In my last post (Of MPs And Infantrymen: Women In The Infantry Part 2), I explained how I'm not a combat infantrymen or infantry veteran. Even so, I introduced my reasons for supporting women being allowed to join the infantry by discussing a feeling I derived while working with an MP female in Afghanistan.
Incidentally, my story was just one anecdote added to the pile that exist in the ongoing debate…
The Discourse of Anecdotes
Vet A:“Oh yeah, well, for me it was like this!”
Vet B: “Cool stuff . . . bro. For me it was like this...”
After reading my MP female anecdotal post, questions may easily arise asking, for example, "How does an MP compare with an infantryman?" or "Is this the only evidence you have? . . . one female; a few shit-bag grunts?" This line of questioning could go on and on . . . let's not let it.
In this article, I'd like to take a scientific approach supporting the argument for women being allowed to join the infantry. Ultimately I seek to show that the second question that arose above (only one female...?) is more interesting than comparing present duties, and how this should give those who oppose the idea of women in the infantry an opportunity to reflect on their beliefs.
First, let's be clear, we can't really have an evidence-based argument on this matter because, as it stands, women are officially barred from entering the infantry in the U.S. military. What evidence we *do* have, however, can be based on the following (though I don't get into all of these topics below):
- military history
- the history of women's rights in this country
- the history of desegregation in this country
- the fields of feminism and, more to the point, women's studies
LOGICAL POSITIVIST APPROACH
"Logical positivism differs from earlier forms of empiricism and positivism (e.g., that of David Hume and Ernst Mach) in holding that the ultimate basis of knowledge rests upon public experimental verification rather than upon personal experience." [EB].
Those who oppose an evidenced-based argument for having women in infantry units usually have an argument based on their experiences (anecdotal), which goes much like this:
"Women shouldn't be in the infantry because I was in the infantry and I would know..."
I addressed why I disagree with the anecdotal approach in the first post of this series.
Typically the anecdotal approach is bolstered by the point that "Women shouldn't be in the infantry because that's the way it's always been" and/or the dictum "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
When I hear arguments like "Women aren't (and haven't been, historically) in the infantry; that's why they shouldn't be allowed to be in the infantry" or "The infantry won't work with women in its ranks because women aren't in its ranks now and the infantry works" I'm left contemplating the mind bending circularity of such arguments; indeed, like all faulty arguments, these two, perhaps the most commonly seen, leave a lot left unsaid given that they're so circular.
Possibly the best evidenced-based argument (and the best counter argument to the two above) for having women in the infantry goes like this:
"In order to have evidence about how women work in the infantry, we need to first put women into the infantry."
Just because history has been a certain way or just because it appears the infantry is working well now, doesn't mean that we have truly given a good reason for denying women the opportunity. In fact, relying on history and relying on "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is really a poor way to argue an issue with such clear moral underpinnings...
One would think that would be enough--that these two shitty arguments would be enough to make us suspect there's more to the story; but, arguments poorer yet seem to emanate from right-wing pseudo "conservative" drivel, which seems to be at the root of all of the anti-women-in-the-infantry propaganda. (Footnote 1)
For example, too often people rely on propaganda like the following to make their arguments:
When one sees such propaganda as this (and it most surely IS propaganda--produced on a daily basis), perhaps saying we need to put women in the infantry to know how they'll perform in the infantry is too scary--even if it's logically quite robust; so, instead, maybe we could put on our scientist hats and ask this type of question:
QUESTION: "If women aren't in the infantry (and so we can't know what that's like), are they in units or jobs that are extremely close in nature to the infantry (so we can know what that's like)?"
This is often the type of inferential science that people must rely on when attempting to answer questions indirectly. Indeed, I attempted to provide an anecdotal example of this type of argument in my second post of this series. (Anecdotes are in many ways a form of inferential reasoning).
Before answering the question above without the use of an anecdote, however, it might be important to describe what the nature of the infantry has been, is, and will be in the U.S. military. That is, before looking at the history of women in the infantry, let's look at the history of the infantry without women.
"Roughly put, the idea behind historicist theories of rationality is that a good theory of rationality should somehow fit the history . . ." [SEP].
