When last seen*, one Major Paula Broadwell had penned a fawning love-note to her boss, General Petraeus, in an Op-Ed which, by amazing coincidence, it occurred to her to write (and the ‘Boston Globe’ to publish) just before the Uber-General’s visit to Harvard to display himself to its ‘elites’. By equally amazing coincidence, she just happened to have been assigned to Harvard by the Army prior to the General’s visit. With such clever planning, I can’t see how all Our current wars are being lost.
This is the type of planting of puff-pieces in ‘reliable’ news media that has become a staple of ‘politics’ and ‘journalism’ in the past few decades: the just-deceased Teddy Kennedy was a master at it (and you may expect immediately that the ‘Boston Globe’ will cap its long love-affair with him, climaxed in the past half-year by an all-out effort to spin him as “the last lion” who had “a fall and rise”, to reach positively baroque proportions).
Ms. Major Broadwell is a West Point graduate, a research associate at Harvard’s Center for Public Affairs, and – rather neatly – “serves on the board of Women in International Security”.
You would think that an aspiring military officer has more to do than getting involved in feminist causes on an international scale – especially with the potential for conflicts of interest – but no. It’s not “your father’s military” or the “old Army” or the “old Navy” (you may recall them - the ones that won wars). Rather the modern military is something that appears to have a remarkable paint and wax job and some glitzy ‘extras’, but whose working parts and tires should be carefully kicked and otherwise inspected with a gimlet eye.
Anyhoo, apropos of some agitation in the murky ‘elite’ machinations which pass for policy-making now, she is suddenly moved to write – and the ‘Globe’ faithfully to publish – an Op-Ed. It is here (along with the Comments, which are also worth they read).
Apparently “a group called the Center for Military Readiness has been lobbying Congress to restrict women’s roles in war” and their “opportunities” (which starts to give the game away). But this is hardly news. Substantive concerns about the whole thing have been going on since the mid-1970s; in the Fall of the last year of Bush the First’s Administration, a major policy review was presented to the White House, and despite feminist plants on the Committee its final assessment harbored grave and substantive reservations about the women-in-the-military trend.
But Bush was in the process of losing the election, a significant factotum in the Defense Department named Barbara Pope threatened to resign if the review was favorably received by the White House, and then, a couple of months later, Bill Clinton came in. The review was buried and within a month or so the officially declared ‘big problem’ in the military was not ‘women’ but ‘gays’ – and the band played on.**
Broadwell here is going to run the feminist variant of the old Israeli “facts on the ground” play: do whatever it takes to get what you want – no matter what the objections, even if it means doing an end-run around rational deliberation; then after you’ve been doing it for a while, start talking about it as if it were the ‘normal’ thing that you have been doing ‘all along’.
It’s a neat trick. You get what you want, and on top of that anybody who tries to object is suddenly cast as the ‘innovator’ who wants to interfere with ‘progress’ that’s already been made. The Israelis have demonstrated exquisite shrewdness and tenacity in deploying this particular gambit – as have those among the Beltway lobbies and advocacies who have imitated it.
Of course, the play is originally from the playbook written by that master of the game, Joseph Goebbels. So you might imagine that it will suffer from the drawbacks that revealed themselves during that gentleman’s unhappy tenure on the planet: you can have all the shrewds and smarts in the world, but if your scheme be in the service of a baaad idea and a baaad cause, then you will win the battle and lose the war. Or, as We are discovering, you will lose wars.
The shrewd modern American solution to this? Declare that the wars will be “endless” or at least verrrrry long-term, such that nobody will really be able to assert that a war is ‘lost’ since it will always be a ‘work in progress’. Neat. Of course, this assumes that ‘reality’ will not be able to assert itself; that everything will remain merely a matter of ‘perception’ so that if anyone continues to raise objections, it can be ascribed to their suffering from “a bit of undigested beef” or having an Incorrect “attitude”. That was Mao’s contribution: such folk could be ‘re-educated’ (through methods disturbingly similar to modern-day ‘awareness workshops’, by amazing coincidence).
