It’s been a week or so since the big dustup over pregnancies in the war zone that is Northern Iraq.
As reported on December 21st, the Major General in charge up there issued a General Order intensifying the punishments, including court-martial, for female soldiers who get pregnant and for the males who impregnate them.
A brouhaha ensued. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and several female Senators were “outraged” (but of course) and the Senators wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Army which they also released quickly to the media.
In the long slog that has been the women-in-the-military story over the past 20 years, there are moments when the ‘fog of advocacy’ lifts and suddenly you can see clearly the most crucial and fundamental aspects of the situation.
This, I would say, is one of those moments.
And the manner of it is on this wise:
The December 21st article on the Truthout site (link above) is nicely done and worth the read; there are follow-up articles here and here.
The main objection from the usual suspects is about “the limitations it places on reproductive rights and personal privacy”. Let’s make it clear right now: to what extent abortion and sex is purely a matter of ‘rights’ and ‘privacy’ (for the woman, not the dyad) is a still-contested issue in American life generally, and I am not getting into it here.
What’s at issue here is governed by the stern, lethal, and utterly unspinnable realities and consequences that flow from combat operations and war (which, I will also add, are so powerful as to exert their pressure on every aspect of military life, whether in ‘peacetime’ or ‘wartime’, whether ‘at the front’ or ‘Stateside’).
Here is a combat commander operating in the face of the enemy. Worse, it’s not old-fashioned historically conventional war such as World War 2, but rather a 4th Generation War (4GW) in which insurgents or resistance fighters blend in with the civil population and wage asymmetrical operations against a classically organized military force.
The classical force labors under many disadvantages: it is not on its own home territory; its supply lines are fragile; by virtue of being in someone else’s land – especially if the government of that country did not declare war – it is seen as ‘the invader’ almost by default; and since its defined ‘enemy’ is not an easily identifiable classically organized military force, then the foreign force is going to wind up shooting all sorts of people, and can never go outside its fortified encampments without worrying about every single local and ‘native’ whom it encounters.
It’s a terribly stressful kind of war for troops and it is rarely a winning proposition (as We are now finding out).
This Commanding General (CG) is thereby confronted with a hellish problem: he has to keep as many troops available as possible, in a situation where – given the oppressive and frightening frustrations the troops are facing in their daily operations – the temptation for an individual to find an easy way back to safety is intense.
The CG has to prevent the loss of soldiers while simultaneously encouraging and supporting the troops who are trying to do their duty.
The military has always faced this problem with certain regulations: a soldier can be punished for making himself unavailable for duty. So if a soldier shoots himself or otherwise harms himself, then he is a direct threat to the combat readiness and the morale of his fellows; he can and will be punished in the military discipline system. The assumption is that you are in the military – whether drafted or volunteer – and you are now therefore, to some extent, ‘government property’.
And when I say ‘government property’ I actually mean that you are in an organization now answerable to the stern and implacable realities of War and Combat; you are no longer in the ‘safe’ world of peacetime or civilian life ‘back home’. You are, in a most real sense, operating in the jurisdiction of Ares Ferox et Atrox and the other gods of war, and in a very real sense you are their property and have to play by their rules. And that goes for the General as well as for all the troops.
Now to this unholy stew add the female element. One way that a female can wind up hors de combat (unfit for combat duty) is to become pregnant. While males can find various ways to release their sexual urges, females seem most frequently to rely on the heterosexual sex act, which – alas by Nature’s decree – can wind up with the female ‘stuck’, as it were, being pregnant (with a baby, a fetus, a blastocyst, a parasitical cell-cluster, or whatever you choose to call the phenomenon often resulting from the completed sex-act).
So a female can wind up – intentionally or not – hors de combat, depriving the CG and the other troops of a needed member of the force.
And there’s always that moral hazard thingy: a female might decide to use the ‘fog of intention’ to her advantage in order to get out of duty: she can intentionally get pregnant and force the command to give her a ticket out of the battle-zone (just as a male could shoot himself or harm himself, but for the male it is too clear that he has done it intentionally, which need not be the case with impregnation).