Let me first say this: Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all the infantry veterans of these beloved United States. It doesn't take having to be a historian to know that young men have been fantastically badass so that I may go on living with the freedoms and comfort with which I live. These badasses are so badass that movies like Saving Private Ryan, Inglorious Bastards, We Were Soldiers, the Patriot, Platoon, Black Hawk Down, Windtalkers, and countless others constantly attempt to portray the exact nature of their badassery (with varying degrees of both success and realism).
Now that I've j'd off the infantry, let me say that I suspect women could have done some pretty great things in combat roles were they allowed. Indeed, I disagree with the following type of sentiment:
"Two decades ago, the Commandant of the Marine Corps declared that women serving in the infantry 'would destroy the Marine Corps.' General Robert Barrow explained that, 'in three wars—World War II, Korea and Vietnam—I found no place for women to be down in the ground combat element.' He cited the 1950 fighting retreat from the Chosin Reservoir in temperatures of minus 20 degrees, with one Marine division pitted against eight Chinese divisions. Had women comprised 15 percent of his division, Barrow concluded, the Marines would have lost the battle." [Emphasis added] [American Interest]
What scientific reasoning do I have for disagreeing with General Barrow? Well, easy, it's completely arbitrary. The 15% figure that General Barrow uses (a figure that Bing West says reflects the percentage of women in the military, which can be verified through the Women's Research and Education Institute) might as well have been pulled from this Pew study from 2011 stating, "Among living veterans from any era, only 15% of women served in combat, compared with 35% of men." Meaning, look dude, we won the War, not despite 15% of women serving in a combat capacity but because of them (and this is what underlies the argument for women in the military in general: the argument General Barrow was against). Indeed, what General Barrow should have asked himself is, "Would it have made any difference if 2% or 3% of the infantrymen were actually women?" (I'll get back to where I pulled the 2% to 3% figure in a bit).
My guess is it that it wouldn't have made much difference in terms of winning the war. . .
What's fundamental to the Barrow position is that it attempts to put the need for a common defense above the rights of women. To be fair, this "juxtaposition" may not have been on his mind when he was talking about it a few decades ago--I haven't been able to find anything saying it was or wasn't; as a matter of fact, I only call it a "juxtaposition" (in quotes) because of oft said comments like this:
"The Marine Corps has proudly fought our country’s battles for 247 years. Yet in the course of a mere twenty years it has pivoted from General Barrow’s firm belief that women were disqualified by reason of gender to insisting that qualifications have nothing to do with gender. How could the Marine Corps—and the Army—pivot so fundamentally in so short a time? Why was this “the right thing to do”? When did the right of the individual take precedence over the duty to provide for the common defense?" [Emphasis added] [American Interest]
It's as if the common defense and an individual's rights are somehow at odds with one another--or at least when it has to do with the rights of women. What gives?
While the American Interest magazine has biases, it's generally hailed as "moderate"; so, perhaps it makes sense that one would find two of the most common historical arguments against women in the infantry within the magazine's pages:
1) Women are combat ineffective
2) The common defense is a higher priority than women's rights
Upon inspection, however, both of these arguments don't hold up to history.
"Women served in the military since the Revolutionary War, when they worked as nurses, water bearers, cooks, laundresses and saboteurs, and they have served in some capacity ever since. In the Civil War women disguised themselves as men to serve in combat. . . .
"The debate in the United States on whether women should be fully integrated into the armed forces originated in the 1940s and embraced women, blacks and other ethnic minorities. The debate led to allowing interracial military structures but did not provide for women in the military beyond a few positions. Pentagon policy denying women frontline combat roles, last updated in 1994, defines “direct combat” as “engaging an enemy on the ground with individual or crew-served weapons, while being exposed to hostile fire and to a high probability of direct physical contact with hostile personnel.” [National Lawyer's Guild].
Though historically women haven't been allowed in direct combat roles (a fact that remains less clear in today's military), it's quite unfair to say that they have been "combat ineffective." This point should be fairly clear given that it underlies the argument for women in the military in general, an argument that most people these days tend to be "for" even if they are against women in the infantry.