Such a gambit also worked in the days of the unlamented Goebbels; who can forget his stirring speech at the Berlin Sportpalast a month after Stalingrad was lost, along with the entire Sixth Army and a full quarter of the Germans’ available motorized equipment? But that precisely was the rub: the Germans actually had lost an entire Army and a quarter of their military rolling stock – a development that rather stubbornly claimed status as ‘reality’. As did the Red Army, which proceeded then not to spin itself as the most powerful land force on the planet and in the planet’s history, but rather to perform as such, winning victory after bloody victory all the way to Goebbels’s Berlin (lordship over which he shared with his gibbering boss, the little psychopath with the funny moustache).
So the trouble with this play is that it will only work so long as ‘reality’ doesn’t actually start demonstrating – through awesome consequences – the baaadness of the idea which the plan was shrewdly designed to spin as ‘a good idea’. As Lincoln saw, ‘You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time’ but sooner or later folks are going to start noticing reality, which the plan is seeking to keep squashed behind the podium and out of sight.
Broadwell is running the play gamely. She refers to “women warriors” although it is exactly her complaint that women are not warriors.
She urges that “Defense Secretary Robert Gates should keep time with the beat of reality on the ground”. Notice the “on the ground” phrase, as in “facts on the ground”. Notice also that she is a serving military officer publicly differing in print with her command, which violates a lot of regulations and possibly a statute or two – unless, of course, Gates has approved her publication, which would constitute a stunning military problem in itself.
She notes, rightly, that “on today’s battlefield there is little differentiation between ‘front’ and ‘rear’”. But as she wants Us to see it, this simply means that women should therefore be everywhere on the battlefield rather than – an equally logical possibility – nowhere.
In a classic trope of ‘advocacy’ here these days, she goes for an emotional point: by denying women, “we diminish the sacrifices and contributions” of the women. Well, it’s really about ‘winning’, not making this or that bunch feel good. And perhaps the official confusion as to the reason why armies are on battlefields in the first place is a major reason why Our armies aren’t winning.
Nor can it be forgotten (see the books I’ve mentioned in the Notes) that in the beginning of all this agitation, the official feminist position was not that women were capable of handling the stresses, strains, and challenges of combat, but rather that they “had an equal right to die for their country”.
Well, as that unreconstructed ‘old Army’ guy – Patton – observed, back in the days of “Industrial Age war” and “Industrial Age macho virtues”: the whole idea of combat is not to die for your country, but to make the other poor bastard die for his. And again, this key conceptual confusion may have more than a little to do with the mess We’re in now ‘over there’.
Continuing with the ‘facts on the ground’ play, she reports that “women have played an increasing role in recent wars and the trend is likely to continue”. Wellll, now. First, since this play has been running for several decades, it can seem like it ‘works’ – after all, would the government continue a baaaad policy that didn’t work, that maybe even made things worse, for all this time? The government wouldn’t do that, would it?
But of course, as Broadwell and her sistern (male and female) know full well, the government has been doing precisely that. Serious objections, reports that discovered unpleasant facts***, individuals who had the temerity to mention them out loud … all have been gotten rid of by a political class desperate to pander to that glittering chimera, the damp-dream of every pol, a 51% national demographic that you had locked in for yourself by giving its members whatever its ‘advocates’ demanded. No matter what you had to applaud with a straight face. Or rather, in the manner of ‘delegates’ applauding a speech of Stalin, with a wide-grin frozen above your feverishly clapping hands. Brilliant insight, Comrade Stalin – the wave of the future and the salvation of Nation and People!
It’s a wonder that there isn’t a vodka-guzzling problem inside the Beltway and across the river at the Pentagon. Or maybe there is.
