Wednesday, May 27, 2009

HELEN BENEDICT'S WOMEN IN THE MILITARY

WHY OH WHY?

Helen Benedict is at it again on Alternet (the article was first published in 'The Nation'). She has published several times on Alternet; this is an example, and a search of that site or 'The Nation' site under her name will yield several more).

Coincident with a book she has published, and not for the first time, she asks plaintively “Why Are Women Still Treated as Second-Class Soldiers?”.

As if she didn’t know about the huge complications and the Ideological Feminists’ (IF) own shrewd and duplicitous policy strategies that have frakked up what was already a hugely freighted initiative.

She starts, as so often nowadays, with a ‘story’. You might be forgiven for thinking that in matters of huge national import – and military capability is a huge matter not only in domestic affairs but also (is this a surprise?) in foreign affairs – you’d want to get right to the issues and the ideas.

But no. Journalism nowadays – and not without a monstrous influence by Ideological Feminism (IF) – is ‘softer’; you don’t start with ideas – you “hook’em” with a ‘story’. Funny, but in the benighted days of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries, ‘sob stories’ were popularly the province of a particular type of female author who were collectively known as ‘sob sisters’. But in the cutting edge modernity of Our present ‘revolutions’, you can’t suggest that the same thing has happened all over again, and that what possibilities some folks foresaw back then about a certain rampant and manipulative emotionality might actually have come to pass now. You could lose your union card for noticing something like that.

In the alternative, you can burnish your union creds by playing the same game while insulated from any critical notice of what you’re up to. Now that is a sweet racket.

Anyhoo, Benedict is on about problems with the women-rich military. If she’s accurate in her descriptions, then the problems are very serious indeed. But of course, her unwritten ground rule is that you can’t accept that the problems are indeed very serious unless you first accept as a matter of quasi-religious and procedural belief that the source of the problems can only be – not to put too fine a point on it – men. Or perhaps, more charitably, ‘patriarchy’.

That there might be some characteristic problems with women themselves in actual combat (as opposed to ‘peace-timey’ desk jobs and staff jobs); that the mixed-gender unit plan – if nothing else – is seriously flawed; that the IF Advocacy’s own maniacal support of the mixed-gender unit plan is part of the problem … none of these solutions are admissible.

Naturally, then, any ‘review’ of the problem is going to fail to come up with a workable solution. It’s the equivalent of the Wehrmacht and SS generals getting together in Berlin or Zossen to discuss the Wehrmacht’s problem with partisan activity behind the lines in the Ukraine, with nobody being allowed to bring up the Reich’s overall racial Untermensch philosophy as the prime source of the problem. Nein. Easier to blame the troops’ lack of discipline and ineffective officers.

That’s easier than having to face the possibility that the entire foundational philosophy is frakking whackery erected into a Plan. Do you vant tu go tu ze Berghof und tell him zat, Herr General?

She reports that “many female veterans … share anger”. Sharing is so good. “They join the military for the same reasons men do – to escape dead-end towns or dysfunctional families, to pay for college or seek adventure, to follow their ideals or find a career”. Well, you can join General Motors to do that (up until rather recently).

Benedict gives the IF game away a bit here: most males join the military to – not to put too fine a point on it – fight. Which works well enough since the military is set up – when push comes to shove – to fight, and to fight so effectively that it wins. Kind of a neat arrangement. Males, being more testosterone-endowed than females (the lesbian sistern only partly differing in this regard), are presumed – hardly irrationally – to be more naturally endowed for the fighting and combat chores.

This is neither the result of a ‘patriarchal conspiracy’ nor a simple matter of a mere common, culture-wide misconception or delusion that can be changed overnight if enough folks just ‘choose to believe’, just choose to ‘get it’.

The IF plan, as best I can make it out, was to turn the military into a huge employment opportunity for all the various sets of ‘women’ that it was ‘liberating’ from family, marriage, husbands, and patriarchy generally. It saw its main chance when the Soviet Union fell in 1991 and with just a few cocktails under the belt one might be induced to imagine that the military would never have to ‘fight’ again. Almost immediately, as well, the Clinton presidency began, and Hillary was even more woman-oriented than Bill.

The military could be seen as nothing more than a ‘lifestyle choice’ and ‘employment opportunity’ that should be open to all citizens. And the government would see to it, and sooner rather than later.

It would work out well if it were forcefully enough imposed: younger straight women would sign up for a hitch or two as junior-enlisteds, then move on into the civilian work-world with some government bennies and the creds of being a veteran. Those artistes formerly distinguished by their sensible shoes could go for full-career status, as senior non-coms or senior officers, and retire after re-making the military ethos, if not actually improving its combat capabilities. What was not to like? America was the world-hegemon and ‘combat’ was a thing of the past. Not only History but the frakfest of real combat was over.

They were sunny times indeed, the early Clinton years.

