Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More on Women in the Military

I came across this radio interview with host Jim Hanson of Blackfive and Genevieve Chase who is one of the founders of American Women Veterans. Her organization is advocating for a re-evaluation of policy concerning women in the military so that official regulations reflect the reality of how women are currently serving. Apparently, women are already finding themselves 'outside the wire' in vulnerable situations where they are drawn into combat situations (think Jessica Lynch in 2003?). Commanding officers are then in the unenviable and difficult position of having to explain why women are in places where they technically should not be.

Chase's group is not promoting the entrance of women into combat roles and Chase herself is skeptical about the recently-lifted restriction against women serving on submarines (although her skepticism seems based more on the fact that the women who will be selected to serve aren't experienced enough and less skeptical about the fact that they're female). She claims only to want policy that recognizes how women are performing in and contributing to the military today. But, she gets caught up in the current cultural obsession with individual rights trumping the common good. She uses that familiar "I don't care if you're black, yellow, white or female, if you're qualified physically and you want to be a soldier, you should be able to serve."

The military exists to serve the larger society, not to satisfy the dreams and goals of its individual citizens. It is an institution with a specific mission and responsibility. It should accept those most qualified to carry out the mission of the institution and those who will permit the institution to operate responsibly.

I'm reluctantly yielding to the notion that there are valuable ways women can contribute to the military (see here), but I'm not convinced that it can be done without feminizing the military in ways that will compromise its quality.


  1. Actually, if you can do the job, carry your own ruck, shoot straight and watch my six... You should be able to serve. :) - Genevieve Chase

  2. Hi, Genevieve: Thanks so much for your comment. I still feel, though, that you haven't addressed the issue of how women in the military may compromise its effectiveness.
    It's fine to say that if qualified, you should be able to serve, but there are real-world consequences to that which can be negative.

    The case of women on submarines is perhaps an example of women in the military that can potentially run badly amuck. As you pointed out in the interview, the first women on the subs may not be properly experienced and may need more supervision from seasoned officers. Why isn't that being done? How much thought has actually been given to the situation that will be created once those women are on board?
    My guess is not very much.

    Rather, it seems to me, the military has focused (perhaps because of societal/cultural pressure?)on doing the politically correct thing--according women their supposed 'rights'--as opposed to doing the right thing (i.e.examine whether or not females on submarines is a necessary, cost-effective, all-around effective measure for the military).

    In doing this, the military (and society) uses women as pawns in a social engineering project and runs the risk of simply bringing more criticism to its own doorstep.

    For example, who will take the blame when and if male/female problems arise? The military itself? The male soldiers? Male officers? I doubt if females will come in for much of the blame, and just imagine the media crowing about how nasty and shoddily our narrow-minded, chauvinistic military treats women if problems do result.

    This situation can I believe be likened to General Casey's controversial comment about the value of diversity in the military after the Fort Hood shooting. Putting aside whatever Casey's real feelings might be about diversity, who can rightly blame him for his statement? He was feeding the American public and the (cursed) media the politically correct doctrine of diversity that has been fed to every American school kid, every American institution and certainly to the military. I'm guessing that those same people who condemned Casey's remark are the very ones who tout diversity as a god. I anticipate much the same scenario with women in the military and, if it happens, gays in the military.

    Thanks for reading! Your military experience and comments as a non-civilian are valuable and enlightening. Hope to hear from you again.

  3. I'm currently deployed to Afghanistan at the moment... so these comments will have to be done in pieces. :) Bullet points are best to help me stay focused, as well.

    1. "It's fine to say that if qualified, you should be able to serve, but there are real-world consequences to that which can be negative."

    I'd present that there are always positives and negatives to any decision, the decision to let women in the military at all, for example. I believe considering the cost-benefit analysis is a more on-point approach. To this, I'd offer that women have, for over a decade now, served in combat units however rather than being assigned to these units, they're being "attached." Semantics, I know, but in reality, we're already doing the work and not getting the benefits associated with the work.

    Even women who are assigned to non-combat specialties are performing in combat. In Iraq, women who were military police were running regular route-clearance patrols, a job conducted by the infantry. Women who served in military intelligence were attached, in both conflicts, to not only all-male units, but the infantry and special forces as well. Many were attached for the duration of their deployments. So the risks were always there but the necessity and the advantages gained by those units outweighed those risks.

    The nature of war has and is changing. We don't go into cultures or societies, even an extreme muslim one, where there are no women or children. This isn't Vietnam or WWII, and god-willing, even if we do end up in that type of conflict again, having women in uniform will be a huge asset in ways which I don't have the liberty of time to get into.

    I hope this clarifies some things -

    I will add that I greatly appreciate your pointing out that my skepticism was "based more on the fact that the women who will be selected to serve aren't experienced enough and less skeptical about the fact that they're female." You were spot on.

    1. Whoa! Three months later and I'm responding. Are you still in Afghanistan?

      I understand about women being attached to combat units as well as women in non-combat units being exposed to combat. I also understand they're not getting the benefits. I know one or two such women.