Historically speaking, providing for the common defense involved including not precluding women in the military (see above); so, to say that "the common defense" is a higher priority than "women's rights" doesn't make much sense. Indeed, from a historical perspective, women have only become more included in the military (and, as we'll see, more involved in direct combat action), it should then stand to reason that the interest in women's rights will become more relevant for ensuring a well maintained common defense.
A Note on What it Means to Be a "Common" Defense:
What else does that word "common" mean if not "the members of society," which, over time, has become more and more reliant on women for defense? To argue that common defense is more important than the rights of the members of the "common" really misses the whole aim of wanting a strong common defense--a defense that doesn't support the rights of the members of the common is, by definition, not a common defense at all.
"The fear of women having to serve and die in combat positions helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. Despite the raising of such specters, women have frequently found themselves in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, where more than 130 women have died and more than 800 have been wounded. These women are not given adequate credit for their combat experience, because they are only “attached” to their unit and not assigned. Women now make up almost 15 percent of the American military and their service has made it possible for the Army to become all-volunteer." [NLG].
Exactly! Women may not be in the infantry but it's definitely true that they've been in combat roles in recent conflicts. As before, the question shouldn't be, "Will we win with women in the infantry?"; but, "Will women in the infantry really make that much of a difference from what we already have?"
I can here the hems and the haws now . . . and then finally: "Yes!" they say. "Yes it will make that much of a difference because women will cause standards to go down and so we will be more combat ineffective than we are now." The argument continues this way . . . "Women in the infantry will be like women in the military now and women in the military now get lowered standards."
These aren't just ignorant points of view either--look at what General Dempsy has to say about it:
“If we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the Secretary, why is it that high?" [DOD]. And Bing West takes that to mean, "In other words, standards will be determined by politically appointed civilian officials. Inevitably, entry standards will slip."
This is probably my biggest worry about women joining the infantry--that is, if we say "women should be in the infantry" and we all agree standards shouldn't change, if no women end up being able to meet the standards, there may be a political push to lower the standards and thus make them change.
Personally, I think that's B.S.. The key assumption here is "if no women end up being able to meet the standards." That is pure hyperbole. Unfortunately, it's true that figures on how many women currently in the military would likely be able to meet current infantry standards are pretty low; some say that only about 2% or 3% of current female military members would actually be able to get through (you'll have to take this figure with a grain of salt because the source as far as I can find it is the American Interest/Bing West article); but, it's not like it helps my argument... Indeed, this low figure causes a lot of people to say that either standards are gonna be lowered (for political reasons, as General Dempsy fears) or it would be a waste to try and integrate the infantry when so few women are likely to meet the standards.
Standards shouldn't be lowered. Sadly, it might happen because, well, politicians can always be trusted to play politics. The best argument for continuing to support women in the infantry even with the risk that politicians might interfere with the process and even if it's only a few who'd be able to make it is that the issue is much bigger than that--avoiding the inclusion of women in the infantry based solely on the fact that politics is politics and not a lot of women may make it reeks of a shitty argument.
Shitty arguments need to be stamped out when it comes to moral issues.
We shouldn't operate our military around how politicians behave; similarly, we shouldn't say "Nope, not allowed" to all women because of what politicians might do--it's still at least something to think about, sure; but, it doesn't change my mind. And since women aren't allowed to try out for the infantry as it stands, it doesn't make much sense to put a lot of stock in the hypothetical idea that "most women won't make it; so, why should we try?" What if more women would make it than we assume? What if there are positive externalities to having women in the infantry that we just haven't accounted for? To that last point, given the history of women's rights in this country, it's tough to argue that including women would make things worse as that's never been the case over the entire history of women's lib.
Take this example: Bing West, again, says, "Over the past ten years, I have accompanied our grunts on countless combat patrols in cities, mountains and farmlands in Iraq and Afghanistan. I saw the same sticky blood, stinking feces, screaming and wailing, IEDs and tourniquets, smashed vehicles and crumpled bodies that I saw in the paddies and jungles of Vietnam. Ground combat has become no cleaner and no less exhausting."
Mr. West doesn't say anything more about how women would operate in these environments other than using the same bull-shit "women cause drama" and "men will want sex" arguments. Looking at the entire history of women in the military it's hard to say women haven't had to be exposed to the tragedies of war--in many cases, their pain might be even more intense.