“And the trend is likely to continue”. This is a nice way of spinning the way you’d like to see things go. It also lends an air of inevitability to your objective – as if it’s such a goooood plan that it will naturally and inexorably continue to ‘succeed’ and if you want to be ‘with it’, then you’d best get on the band-wagon now. Of course, given the serious addiction to pandering now afflicting the Beltway pols, she may have a point here. At least until ‘reality’ kicks even harder than it already has.
“Even as the military fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the class that entered West Point in 2008 contained more women than any other class since women first came to the academy in 1976.” Ooooh. But is it possible that this might have something more to do with the pandering indenture of the Congress and the now thoroughly cowed military leadership? And with wars being lost, perhaps the Congress might seek to shield itself by at least keeping one of its most reliable ‘demographics’ – the radical feminists – happy? It may be an old play to run, but it worked so well before – long decades ago, so maybe it will work again. This is like sending the sailing frigate USS Constitution back to active duty since she won so big once (and maybe can do it again).
But then she gives the real game away: “Higher ranking women are also pursuing combat command experience for promotion opportunities.” This is the verrrry dodgy underside of ‘women in the military’ matters: the entire military is seen not as an essential instrument for force-projection and the winning of combat engagements, but rather as a ‘workplace’ employment opportunity for career-minded females and their formerly sensible shoes.
The other upside to that gambit was imagined to be that the government would employ hundreds of thousands of young, poor females newly ‘liberated’ from husbands, marriage, family and other such ‘quaint’ oppressions; they would stay only for a hitch or two and then move back into civilian life, replete with veteran benefits and ‘status’ while not appreciably diluting the more careerist women’s game of going for career promotion. Something for everyone!
Except, according to that Center for Military Readiness, only 10% of enlisted females want combat assignments. And that same Center quotes the noted national military analyst (and now Veterans Administration honcho) Phillip Carter who observed in 2002 that “The most important reason [for the new role of women in the military] has been from women in the Army who need combat experience to advance their careers, almost all of them in the officer corps.”
The mind recoils at the thought: this massive and hugely dubious politically-driven initiative, in one of the core areas of national security, has really been a jobs-program for that small but organized subset of women who want to be senior military honchos. And wear the pants (no joke: full dress uniform for the Army's first female full General was pants and – marvelously – sensible shoes; no more high-heels).****
Broadwell lards on fact after fact – as it were. “Our thin-stretched military can ill afford to keep women out of combat zones … because there are simply not enough male soldiers”. Welllll, again. Lacking not only the physical strength (in all but the most extraordinary instances) but also the psychological predispositions of males (after all, why the Domestic Violence and sex-offender brouhaha except that men are not only stronger but temperamentally more aggressive?) … then it takes more women to do the work of males. When the Navy assigned females to airbase firefighting units (how often do they get called out anyway?) it discovered that the turnout gear had to be redesigned because the females found it too heavy, and the actual fire-fighting equipment and even the apparatus had to be redesigned because they were too heavy or too hard to handle.
And even after all that, the crews had to be increased from four men to five firepersons – a 25% increase in manning that is hardly justifiable on a land base, but can be literally fatal on a vessel in trouble at sea. And in that last regard, the Navy has had to assign more stretcher-bearers to shipboard emergency plans because females can’t reliably carry them and can be rather prone to emotional lability (they are, after all, far more ‘sensitive’ than the chimpish male, as Correctness doth teach us). And this, you recall, is for a situation where you have a major shipboard emergency or you are under attack – and you need every ‘man’ to do the job of ‘two or three men’ as casualties mount. To the military womens’ lobbies, this is just ‘old Navy thinking’ and won’t ever happen in real life anymore. Ya think?