And then if the troops see or infer that a lot of females are ‘getting out’ of the challenge and the stress, then the CG has a morale problem as well as an operational (manpower) problem: he’s not only lost a soldier (or several) but he’s got a whole lotta demoralized soldiers who are seeing somebody get out of her responsibilities, responsibilities which – in the third place – they who are left behind and still on duty are going to have to fill.
This was a problem thoroughly forseeable decades ago. Short of the military trying to stem the human sexual urge (especially when the humans are under pressure, and aren’t necessarily operating at the peak of their maturational potentials to begin with) then the problem would be to keep the matter and anti-matter of male and female from – ummmmm – coming into contact. Thus you prevent the – ummmm – explosion and you avoid the whole insuperable mess of trying to stamp out sex among youth on the battlefield, deciding between he-said/she-said, and constantly having to rejigger operational plans to make up for suddenly unavailable troops.
The feminists wanted women in the military and the pols were eager to pander, hoping to ingratiate themselves to that reputed 51% of the electorate demographic comprised of all the females in the country.
The feminists had their own internal constituencies. There was a small group of military lesbians, the artistes formerly known as ‘mannish lesbians’, and they saw how the rising tide of general feminism might provide just the waves necessary for them to surf over the specific and ‘traditional’ objections to the total participation of females (their kind of females, anyway) in the operational forces; if they could sail over those objections they could do more of the ‘guy stuff’ that they sorta always liked to do. What was not to like?
Then there were the vast amounts of heterosexual females who, as a consequence of assorted feministical initiatives aimed at ‘liberation’ and ‘empowerment’ were going to need steady employment to be single-moms, freed from the hated ‘man’ and the fuddy-duddy constrictions of Marriage and Family and so forth and so on.
The solution was to declare the military to be just another ‘employment’ opportunity (sort of Apple or WalMart with a stricter dress code) where according to various federal regulations and laws ‘discrimination’ based on gender could not be tolerated. And that females – as citizens – had a ‘right to serve’, with no further questions asked or objections raised. That’s the nice thing about ‘rights’: you never have to explain them, and can dismiss any doubts or objections without ever having to refute them or even face them. Neat.
In other words, the feminists treated the military as just another corporate venue – long the territory of the evil patriarchy – which was going to have to buckle under to the feminists’ agenda as those demands were supported by the vote-addled pols.
That the military actually dwelled somewhat in the realm of War’s awful gods, that there were Consequences and Demands exerted by military operations that must be sufficiently addressed or disaster will ensue, that these implacable realities had to be given primacy in any approach to military change … this to the feministicals was ‘thinking too much’, and proof that ‘you just don’t get it’, and clearly a sign of a nothing more than a ‘poor attitude’ (as if nothing but a ‘better attitude’ could turn back the rising waters in a sinking ship).
This is clearly visible in the two most formidable expressions of ‘outrage’: those by the president of NOW and by the four female Senators. Said the NOW president: “It is not up to the United States military to determine when and how often women will become pregnant, or determine whether a women [sic] carries a pregnancy to term or not”.
The first thing to notice about this comment is that it presumes the setting of civilian life in domestic American society. This comment, then, is standard NOW boilerplate that could be issued at any useful juncture as a press release. But even in ‘civilian’ life in this country nowadays there is some question as to just how accurate that assertion is or can be.
Which leads to the second thing to notice: the situation at issue is located in an active battle-zone. Not to put too fine a point on it: the military in this venue most certainly DOES have a right to say a whole lotta stuff about who can do what.
Especially since the females have signed up as volunteers.
But of course, the young females had been led by their feministical ‘liberators’ to believe that military life was nothing more than a government-sponsored job opportunity, or maybe like college only the government pays you to go.
And under no circumstances would the military – any more than any other American employer now that ‘gender’ was a federally-overseen ‘minority – dare to interfere with their ‘liberatedness’ or ‘rights’ or ‘freedoms’ or any other such stuff. As is far too prevalent an assumption among younger generations nowadays, the ‘employer’ would fulfill its responsibility to provide a regular check, and the ‘employee’ would follow the Prime Imperative to ‘Be Her/Himself’; any further demands by the employer would constitute ‘oppression’ and prove that the employer ‘just didn’t get it’ and would also lead to ‘discrimination’ complaints.