If Bing West has any other argument than the above "women cause drama" bull-shit, it's his point that, "There is a tradeoff between increasing the career opportunity of the individual female soldier and decreasing the net performance of the pack."
Isn't it time we start looking at gender as more complex than this? We shouldn't start from a place of, "Oh, this is all happening because women want to have better careers"; instead, however, we should realize that this is an argument about whether we should prevent one group of people from doing something that they are capable of doing (based on meeting standards) just because of their gender. This is the type of stereotyping that conflates the argument by mixing "things that matter" and "things that don't really matter" (see the "A Binary Look" section below).
As I've said before, especially in the first post in this series, it doesn't much matter what anyone in the current infantry thinks because, well, the current infantry doesn't make the rules--the people do. It should be no surprise then that "a nationwide Quinnipiac University poll conducted [in 2012] found that three-quarters of voters surveyed favored allowing women to serve in units engaged in close combat." [NLG].
My suspicion is that, like the snippets one gets from reading accounts from fellow marines who served with the ITB three, once people get used to the idea of women in combat roles--likely caused by seeing the fact that women are increasingly put in combat roles in our present conflicts--it will become more and more clear that people who are wholly against the idea of women in the infantry are just out of step with modern thinking.
"On January 24, 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the military would finally lift the ban on women serving in frontline combat roles, overturning the 1994 rule that limited the roles for women in the armed forces to units below brigade level away from direct combat. He announced the DoD’s renewed commitment that “everyone is entitled to a chance” to serve his or her nation in a combat role, thereby affecting the roughly 200,000 active military personnel who are women.
"The Pentagon has said Congress will have 30 days to weigh in on the decision. The military services will have until May 15 to inform Panetta of implementation plans and until January 2016 to seek exemptions. However, the military wants to move as quickly as possible, noting that 230,000 positions were now potentially open to women, including posts in elite special operations commando units such as the Navy SEALs and Delta Force." [NLG].
Hey, at least the military is open to researching the idea of women in infantry units. . . what the future will look like is anyone's guess. However, since we're trying to take a historicist approach here, it may be of some value for me to envision three possible separate scenarios in a world with women allowed to serve in the U.S. infantry.
1) The GOOD
Women join -> changes aren't too dramatic -> life goes on -> combat ineffectiveness dips a bit (temporarily)
2) The BAD
Women join -> changes are dramatic -> life begins to suck -> combat ineffectiveness goes down permanantly (or until women are barred from infantry)
3) The UGLY
Women join -> changes are too dramatic -> life begins to end -> the U.S. gets taken over due to utter combat ineffectiveness
These are probably the most likely endpoints of possible scenarios--meaning: there are a whole host of other possible outcomes that will most likely fall in between the Good and the Ugly. So, even if we take the "Bad" as the likely outcome (hey, it's in the middle, why not?), the solution is easy: reinstate the rule that women can't join the infantry.
Fortunately, the Good is probably the most likely (given the history of progressive moves in the military) and the Ugly is the least likely because, well, really? If you think women entering the infantry will be the thing that causes the U.S. to be taken over, I have nothing for you.
A Binary Look - Differentiating the Argument
It seems that no matter what type of time period we analyze, it's important to realize that there are some things about women being in the infantry that matter and there are some things about women being in the infantry that don't matter. What do I mean? Well, some "problems" or "hesitations" or "reservations" about women being in the infantry have nothing to do with the effectiveness of the infantry. People will claim that the effectiveness of the infantry is the most important factor in determining who should and shouldn't be allowed in (which makes sense when one considers that physical and mental standards are supposed to reflect a minimum standard to achieve combat effectiveness); however, when the arguments come to what I'll call "things that don't really matter," everything gets jumbled up.
So, what's an example of something that doesn't really matter? How about the "instances of friction, copulation, over-protectiveness, jealousies, miscommunications and resentments" that Mr. West talks about as being side effects of women in the infantry? [American Interest]
Why don't these matter? Well, because they're the kinds of things that need to be dealt with head on. Fortunately, they already are. There are already regulations in effect and the only thing preventing them from being considered normal--that is, it is normal to address instances of friction...; it is normal to address instances of copulation...; it is normal to address instances of jealousy in EVERY other part of the military (and, perhaps more so in every other part of the working world)--the only thing preventing these things from being dealt with and made to be "normal" in the infantry is the fact that they're not allowed to happen--how can you address issues of miscommunication and jealousies in the infantry (as related to women and men) without first integrating women into the infantry?