But now Broadwell will let Us in on some rather up-to-date ‘new’ stuff. The military is coming to rely on women because they are better at ‘peace-keeping’, which will be “the norm for today’s military and tomorrow’s”. (Which is what they said 30 years ago too.) The military – the Marines, even! – have developed Marine Female Engagement Teams (no pun intended, I can only imagine) or FETs. In Afghanistan an all-female unit of 46 Marines is assigned, apparently, to fan out and strike up relationships with Afghani women who are “good intelligence sources” and “more open to the basics of the military’s minds-and-hearts effort – including hygiene, education, and an end to the violence”.
So – let’s look at this as it is supposed to play out. A bunch of American females are going to go out and have tea with Afghani females, and through this coffee-klatsch, they will both discover useful military intelligence and also win over the hearts and minds of the Afghani women – because, of course, women are women. Uttering this type of idea would have cost you your job in the military only a few short years ago – the military feminists would have insisted on it.
And so the military – the Marines! – have developed not a new form of Blitzkrieg but (waittttt-for-it) Klatschkrieg! The women will bond with the women over coffee and all will be well.
We see here elements of the old but lethal feminist assumption that gender – not national loyalty – is THE core human identity (don’t even try to suggest ‘human nature’). These Afghani women will bond with American women and sell out their menfolk (the violent, oppressive, macho lumps) rather than play the invader for all they’re worth? These Afghani women will turn on their menfolk? Well, hell, that’s what the American feminist women did, so why not? Such strategic thinking.
Further, there's this old feminist assumption that ‘women’ are more interested in ending violence than men are*****. First, if that’s true then why the frakking frak do they want to get into the military at all? We’ve been seeing more and more talk about beefing up the civilian teams that would go in to do the actual nation-building and hearts-and-minds stuff, under the aegis of the State Department (like the old Peace Corps, perhaps), and maybe that would be the very place for such female endeavors.
Second, there is no way to assume reliably that any nation’s females will bond more strongly with an invading nation’s females rather than support their own males in the armed resistance. Have you seen any stories about French women bonding with Gestapo and SS women (and there were such creatures) in Occupied France, to the extent of betraying their own male Resistance fighters?
I think that where We have seen and been bethumped for decades by radical feminist damp-dreams masquerading (thanks to a pandering Congress) as national policy, We are now seeing the Services – the Marines! – calling such feminist damp-dreams military strategy.
And what’s all this about “all female” units? Recall that the women-in-the-military demand actually has three separate components (slyly hidden behind the haze of emotion and ‘rights-talk’ and rampant male ‘violence’): a) that women should be in the military; b) that women should be in combat (land, sea, and air); and c) that women must not be put into all-female units.
This last point (c) was always the most overtly suspect. If women were put into all-female units, it could clearly and quickly be observed whether a unit of x-number of women could do the work of a unit of x-number of men. And perhaps that was precisely why the military-feminist lobbies had to ensure that it did not happen; after all, when you’re trying to ‘change perceptions’, the last thing you need is ‘facts’ that are ‘unfriendly’ to your objectives. Rather, the ‘women’ could be piggy-backed in on the ‘men’, who would by the implacable nature of operational demands have to take up the slack created by the assorted female-caused incapacities. Neat.
Plus: you could guarantee yourself both an eternal excuse for female failure (the ‘men’ and the ‘macho environment’ were ‘oppressing’ them) and an eternal cause for complaint (men are preventing women from ‘succeeding’). And this is precisely what We have seen, most vividly and luridly in the advocacy ‘reports’ that women are being ‘sexually harassed and assaulted’ in stunning numbers and – as Broadwell herself doth insist – are not being allowed to do all the neat stuff guys do.
The separation into gender-specific units would instantly relieve a significant chunk of that – however much of it is actually taking place. Except for the lesbian-initiated sex assaults (about which the military, by amazing coincidence, seems to keep no records at all). It is utterly stunning why a vocal feminist advocacy and a military-feminist advocacy that are screaming ceaselessly about ‘sex assaults’ don’t simply demand separate-gender units.
