynamic elements of the Second Wave’s revolution. No. I think that the embrace of ‘males’, the quiet but sudden change from ‘sexual assaults against women in the military’ to ‘sexual assaults in the military’ is a deliberate but temporary tactic to soften the hard edges of feminism’s image, and to sweeten its noxious traces, so as to stay at the table and in public opinion’s good graces during the electoral season. To keep its organizational cohesion and impetus while – for the purposes of lulling public opinion – blunting the cutting edge, and – nicely – achieving all of this while appearing to generously and heroically don the mantle of protecting all the troops, not just the females.

And yet I think it goes even deeper: this tactical shift, if successful, would undercut the suggestion to establish same-gender units. We recall that the feminist campaign against the military succeeded because three distinct changes were telescoped into one, and this ‘bundle’ most economically and shrewdly surfed in unexamined on the one wave of public enthusiasm. Women in the military – not such a big thing; women in combat – quite something else again; mixed-gender units in the field – hugely questionable. But if ‘sexual assault’ is affecting males as well as females, then configuring the units into same-gender composition would not be a logical solution to the ‘crisis’.

Neat. And it might also open up possible tactical alliances with elements in the military opposed to gay soldiers. (Although this is risky: I’m guessing that the sensible-shoes component among ‘military women’ might get sucked into the line of fire in any anti-gay initiatives, and their interests comprise a substantial fraction of feminist agitations in the military realm.)

In any case, there can be little doubt that the decent American presumption that ‘advocates’ are merely simple, disinterested folk performing the innocent service of calling attention to this or that issue is not adequate to the reality of high-stakes, professional Advocacy such as it has evolved. Feminism as it now exists is deeply enmeshed with K-Street-level manipulations and tactics. While this is not to deny the validity of some large feminist insights and concerns, it certainly indicates the need for a more careful analysis and appraisal of the various initiatives pressed by the Advocacies: actual objectives, the quality of information deployed to support the claims, a full examination of the consequences of any action proposed or demanded. This is especially true for legislation, and especially for any legislation affecting judicial procedure and civil and – most assuredly – criminal law.

And in another gambit that worked well for the domestic-violence and sex-offense subsidiaries, the dark implication is bruited about that many of the female suicides and accidental deaths are actually hushed-up murders committed by jilted lovers or violent, sex-crazed, looney-toon males. Anything is possible. But the possibility of a percentage of troops from any intense and losing war coming back and doing purposeful or accidental violence to themselves or to each other can hardly be left out of the equations.

Of course, to actually start thinking-through the stuff doled out by the feminist advocacies’ PR folks is ‘oppressive’ and ‘victimizing’. It’s all about ‘sex’ (and that’s something they should have known decades ago when they started this whole thing).

So I’ll share a couple of my own rules of procedure in considering this type of thing. One, I’m very careful about accepting ‘facts’ and statistics from Advocacy PR folks. There’s too much ‘extrapolation’ and not enough actual plain old disinterested and accurate counting. You can't listen to the stories of 10 individuals, figure that one way or another 6 of them have had some sort of experience according to your hugely elastic definition of - say - 'abuse', and thereby put on your white lab coat, go in front of the cameras, and claim that by extrapolation it is scientifically valid to claim that 60% of the troops are being abused, which works out to x-hundred thousand or y-million incidents a year, and that it's a 'crisis' and that almost everything is being massively covered-up.

Two, I do not put full and immediate trust in ‘stories’. They are insufficient as a primary basis for determining social policy and passing legislation, especially in criminal law. The colonel-author is particularly upset that her wish to bring in four soldiers (women) to tell their stories was declined. We recall the effect of such ‘stories’ in the run-up to the invasion of Poland in 1939: the German public was subjected to numerous ‘stories’, many of them staged and all of them vetted by the Propaganda Ministry, from German women and mothers who were ‘victims’ of purported Polish outrages and atrocities.

We need not go all the way here by pointing out that feminist doctrine – or at least some versions of it – asserts that men process information rationally through analysis while women process information relationally through stories. Stories are much more telegenic than rational analysis and that has seduced the mainstream media even down to the local-news level; this has been a substantial enabler of the damaging initiatives and manias that have already taken root. Analysis, even among legislators, has almost disappeared, resulting in bad laws passed on waves of emotion with little thought as to consequences, especially unintended ones. And this lethal dynamic has spread to foreign policy as well, evidenced by the run-up to the Iraq invasion and ensuing debacle.

Three, just as I no longer take Advocacy statements at face value, I also no longer take ‘scientific’ reports at face value; the development of ‘advocacy’ science – the purposeful tailoring of reports in the ‘good cause’ of furthering this or that advocated conclusion – has corrupted significant swaths of what ordinary citizens would presume to be disinterested and ‘honest’ scientific research and reporting.

Four, the same goes for ‘advocacy journalism’ which has had a similar effect on the media. And this noxious development is only reinforced by the ‘corporate’ philosophy that the media are supposed to be profitable, the public are ‘consumers’, and the role of the media is simply to give the public what they ‘want’ and what they ‘like’, regardless of any now-abandoned responsibility to provide comprehensive accuracy and perspective. Again, what We are seeing of the mainstream media’s largely complicit and even collusive role in the perpetrations – foreign and domestic – of this Administration was first practiced in the media’s indulgence of the (shrewdly manipulative and telegenic) professional Advocacies.