      So because these women are already in combat situations, does your reasoning go that they should be in more combat situations? Why? It doesn't follow at all.

      The question that should have been asked by the military and our society as a whole is what in the world are we doing with women in this new type of war?

      Instead, our PC-diseased society, with the military a mere pawn in the game, gave a knee-jerk response without thinking the issue through.

  4. And I forgot... In terms of 'real-world' consequences, and the example of women on subs - The consequences alluded to have always existed. They exist in war as much as they do on a sub. I'd prefer that there be more experienced and seasoned non-commissioned officers in situations like that, to mentor the younger women but I also recognize that so many of us - from the 1.8 million women veterans alive today, to be exact - endured similar and worse situations but keep in mind, a woman can face those same situations in different capacities, anywhere/anytime in life.

    2. As far as the military subscribing to social engineering, I'd have to offer this -

    The military has often catalysed societal change in America out of necessity. 'Necessity is the mother of all invention,' and I'd apply that here as well. In the Civil War, African-Americans were able to die for service. In WWII, women were able to take more of an accepted active role in serving their country. We're in a place, as a country, where we now have less than .50% of the entire population, defending the liberties of the largest population numbers this country has ever seen. We have less people defending more - and in my opinion, we need the best. I have worked with women who can run circles around some of their male peers, in some cases, most of their male peers. The long-term benefit of their service far outweighs, in my opinion, the short-term financial costs required to make any adjustments.

    This is saying nothing of the strengths women bring to any environment. That would be a very long conversation at another date.

    1. The military isn't "subscribing to social engineering." The military is being bullied and strong-armed into being a social engineering experiment.

      For those women you refer to who can "run circles around some of their male peers" I can only ask those women what they're trying to prove. They should get over it. Men are men and women are women. Live with it.

      For those relatively few in each category who feel compelled to follow vocations not typical of their sex, they constitute a special group, the exception not the rule. A society does not exist to entitle, empower and promote every special group.

      That isn't to say that for those in that special group, there shouldn't be options and ways that they might participate.

  5. 3. Taking the blame and comments about diversity -

    I'm not really sure I understand what you're saying here so please understand that there's no offense intended by my commments on this. I guess I'd have to answer your questions with more questions - and to me, as a relational-type person, I'd offer slavery as an example. Our country, prior to the renunciation and condemning of slavery, had a lot of cause for concern on what would happen to society as a whole when suddenly it was flooded with vast numbers of uneducated (large numbers but obviously not all) and unemployed persons. There were many people who feared all the negative impacts the freeing of slaves would have on society. And be that those concerns were absolutely valid, it did not deter people from doing what was just and what was inherently "right."

    I'm not sure anyone has to be at fault for progress. Will there be issues? Sure. There were issues when women joined the military. There are issues in the military at-large, today, in all manner of military units. There are issues in corporate America. Who's to blame? No one and does it matter? Why should anyone be at fault?

    And the media can do/say what it will. On the whole, people in the military (men and women) as well as people in the media, I believe are inherently good people. Call me an optimist. :) I've had the distinct honor to serve and work with many military and media folks. I also identified some things I found were inaccurate and I do my part to contribute to turning around the misperceptions. When I first started American Women Veterans, there was, quite literally, no articles in the media celebrating or honoring the service of women. They were depressing... the exception rather than the rule. At AWV, we worked to change that and I believe we have been quite successful. Now, there's some balance, I'd like to think.

    As far as DADT - so many people that were against it were worried that really horrible things were going to happen when it was repealed. Some of the push back I heard was unrealistic and almost insulting. And what mass crisis has come of its repeal? Was the fear that some really bad things would happen to gay people more important than the repeal itself? More important than doing what was inherently "right?" (As believed by some.)

    Gays were already serving in the military, even openly in many cases. A person, gay or perceived to be gay, could just as easily have been assaulted/harrassed, etc, prior to repeal as post-repeal. Does not their willingness to serve and defend the freedoms and liberties of others afford them the right to share in those openly?

    Apologies for the very lengthy comments but I appreciate the questions and earnestness of your post.

    Best to you!

    1. No, it can't be. Are you really comparing women to slaves? The institution of slavery--one human being owning another--is in no way shape or form comparable to the changes that women sought in either the 19th, 20th or 21st centuries. There is simply no comparison. None. Your position, if that is your position, is naïve, ill-informed, without basis in history and in error. Women were not owned by other human beings. Human beings seeking to free themselves from being owned like animals vs. women seeking the right to vote or to earn equal pay in the workplace are two horses of completely and impossibly unbridgeable different colors.

      As for your question about homosexuals in the military, first I don't think there was anything inherently "right" about repealing DADT. I think, in fact, that it was inherently wrong. I can't get into the various reasons homosexuals have historically been barred from military service, but they are valid reasons consistent with upholding the integrity and strength of the purpose for which the military exists. There's no entitlement to serve in the military.

      Hope all is well with you!