Obviously, were the infantry to integrate, it might mean more work in the beginning; but, like all changes, people would adjust over time and--hell--shit might even get better. Can you imagine an infantry full of killers that people didn't assume were also sex crazed so much that they'd rape any female in a one click radius? Shit, we may even be viewed a little better abroad!
"The question is whether increasing the individual rights of the female soldier decreases the combined combat effectiveness of the killing pack. We won’t know the answer until we fight a hard ground war sometime in the future" . . . even though Mr. West doesn't say much about why women can't be in the infantry (though he hints at that fact using his 2% metric--i.e. only 2% of women in the military would ever "qualify"), he at least gets it that we don't actually know how women will do in the infantry because, well, we haven't been allowed to find out.
This all brings me to my next point:
What Does a Combat Infantryman Do?
Perhaps it would be helpful in determining whether or not a woman should be allowed to join the infantry if we first asked what exactly an infantryman does? The 1939 Infantry Journal Incorporated "Infantry in Battle" book lists some of the following as aspects of an infantryman in battle:
IV. SCHEME OF MANEUVER AND MAIN EFFORT
VI. TIME AND SPACE
X. THE PLAN
XIII. COMMAND AND COMMUNICATION
XVI. FIRE AND MOVEMENT
XVII. FIRE OF MACHINE GUNS
XVIII. INFANTRY-ARTILLERY TEAM
XIX. NEARING THE ENEMY
XX. THE ADVANCE TO THE ATTACK
XXI. SOFT-SPOT TACTICS
XXII. BATTLE RECONNAISSANCE
XXIV. ACTION AND MORALE
XXV. NIGHT ATTACKS
XXVII. OPTIMISM AND TENACITY
Yes, this book is old. And sure, Active Defense, AirLand Battle Doctrine, and Full Spectrum Operations have all since replaced or improved upon the stuff from the 1930s; but, the essence of what an infantryman is supposed to do hasn't much changed in the modern era. In fact, this book was designed as a kind of Lessons Learned from WWI--the beginning of modern warfare, some might claim. All said, one of the most interesting (for our purposes) parts of this book, is the following paragraph in the introduction:
"There is much evidence to show that officers who have received the best peacetime training available find themselves surprised and confused by the difference between conditions as pictured in map problems and those they encounter in campaign. This is largely because our peacetime training in tactics tends to become increasingly theoretical. In our schools we generally assume that organizations are well-trained and at full strength, that subordinates are competent, that supply arrangements function, that communications work, that orders are carried out. In war many or all of these conditions may be absent. The veteran knows that this is normal and his mental processes are not paralyzed by it. He knows that he must carry on in spite of the seemingly insurmountable difficulties and regardless of the fact that the tools with which he has to work may be imperfect and worn. Moreover, he knows how to go about it." (Emphasis added by me). (Infantry in Battle, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. 2nd edition, 1939).
This paragraph reinforces the fact that the very issues we struggle with today were well known even before WWII. And I fear that some of the lessons we've learned over the years may have picked up, perhaps, the wrong momentum. Where we know that peacetime training tactics are never good enough for war, we seem to have only allowed this to limit our force--in terms of gender, I'm arguing--instead of understanding that the very nature of war means the possible absence of the efficacy of such theoretical tactics.
While we may view it on paper that only 2% of women would be qualified to operate in an infantry capacity, there's nothing saying it couldn't be significantly more were we to begin training them. It is indeed only theoretical at this point as we've never had the opportunity to test a modern infantry unit outfitted with females. Will there be seemingly insurmountable difficulties? I should expect yes; but, Mr. Infantryman, so should you--by definition of what your role entails; your tools may not seem perfect to you, but you need to learn how to use them most effectively.
How the U.S. Could Benefit from a Gender Integrated Infantry
Before I move into how I think the U.S. could benefit by letting women compete for infantry roles, I wanted to post the Infantryman's Creed for reflection:
I am the Infantry.