Thus the feministicals brought their slick playbook and game-plans to the military ‘field’ and figured to mop up just as they were doing everywhere else. They had an eager-to-please Congress, a cooperative media that would do anything either to be ‘liberal’ or to batten on the soap-opera ‘crises’ artfully contrived and fed to them by feministical PR agents.
Their basic scam was: It’s all in how you see it – and you can change how you ‘see’ because there is no reality ‘out there’; there is no What you see out there, but instead only a How you see; so you can ‘get it’ and change How you see and thus change What you see. Or else you can ‘just not get it’ and insist that there are some Whats ‘out there’ that are real on their own, independent of any human (and politically motivated) mind-pictures about them.
So for example, the key that night wasn’t whether the Titanic was sinking; it was how the captain and crew and passengers chose to ‘see’ the events around them, as individuals and as a group (or perhaps as differing and competing groups). Anybody who kept insisting that the ship was filling fast and sinking would be simply ‘stubborn’ and – if he kept blaring out an alarm – ‘shrill’ … truly elite thinkers and those who ‘get it’ remain ‘open’ to all possibilities. So the ship’s deck isn’t really tilting at an increasing angle … everything’s on the level depending on how you hold your head.
You may quickly say that the sinking of a ship is an ‘extreme’ example, and that in ‘normal’ life things are much more ambiguous and complicated. In terms of ‘normal’ life – let’s say land-locked life – that may well be (although the very warp and woof, the fundaments of society and culture in this country, have been wayyyy too manipulated as if they were child’s play-dough, I firmly believe).
BUT that’s precisely my point in this Post. War IS an extreme situation: there are consequences; those consequences can be lethal; those consequences also enjoy an existence and power independent of how any human individual or group wishes to ‘frame’ them; those consequences demand accurate responses to the challenges they pose, often without giving much ‘lead time’ to make decisions.
Now I’d say that the characteristics I have just outlined are also much more active in even ‘land-locked’ and ‘civilian’ life than so-called elite thought has been willing to grant these past 40 Biblical years and more. But for the moment, let’s just stick with this CG and his troops in the war-zone and the military setting. And the ‘outraged’ harrumphing of the usual suspects.
Soldiers have always been held responsible for any action that resulted in the individual becoming hors de combat and that could reasonably be ascribed to individual intent and action. But what hasn’t been widely known is that for decades now females in the Services could get a ‘free pass’ to a discharge at any time if they became pregnant; while a male who – say – shot himself in the foot in the hopes of ‘getting out and going home’ would be charged, the pregnant female – with no questions asked – would be allowed to determine if she were to be given a discharge.
It’s no way to run a railroad – or a military; which perhaps is why the American corporation and certainly the American military are not ‘producing’ much ‘product’, especially in the military setting where that indispensable product is known as ‘victory’.
But the president of NOW, according to the report, is confident that the order would be overturned [which turned out to be almost immediately true] “by an administration for whom the female vote is crucial” … and there you have it. The whole thing is driven primarily by political expediency and pandering, and not by any serious assessment as to whether the ‘demand’ by the feministicals is compatible with the complexity and rather uniquely ‘real’ nature of the difficult world the military has to operate in.
The Letter of the Four Senators demonstrates all this clearly enough: “While we fully understand the demands facing both commanders and service members in Iraq, we believe this policy is deeply misguided and must be immediately rescinded”.
To which the only reasonable response must be something akin to: Phooey.
As outlined in the Post so far, it is clear that the four Senators – and they are hardly the only pols on the Hill to feel this way – either know nothing about the “demands facing commanders and service members” or they don’t want to know.
They do not know and certainly do not “understand” and most certainly do not “appreciate” either the problems besetting commanders facing the ruthless consequences of complex and losing war or the problems bethumping youthful troops, male or female, facing their own military duties with a less-than-fully-mature life preparation.
And the pols never have. This mess has been brewing since the beginning of the feministical full-court press for women in the military that started with the vastly overblown “harassacre” of the Tailhook incident 20 years ago.
The Senators merely bloviate the same grossly inaccurate and insufficient assertions that the feministicals in and around the Beltway have been pumping into the public reservoir for decades: “the threat of criminal sanctions in the case of pregnancy goes far beyond what is needed to maintain good order and discipline”. Apparently not.