History and combat, alas, did not hew to the script assigned to them, and no amount of Congressional legislating could make them keep to their assigned role in the script. The sovereign Beltway authority could go down to the shores of History’s monstrous ocean and command and complain and demand all it wanted; the tides would not accept their orders. That incompassable Ocean just refused to ‘get it’. Who knew?

The tides refused to obey even those star-spangled generals and admirals who saw what the Clintons wanted and decided to go along to get along. Outrageous. You’d think that since ‘Nature’ was simply a creature of ‘patriarchy’, it would realize that it had been shrewdly outmaneuvered and simply roll over and pretend it didn’t exist.

In a hell-hot irony, the legislators’ equally powerful self-indenture to defense-industry biggies and various ‘allies’ almost guaranteed that ‘combat’ would remain alive and well, thus undermining the IF presumption that since there would be no more combat, then the numerous huge problems inherent in their women-in-the-military plan would be neatly mooted, sidestepped by deft Beltway lobbying. (And see Chris Hedgegs here for a warning about the perils of 'permanent war'.)

And here We are. The only option left now – assuming that an admission that the fundamental philosophy has to be taken off the road and put up on blocks for serious reworking is politically unacceptable – is to keep up a steady complaint that things aren’t working out and it must be the guys’ fault, as always. As in 1942 in that German capital, things have gone too far to change course now. Ach.

The women are now suffering from “the double traumas of combat and sexual persecution”. Good grief: does Professor Benedict really mean “persecution”? That there is a wide-ranging plan to deliberately cause torture-level pain and injury? Or is a question as to definition itself too ‘male’? Is it thinking too much? Too ‘vertically’?

Combat is indeed traumatic. And Fourth-Generation (4GW) combat is even more traumatic than the old-school WW2-style combat, and especially if you’re – how to put this? – not winning.
It will be especially traumatic if – hypothetically speaking – nature and/or evolution has primed you in the most profoundly complex neuro-biological ways to be attuned to human emotional interactions (which would be verrrry adaptive if, say, you were going to be bearing and raising the young of the species, especially so complex a species as the human species). Yes, even female lions hunt, for their young, but then again ‘hunting’ is not ‘combat’. And if combat takes a monstrous toll on male participants who are testosterone-loaded, how much more a toll will it take on those who are not thus neuro-chemically fortified?

But this, I think, brings matters to a glaring conundrum: If those who are not thus testosterone-fortified* are going to be in combat, then it will have to be in mixed-gender units, so that there will be enough males to keep up a sufficient combat-efficiency. But if you put males and females together in mixed-gender units, a-n-d under the incredibly intense conditions of modern, sustained combat contact, then there is going to be a stunning probability of sexual tension and sexual ‘activity’.

And then on top of that, given that outright ‘rape’ and a long range of interactional activities shading down into unwanted or even initially-welcomed romantic advances are all deceptively listed under the catch-all portmanteau-phrase ‘sexual assault’ … you can see how quickly one problem starts to feed off another until the mess becomes incredibly tangled.

To try to run in this setting the old 1990s ‘college play’ – that the military can be made as ‘sexually correct’ as an elite university campus – is … perhaps ill-advised. **

Benedict chooses to blame the guys. “Yet the military – from the Pentagon to the troops on the ground – has been slow to recognize the service that these women perform, or even to see them as real soldiers”. That some of the foregoing observations might actually be accurate, and that they might constitute some of the operational dynamics that are preventing ‘women’ from succeeding in the combat milieu – she will not consider that, even if she is a Professor and something of a public intellectual.

Instead, it’s the patriarchal “stereotypes” that are making it “difficult for women to be taken seriously as soldiers or advance in their careers, let alone win respect”. That the machine isn’t working because the rounded pieces will not fit into the square sockets – that cannot even be considered.

And the Eastern Front grinds on.

“Far from protecting women, men are attacking them.” She is referring to American male troops here, and they are “attacking” the female troops. You would think that if this were an accurate description of the situation, Benedict would want to get the women out of there forthwith and work out the philosophical and organizational conundrums later. But no. Because either a) that’s not the overall IF ‘plan’ or b) it isn’t really as bad as she’s making it out to be or c) both. Oy.

Nor does she – a journalism professor at a prestigious university – pursue the clear implication that part of the combat over there is that American troops are – through inadvertence or the exigencies of 4GW combat – killing women, Iraqi or Afghani or Pakistani. That very real attacking and killing of women doesn’t engage her concerns at all here.

Nor does the equally thought-provoking implication that she is advocating her already traumatized women-soldiers should be exposed to the (Triple? Quadruple?) trauma of killing women. And how much combat efficiency will be left when a unit’s female troops react emotionally to the experience of such killing? Or any amount of killing?*** Nor can I accept in any form the implication that to ‘keep women from’ this type of thing is either a) sexist or b) depriving them of an ‘experience’ to which they have an undeniable civil-right. But I do indeed point out that it is this very type of killing, and how you ‘handle’ it, that goes quite a way towards establishing your ‘creds’ among your combat peers. Benedict better really think through just what she’s demanding.