Five, there’s way too much vagueness not only about how many ‘incidents’ there are, but just where they lie on a spectrum of intensity: of x thousand ‘incidents’ how many are outright murder, how many are lesser actions? And so very often, but only after some digging, much lesser actions.

Six, I want some reliable definitions: just what constitutes sexual ‘abuse’? Just what constitutes ‘rape’? Just what is 'trauma' compared to garden-variety, perennial human 'bad experience'?Just what are the actual effects of 'trauma' that are reachable by law as a relief? This is not grinch-like, uncaring bean-counting and pedantry. This is essential to form an accurate picture of what’s going on. Both the domestic-violence and sex-offense subsidiaries have upon close examination yielded profoundly disturbing manipulations of definitions that would not occur to an average reader of good faith. Thus, for example, the ‘battering’ of domestic violence law can include telephone calls from long distances, and does not even require verbal threats – indeed, a woman can be ‘battered’ by there being no conversation at all. Such elasticity serves to inflate matters to 'crisis' proportions. It also, you'd have to admit, keeps the numbers up - which is good for certain types of business.

I say this not to belittle anybody’s pain, but to point out that this type of definitional elasticity is unacceptable – pure and simple – if one is to formulate an accurate picture of the purported problem. And if one is a legislator and is going to make laws, and laws with hefty civil and even criminal penalties, then one should really have the most accurate picture humanly possible. But in this matter I think We have all been hoodwinked by these Advocacies for whom ‘facts don’t matter’ and whose basic approach to politics is the revolutionary’s end-justifies-the-means, do-whatever-it-takes ruthlessness and cynicism.

So I’d like to have more accurate information. I mentioned my concern about the vagueness of the definitions of ‘sexual abuse’ and ‘rape’. How much of the ‘abuse’ is actual forced genital activity? How much is in the lower spectrum of unwanted touching or lewd verbalization? How much is ‘rape’ as traditionally defined? How much is ‘rape’ as nowadays defined: yes at the beginning but no later on in the process or a day or a week after the fact?

For that matter, how many of those 12% of those rapes of males in the military are perpetrated by females? Other males? Were those ‘rapes’ of the ‘classical’ type or the ‘nowadays’ type? And for that matter, how much of the sexual abuse of women in the military is perpetrated by … well, other women (or Other-Than-Males; OTMs, in Pentagoonian)?

There were 2,212 cases of rape – however it may be defined – in the military last year, according to the author. Consider the number of males times the number of interactions with females that might yield a ‘rape’ situation however defined. Then divide by 2,212. I’m thinking that’s going to be a pretty small percentage. But this is the type of math that the advocates don’t want you to be doing. You may not think there’s quite such a ‘crisis’ and that’s the end of their business. And if we include the possibility of same-sex interactions, then the final percentage becomes even more miniscule. Which is not to say that unwanted sexual advances are OK; but it offers a bit of proportion.

Professional Advocacies – and they are all professional now – operate like K-Street lobbyists, and their comments – I think – are to be accorded the same level of trust and confidence. If ya get my drift.

I’m not saying that there are no problems, or that there are no things that need to be addressed. But I’ve had it with the constant stampedes of this or that reported ‘crisis’. There was the children-abducted ‘crisis’ 30 years ago. There was the satanic-worship sex-abuse of children ‘crisis’. There was the unending procession of sex-offense ‘crises’ that had a lot of decent folks thinking that murderous, sex-crazed strangers were and still are materializing like Martians out of thin air in every city and state in regimental strength.

In a hell-hot irony, I think the Administration deployed the tried-and-(un)true ‘crisis’ type of play to create a stampede toward war against Iraq. But the result was that the play re-introduced the post-Soviet US military to old-fashioned, guy-intensive, macho, chimpish, bloody, ground combat, and of a virulently intractable new strain. And that ‘reality’ has proven an awesome tester of the airy assurances and assertions and accusations tossed around by the advocates for women in the military back in the long-ago, long-gone days of Starship combat.

I suggest again: To stamp out sex or sexual abuse or relational dysfunction, especially in the military, is like declaring actual war on ‘Terror’. Which is to say that it’s like trying to interfere with radio transmissions by swinging vigorously in the air with a hammer, or – what they hey? – shooting vigorously in the air with a rifle. Ain’t gonna work. ‘Sex’ and ‘Terror’ aren’t going to be stamped out, and dysfunction seems to be pretty much the natural state of human affairs.

What to do then? At this point, separate the genders, have same-sex units, and keep them from too much opportunity for … ummm … hooking up. That can be done comparatively quickly.

The long-term problems will need to be addressed: Using the military as an employment source in order to attract volunteers? Slyly calculating that the presence of the opposite sex will be a recruitment attractor? Cynically figuring that advocating for an impossible goal will keep one in the advocating business for years? These are all matters for further consideration. And perhaps we need to re-think an all-volunteer force that will become some sort of globe-girdling gendarmerie.

But to presume that any military can control sex and relationships in such a way as to satisfy ‘zero tolerance’ (yes, the colonel-author mentions it directly) is to expect that a general or an admiral can succeed in stopping the tides by wading out into the surf and issuing an order. Our own Chief Orderer has had his own unhappy experiences with this type of solution to bethumping problems, even those largely of his own creation. I don’t think it’s wise to keep trying to run the same failed play and expect that ‘this time’ it will ‘work’.

As the Greatest Generation used to say: There's a war on. And: Is this trip really necessary?

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