For decades the simplistic solution was expressed in the mantra “it’s the command’s responsibility”, meaning that it was the commander’s job to keep mostly youthful males and females apart when thrown into constant close proximity under conditions of either boredom or stunning combat pressure. The ‘kids’ were not to be held responsible; it was the military commander’s job to be mature for them, but without using any sort of restrictive authority that would ‘oppress’ them and interfere with their ‘rights’.
Shrewdly, the Letter of the Four Senators gives utterly no indication of just what magical wisdom they have that the military does not have which will square this intractable circle. They are content to go on public record for their constituent peanut-gallery as being “outraged”; they have no idea what the solution might be, don’t want to know if they have set the military an impossible problem of squaring a circle, and they simply want to gather votes from their press release.
It’s really no wonder the country (let alone the war) is in the condition it’s in now.
If a female joins the military and doesn’t see pregnancy as interfering with her military responsibilities, or doesn’t propose to forego ‘sex’, then just what can be done under present ‘political’ conditions? You can’t assume (or credit claims) that the vast majority of sexual-encounters in the military are ‘rape’ (even as that term is so broadly over-defined now). You can’t simply blame the commanders, although shrewdly, since these ‘men’ are also ‘the troops’ neither NOW or the Four Senators are going to strike up their signature anthem about ‘male sexual violence’.
And so if neither the ‘women’ nor ‘the troops’ can be blamed, the ‘commander’ is the default target.
It is the highest and most treacherous form of duplicity when these four ladies then conclude their brief (and glaringly insubstantial) Letter with the pseudo-intellectual judgment that “the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished simply for conceiving a child” is one that “defies comprehension”.
It is perfectly comprehensible IF We accept that once one has joined the military, then one’s ‘identity’ as ‘service member’ overrides all other ‘identities’ that one might bear. BUT of course, that is precisely the corrosive and fatal problem with Identity Politics: one’s Identity as a member of one’s ‘group’ (racial, ethnic, gender, and so forth and so on) must override all other sub-identities, and that – although the feministicals would rather not be caught saying so on the record – includes one’s volunteered-for identity as service-member and soldier.
The problems are huge. But they are not now nor have ever been unforeseeable.
Even twenty years ago there was a solution, though hardly a perfect one: keep the males and females separate, in all-male or all-female units. In a stroke, the pregnancy (and sexual assault) problems would decrease exponentially.
But that was absolutely opposed by all the feministicals two decades ago.
In part, this was due to the ‘Mainstreaming’ approach to ‘rights’, evidenced with such stunning clarity in New York City’s experiences with public toilet-kiosks: the hugely useful (and needed) public kiosks had worked well in Paris and NYC was going to get them. But then the disabled ‘advocates’ said that since the kiosks could not accommodate the turning radius of a wheelchair, then the City couldn’t get them. This, although less than 4 percent of ‘the disabled’ are wheel-chair bound and the whole population is in need of public rest-rooms. The City sought to compromise by offering to deploy special kiosks: No, said the advocacies, either wheelchairs (made to stand in for all of ‘the disabled’) can use them or you can’t have any at all.
So no kiosks.
Ditto public transit: although all major systems offered a special on-call transport service for those who needed it, the advocacy insisted that ALL buses and trains AND their stations must be capable of handling the occasional wheel-chair passenger; the advocacy insisted on this ‘mainstream’ approach and would accept no special services. And so dozens if not hundreds of billions are still being poured out.
So too here: one proferred conceptual justification was that women were not to be seen as ‘special’ because they had just as much ‘right’ and ‘competence’ for military employment as anybody else (read: males, the only other elses around).
And there were also the rumblings about how the Supreme Court had struck down the Jim Crow South’s “separate but equal” arrangements in public education. Although the question in the military was not whether the ‘minority’ (women) would receive equal treatment but rather whether they could with equal competence, reliability, and ease meet the demands of War and Combat (not simply the demands of ‘patriarchy’, as the feministicals would like to spin the thing).
Thus, the report quotes one woman, Katie Hoit, who deployed the classic little-sister-at-the-breakfast-table name-calling, taunting Cucolo for being so “naïve” as to think that “he can solve the pregnancy problem by banning it”. Well, if it’s a problem, the CG on the scene very well has to deal with it. And if Hoit is correct that ‘banning’ the behavior isn’t going to make it go away, then this is indeed a behavior that cannot be permitted into the already complex and stern equations of field-combat in the first place – if you can’t control this variable, then you can’t let it into the working equation in the first place.