So the generals may be – though they dare not say it – concerned for combat efficiency: either a) because they can see the conceptual problems or b) because a great deal of those problems have already arisen at the front (though not reported out of Political Correctness).

In either case, the type of play Benedict is running is diabolically clever: while the full extent of the problems over there cannot be reported because of Political Correctness, she and others like her can whale away on the generals and the troops because they aren’t bringing ‘women’ into their frakkingly frightful combat ethos as quickly and fully as the PC mavens over here would like to see. What’s not to like?

She deploys a few of the standard pot-boiler non-points. “Studies have long shown that some women’s strength matches that of some men”. Yeah, well, here and there, the occasional female might. But the whole idea of a military is that you can move troops around quickly and simply because they are generally and reliably ‘the same’ in capacity and therefore ‘interchangeable’. Thus: Sir, they need reinforcements in Sector 4-A right now / Send a platoon from the HQ Company / Sir, that’s been reduced to 60% females through attrition … No commander is going to run the risk of sending that platoon on the off-chance that a bunch of Benedict’s “some women” just happen to be in that platoon today. To send that unit would be taking a risk that the platoon itself will get into deeper trouble and have to be retrieved with troops that aren’t available, and meanwhile the actual initial operation is going south.

And for all We know this stuff already happens and has contributed to the – ummmmm – non-victorious outcomes We have experienced over there. Gack.

And those same studies – and who can trust Advocacy studies any longer? – have shown that “women use ingenuity instead of strength where necessary”. And men don’t? I thought it was a given in IF philosophy that men are ‘rational’ and that this is one of their biggest drawbacks? And just how – short of Star Trek – is “ingenuity” going to help in a direct combat situation? A male sailor is unconscious in a compartment that’s flooding; there’s only a female sailor there with him, and his inert body has to be carried up the ladder to the next higher deck. The female hasn’t got the body strength, the water is rising, and she’s going to do … what? Call Spock and have them both beamed the hell out of there?

In this regard, I couldn’t help but notice a recent photo (sorry, I don’t know how to incorporate photos into text, but you should be able to find it easily enough) that was allowed by the military: the first casket of a deceased soldier being carried out of a transport plane here: the regulation six soldiers, all male, carrying it. But in the mother of all Freudian slips, the military tacked on two more soldiers – a black female and a white female – at the front of the casket, as if they were carrying it too. The picture, meant to cover all the PC bases, actually demonstrates a) that PC concerns drive wayyy too much of military decision-making and b) that if you’re going to have females on the task, you will need to assign more folks to the task to begin with.

The Navy has now changed the number of sailors who should carry ship-board casualties on litters to the sickbay: more are assigned, on the assumption (an eminently rational one) that females will not be able to deploy sufficient strength. But what this also does is take more sailors away from their tasks while the ship is in a combat situation. You see the problem.

“And there is no evidence that women soldiers add to the danger of men in any way.” Neat. Since any officer reporting such a situation would be well-advised to start taking taxi-driving lessons because the now-PC-affrighted military command structures don’t even want to know such stuff (Sergeant Schulz report to HQ on the double!), then there won’t be any ‘evidence’ and people like Benedict can crow that ‘there is no evidence’. So much fun! You can get ‘studies’ that say what you want them to say and you can suppress any ‘evidence’ that demonstrates what you don’t want to have demonstrated.

Lastly, I can’t help but note that Benedict is a Professor of Journalism at Columbia University. This must be just her day-job, because what she’s given readers here is not journalism but ‘advocacy’. Indeed, she is also listed as an author, of the book “The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq”.

A public intellectual, a Professor – and of Journalism to boot – and yet she gives Us this. Why? I am starting to think that these ‘advocacy’ professors and authors are not trying to give anybody an accurate picture or discussion of the problem. Instead they’re after a more insidious three-fer: they misinform Us to their own advantage, while also providing an ‘encouragement’ to their ‘Identity-mates’ and also – ominously – providing yet another ‘book’ that can be waved in front of more or less willing pols to ‘support’ and ‘demonstrate’ the urgent need for this or that demand that they’re making.

It’s no way to run a military. It’s no way to run a democratic politics. And Professors – if it isn’t too quaint – should know better.

NOTES

*No study has been done, to my knowledge, as to the ways in which lesbians’ somewhat larger testosterone load does and does not alter their ‘female-ness’, and specifically in terms of the ability to endure ‘combat’ experience. But with so little study and verifiable knowledge in this area, it’s hardly advisable to erect a national policy about the matter. And this is also relevant in terms of the female-on-female violence evident – though not widely discussed – in lesbian domestic relationships. And how much of this military sexual assaulting is female-on-female?

**And as always, may I say outright and without reservation that I hold no brief whatsoever for the unwanted imposition of sexual ‘experience’ upon any human being by another human being.

*** And as always, may I say outright and without reservation that I do not get a ‘rush’ out of the prospect of killing, even in combat.

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