But of course, a separate-gender unit deployed into combat would reveal very quickly whether ‘women’ are up to the tasks of sustaining combat operations, especially in the frakkery of Fourth Generation Warfare that many of Our military adventures now promise to be. And I am of the opinion that the military-feminists already know exactly what would be revealed – and they are as committed to preventing that reality from becoming known as Goebbels was to preventing the actual state of German military affairs post-Stalingrad from becoming known.
Slyly, Broadwell quickly tries to insinuate the desired spin. “Without a doubt this is a complex issue with a lot of attendant emotion.” In other words, We are to believe that women can do it all, and that all the objections are merely the result of male emotions, the macho ‘backlash’ at having men’s last ‘playground’ ‘integrated’, sort of like the Old South fighting racial integration. It’s all just a matter of a macho poor ‘attitude’ – and should Americans allow this marvelous vision to be sacrificed just because of a male delusion and tantrum? Neat.
“Experience in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven otherwise” – women can do it all. But of course, as in so many other aspects of the Iraq War, We really haven’t been getting reliable information – the government has made sure of that. But just as in all the other areas relating to this misadventure in Southwest Asia, there have been all along voices trying to get genuine facts and clear thinking out into the public forum.
But as Goebbels clearly saw, in the propaganda game you don’t want genuine facts and clear thinking at all. You want to generate emotion, reduce the citizenry’s ability to deliberate or to critically analyze, and then surf your own scheme along on the wave of public emotions that you yourself have stirred up.
But once you’ve taken Moscow, of course, it won’t matter. Ja!
She slyly coasts by the sex-in-the-military issue. “Human sexuality will always present a challenge to organizational discipline.” How true. But in case you think she’s opened herself to a damaging admission there, she immediately continues: “Managing sexual issues should be like managing routine personnel issues”. Willy Tango Foxtrot?
You need only do a little Google work to discover the voluminous and high-pitched feminist complaints that there is a massive sex problem in the military, that it is the males’ fault, and that the Services aren’t taking it seriously. Can you imagine if a Pentagon or command honcho were to say today: This is just a routine personnel issue … ? He’d be skewered and cashiered before the end of the week.
But here is Broadwell pooh-poohing the whole thing as nothing but a thang.
Nor, I'm thinking, will she be censured by her sistern (male and female). They are all cadres of this revolution, and they know that you say what you have to say in the moment to get what you want in the moment – and the cadres’ task is to prevent anybody from connecting the disparate dots and saying that you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. In revolution as in war, Truth is the first casualty. But – comrades! – it’s all in a good cause.
In James Clavell’s mid-1970s historical novel “Shogun”, the shipwrecked English captain Blackthorne faces the powerful but genuinely intelligent Japanese daimyo, Toronaga. “It is never justified to oppose your liege lord!” bellows Tornanaga, in response to Blackthorne’s suggestion that his cannon could help Toranaga become Shogun.
“Unless you win” countered Blackthorne.
And Toronaga, silent for a moment, breaks into a belly laugh – “Yes, unless you win!” he agrees.
This is, I think, what the gameplan is here, and what it was for Goebbels, and for the Israelis who took notes from his playbook, and from the radical feminist lobbies, and – at this point – by far far far too much of the Beltway: once you win, you can write the history and nobody will care whether your initial excuses were truthful or logical or whatever.
I can’t help but think that that this was the thinking by which Bush and Cheney so flagrantly as well as recklessly initiated the disasters of the past decade of American history. Once we’ve won, they assured themselves, it won’t make any difference what we said to get things started.
In the case of ‘cultural revolution’ on the scale of the radical feminist agenda, ‘winning’ would come about by ‘normalizing’ your ungrounded visions: keep your stuff going long enough that public opinion simply assumes that ‘it’s been this way all along’.
But that requires that the public be kept away from ‘unfriendly facts’.
Yet Facts, and their siblings Consequences, and their parent Reality … all have a way of reasserting themselves.