But the feministicals would not permit gender-specific units. I have always thought that beneath the above-mentioned ‘justifications’ there has lain the clear awareness, shrewdly concealed from those who ‘just don’t get it’, that on the whole ‘women’ and ‘females’ could not really carry the load in combat and that any gender-specific unit in any service would rather quickly demonstrate that to all but the most ideologically-blinkered eyes.
So they couldn’t allow it. But they also couldn’t say just WHY they couldn’t allow it.
And here We are today.
This same woman then attempts to deploy the classic feministical gambit of speaking in terms of logic in order to get to an illogical conclusion: “If you can’t enforce the rules already at hand, why attempt to take the next step?”
The CG’s problem is that he can’t actually do what’s really required: get all the females into A) gender separate units, perhaps followed by B) getting them out of the combat zone – though this is hugely difficult in a 4GW setting.
He is faced with a dangerous fire but is not permitted to put water on it, while also not permitted by the Beltway and his truckle-addled military superiors to actually SAY that he is not permitted to put water on it.
So he has tried the next best thing – which is a distant distant ‘next’ though that’s not his fault.
And he has gone out of his way to gild the philosophic pill, laying on compliments to “my female soldiers” with a trowel, larding his comments like frosting on a cheap wedding cake.
But the problem in a nutshell, I would say, is right there in his seemingly rote comment about “female soldiers”: there are two ‘identities’ in that phrase, and the HUGE and PRIMARY question is: which of those two identities takes precedence in the military setting?
No military commanders dare to offer an answer, since their political bosses (and bossettes) refuse to acknowledge that there are indeed two separate (and competing) identities here. LET ALONE would the feministicals care to admit publicly that in their theology the ‘female’ identity ALWAYS trumps any other, including the ‘soldier’ identity.
So the fire burns merrily on because the City Council has refused to allow the Fire Department to use water and also refuses to allow that grossly treacherous fact to be made public.
You can do stuff like that in our modern American reality. And get away with it.
And that has to be most outrageous news of all.
I can’t help but think that the relationship between the feminist agenda (of the Left but certainly not Liberal) and the military-industrial complex (traditionally viewed as of the Right, but not genuinely ‘conservative’) has to be far more complex than We usually notice.
In the feministical dampdream, the military is going to be one of the largest and most reliable ‘employers’ for all of those females ‘liberated’ from ‘men’ and ‘patriarchy’ either by feministical advocacy or by sexual orientation or by both.
But since that is true, then the feministicals are going to need the military to stay in business, and that makes them functional bedfellows (bed-persons ..?) of the military-industrial complex, which exists only because of the size and reliability of the defense budget.
So what is good for the military-industrial complex shall be, by simple operation of the dynamics involved, good for the feministicals.
This means, among other things, that whatever the current military (mis-)adventures, the feministicals will have to ‘spin’ their ‘view’ in such a way as to make their own constituents look good and useful, which cannot be done without making the military operations look good and useful.
And that approach doesn’t hold much promise of the type of accuracy and realism necessary for Us to deploy Our forces wisely in this almost freakishly complex new world. The New World Order of a scant 20 years ago – with the US presiding over a world brushing off the dust of the Soviet implosion – is already passed. The post-9/11 world of Bush 2’s frakkulous strategic grasping and military misadventures on top of a colossal economic collapse has left the US in a far different, and worse, position than it enjoyed less than 20 years ago.
Worse, through the actual success of the fractious objectives of Identity Politics, American society and the American public – the Citizenry and The People – retain only a shadow of their former coherence and strength.
It is no consolation to recall that in 1989 the strategic thinker William S. Lind and several military officers co-authored the study entitled “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation” wherein they listed among the characteristics of a new type of warfare “collapsing the enemy internally rather than physically destroying him … targets will include such things as the population’s support for the war and the enemy’s culture”. [Italics mine.]
Given the tremendous (and hardly positive) consequences of then-20 years and now-40 years of ‘culture wars’ that have wracked this nation, any potential enemy’s work in this regard has already been done for him; We did it to Ourselves.