G.I. Jane Reconsidered

Don’t walk to the latrines alone.

This advice to women soldiers from Margaret Carlson, Bloomberg and syndicated columnist and women-in-combat booster, in her latest treatise on military effectiveness.

'I'm_in_This_War_Too'_WAC_-_NARA_-_514606And Ms. Carlson is not flying solo. The web-o-sphere is all atwitter over the sexual assault “epidemic” in the military.

So, let’s stipulate that all the recent numbers regarding sexual assault in the U.S. military are accurate—even the outrageous 26,000 guesstimate by the Department of Defense itself—and that all the accusations are legit. And let’s agree, of course, that not one of these incidents should have ever occurred and that all perps are brought to justice. Now, stipulations stipulated and agreements agreed, let’s revisit the notion of women in combat in light of the epidemic.

You can’t go to an action-movie these days without watching a 98-pound lass giving several muscle-heads a proper drubbing, but back in the real world women are still not warriors. Women—including women soldiers—are vulnerable.

The press, the Congress, the military and the women soldiers themselves admit as much. In fact, they insist that women soldiers are vulnerable—not to the enemy, but to their own male comrades. Further, they say that women soldiers are “victims.” And so confirms the DoD, which uses the word “victim” 3,553 time in its 729-page 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.

Now, in my brief stint in the Marine Corps infantry, including combat, I can count on exactly no fingers how many times one of my comrades or I referred to a Marine as a victim. I can only imagine the reaction should any Marine ever claim to be a victim—of anything. The very concept is (or was) anathema. If you read E.B. Sledge’s With the OldWith_the_Old_Breed_(Eugene_B._Sledge_book_-_cover_art) Breed, a grunt’s very honest and gruesome account of Marine warfare on Okinawa and Pelelieu in WWII, you will find the word “victim” only once and it refers to an enemy soldier on the receiving end of a Marine’s bayonet. And let’s not ignore the Army. Scouring Bataan Death March: A Survivor’s Account by Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Col. William Dyess you will find “victim” 16 times in 196 pages and the term largely applies to those who died or “fell victim” to dysentery or diphtheria or in horrific accounts such as, “The victim had been bayoneted. His abdomen was open. The bowels had been wrenched loose and were hanging like great grayish purple ropes…” and “During the afternoon the three victims stood naked and shivering in the downpour. The rain cleansed their wounds and bodies at times, but the Japs (sic) opened new wounds with the whip as often as they thought they could do so without killing.”

So, if women soldiers are so vulnerable that they can’t physically fend off men in their own barracks, who presumably are less likely to fight them to the death than, say, Afgani tribesmen or Al Qaeda-in-Iraqis, isn’t it reasonable to reassess the rush to rush women into combat? If women are unsafe walking to their own latrines well behind friendly lines, doesn’t that suggest they will be far less safe a few klicks forward? Why the eagerness to send women into worse harm’s way?

The American public has been continuously assured that as man jobs are opened to women military readiness will never suffer. But this has proven to be the nonsense that men who’d fought in war predicted it would be. Former Virginia Senator and Vietnam combat Marine Jim Webb was dead-on back in 1979 when he wrote Women Can’t Fight for Washingtonian. “Men fight better,” asserted the Navy Cross recipient. “We can try to intellectualize that reality away, and layer it with debates on role conditioning versus natural traits, but it manifests itself in so many ways that it becomes foolish to deny it.” Gen. Robert H. Barrow, 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps and  also a recipient of the Navy Cross—for heroism at the Frozen Chosin—was incredulous as he testified in 1991 before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Women in Combat: “It’s uncivilized and women can’t do it!”

And worse, not only is readiness suffering, but the warrior culture itself is under attack—by its own brass and the DoD. The aforementioned Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military lists such horrors as:

  • Male victim alleged that he and female subject were at a farewell party when subject slapped victim on the buttocks.
  • Multiple male victims alleged that female subject grabbed buttocks of multiple males.
  •  Male victim alleged that male subject touched his buttocks.
  • Male victim alleged that male subject touched his inner thigh and made suggestive comments then grabbed his buttocks.

And reports Robert O. Work, Undersecretary of the Navy, “Many individuals are now more comfortable reporting long prior sexual assaults, and we see gradual progress in the proportion of male victims now coming forward.”

Oh, joy. The men upon whom we rely to “locate, close with, and destroy the enemy with fire and maneuver, and to repel the enemy assault by fire and close combat” are now much readier for the grist mill of war because we’ve created an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable admitting to the world that they are victims of buttocks-touching.

After a decade plus of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are some indications that the American public might be up for a national discussion about our country’s use of force in the world—perhaps even a closer look at what truly constitutes national security. This is good and overdue. But the U.S. is unlikely to disengage anytime soon. And, alternatively, if men like John McCain and Lindsey Graham have their way, we’ll be at perpetual war in places where American women aren’t typically held in high regard. So, if we really care about women, we’d re-prohibit them from serving not only in combat, but anywhere near combat.

Closing on a note of sanity, here’s a longer excerpt from Gen. Barrow’s riveting testimony:

Those who advocate change have some strange arguments. One of which is the defacto women in combat situation…that women have been shot at, that they’ve heard gunfire…well, exposure to danger is not combat…combat is a lot more than that, it’s a lot more than getting shot at or even getting killed by being shot at.  Combat is finding and closing with and killing…the enemy. It’s killing, that’s what it is…It’s uncivilized and women can’t do it…and I may be old-fashioned, but I think the very nature of women disqualifies them from doing it. Women give life, sustain life, nurture life.  They don’t take it.

Hear, hear, General! A society that sends its mothers and daughters to war is serious about neither society nor war.

3 thoughts on “G.I. Jane Reconsidered

  1. Hilarious, with Excellent points. Pithy writing. I am quite surprised a male Marine can write this good. I thought one of the advantages of allowing women on the battlefield was better writing, along with, cleaner barracks, maybe some flowers… Keep it up Nate.

  2. I agree. I was the last cycle to go through Fort Knox, KY Basic before they integrated men and woman. I don’t know if that experiment still exists … but I do know that what I experienced in Basic could not have occurred in a mixed gender environment (it barely could exist with just men).

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