As they have done. And are doing. And will continue to do. Until there will be no Propaganda and no Berlin Sportpalast where the cadres can put on a good show.
Broadwell wraps it up neatly with a sound-bite that is as duplicitous as it is kewt: “We are ready, and we are already there.”
She would have Us believe that both assertions are ‘facts on the ground’, and genuinely real, and True.
They are not.
*See my Post “Balancing the Globe” under date of April 21, 2009.
**A good pair of books to look at: Stephanie Gutmann, “The Kinder, Gentler Military”: New York, Scribner’s: 2000 and Brian Mitchell, “Women in the Military”: Washington, D.C., Regnery: 1998.
***One such panel went on a world-tour and discovered – to nobody’s surprise – military lesbianism in the Far Eastern commands. In a fine demonstration of what might be termed ‘chutzpah’, the military feminist lobby blamed the military for putting women under such pressure that they had to resort to “extreme behavior”. Truly, We are now all sitting at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and up at the head of the table the Red Queen is pouring.
Ditto the extraordinary number of complaints now from ‘straight’ females – usually of lower rank – who are being sexually importuned by higher-ranking lesbians.
****The link to the Report is here. The specific discussion and the Carter quote are on pp.854-856.
*****I recall coming across a researcher's comment that in domestic violence field research, more women than men admitted to initiating domestic violence encounters - the 'shadow' half of that research that the advocacies of the day and their political panderers did not want to be discussed. But that didn't stop all the inaccurately grounded laws from being passed.
Relevant to all of this is the glaring history of very recent US naval mishaps.
The watering down of standards - of competence, of actual achievement, even of the very acceptance of the vital importance of character and maturity and hard, cold successful performance - as part of the campaign to literally change the reality as well as the perception of what the military is 'all about' in order to lever open 'space' for females, has crucially weakened the military's actual capability.
The Navy - skillfully skewered with the overblown Tailhook "harassacre" of 1991 - has been especially affected, since its brass has since then desperately tried to make amends by yielding to almost every miiltary-feminist demand.
Within the past few months, two of the newest and most advanced vessels in the Fleet have been nearly destroyed as a result of 'accidents' that defy explanation.
A new submarine had its sail (the big 'fin' that the periscope sticks out of, that's on top of the rounded body of the boat) nearly ripped off when it was hit by another new vessel, an amphibious ship, while operating in Southwest Asia waters. How two major Navy vessels could collide like that is a disturbing question. The sub will require extensive rebuilding, and may even have to be decommissioned instead - since its structural integrity was gravely compromised and it cannot submerge.
And at the entrance to Pearl Harbor - a major fleet base - in broad daylight, a new nuclear-armed cruiser was run hard-aground, in waters that can hardly be called uncharted. Drawing 33 feet of water, the ship was run at speed onto a coral reef with only 22 feet of water over it, literally ripping away the hugely expensive sonar arrays under the bow, wrecking the propellers and rudder, and ripping open her bottom. Her propeller shafts - embedded deep within the innards of the ship, running from the engines to the propellers and driving them - are probably damaged. She too may be so badly damaged that she is beyond repair and may have to be written off.
The Comamding Officer of this ship was instantly relieved of command and will probably be court-martialled. But the damage is done - and the question remains: How can a professional Navy get itself into such a wreck?
One unhappy indicator is that the entire Pacific Surface Fleet had been found - by the President of the Navy's own Board of Inspecdtion and Survey - to be "unsatisfactory" in its competence.
Amazingly, and ominously, the Deputy Commander of the Pacific Fleet said that the gravely damaged warship "sustained no structural damage from the grounding", which would be an utter impossiblity given the nature of the incident.
Having allowed their Service to become so deeply compromised, none of the brass now dare acknowledge how bad matters have become. And a shrunken fleet, that reputedly relies on its superior warships and professional officers to make up for the lack of vessels, is now down by two hugely expensive and advanced ships.