I am my country's strength in war.
Her deterrent in peace.
I am the heart of the fight...
I carry America's faith and honor
against her enemies.
I am the Queen of Battle.
I am what my country expects me to be...
the best trained soldier in the world.
In the race for victory
I am swift, determined, and courageous,
armed with a fierce will to win.
Never will I betray my country's trust.
Always I fight on...
through the foe,
to the objective,
to triumph over all,
If necessary, I will fight to my death.
By my steadfast courage,
I have won more than 200 years of freedom.
I yield not to weakness,
to superior odds,
for I am mentally tough, physically strong,
and morally straight.
I forsake not...
my sacred duty.
I am relentless.
I am always there,
now and forever.
I AM THE INFANTRY!
Though I never knew about nor memorized this creed while I was in the Army, I'm aware how crucial creeds are to the people who live them. When I read the Infantryman's Creed, there's nothing that tells me it's the creed that only a man could possibly say and live by.
Unfortunately, I think a lot of people might disagree. They might see the line (emphasis added):
I am what my country expects me to be...
the best trained soldier in the world.
and think that there's no way a woman could be the best trained soldier in the world. To that point, I have to say that we shouldn't limit this idea to infantry alone, lest the whole rest of the fighting force not be assumed to be included among the best trained soldiers in the world--they are. See, the point here isn't that every infantry member needs to be the best but that the best trained military belongs to the U.S.
Do you really think adding some women to the training regimen of a combat infantryman is going to take down the best trained military in the world? Wouldn't it stand to reason that improving one gender's training might improve the whole?
When we speak of training, one of the most under-cited statistics in terms of gender differences that I've seen is how women are actually strikingly better in training environments. It should be no surprise that (since college was opened to them) women have constantly managed to out-perform their male counterparts in the college classroom. Indeed, "when the Women's Rights Convention was held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY, one of the complaints documented in the Declaration of Sentiments was that 'The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation's on the part of man toward women, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. ...He had denied her the facilities of a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her.' One of outcomes of the convention was a demand for higher education."
One could easily replace the demand for higher education with a demand for an infantry billet and the "history of repeated injuries and usurpations [sic]" would be chugging along as if we were still rockin' like it was 1848. Agreed, that's not really the point here (well, maybe the overall point; but, certainly not as far as a women's ability to be trained). The fact is, women are hardwired to learn things quickly, thoroughly, and with more empathy than men (Even a quick Amazon search on Women and Learning reveals this tidbit: "women often become personally connected to the object and process of learning").
If Amazon doesn't blow your skirt up, here are some other stats (from the BLS):
"Women were more likely than men to have received a bachelor's degree. Thirty-two percent of women had earned a bachelor's degree, compared with 24 percent of men. In total, 70 percent of women had either attended some college or received a bachelor's degree, compared to 61 percent of men. In addition to being more likely to attend college, women were more likely to have finished their college degree. Of the 70 percent of women who started college, 46 percent completed their bachelor's degree by age 27. In comparison, of the 61 percent of men who started college, 39 percent had completed their bachelor's degree."
While I'm not saying that this all implies that women are better at being trained (there are certainly a lot of variables), I am saying that, generally speaking, women have been at least at or above average when it comes to the mental requirements involved in training.
"But, what about combat effectiveness?" you ask. "Surely being good in a college classroom has nothing to do with being good in combat." OK. Other than the fact that IQ is a combat multiplier, we may wish to show other ways women may be beneficial in an infantry capacity; that is, perhaps being a quick learner isn't good enough--is there anything else they're bringing to the table?
From a foreign relations standpoint, the most likely benefit of women being in the infantry relates to that thing that makes women, in many minds, special: a nurturing spirit. Since, when compared to men, women generally tend to have greater innate care-giving qualities such as empathy, understanding, self-sacrifice, and a deep desire to defend others, it might just happen that a woman with a gun isn't too slow to pull a trigger when needed (perhaps a fear of those who doubt the combat effectiveness of women) but just fast enough to know when a trigger doesn't need to be pulled (in this day and age, a combat multiplier to be sure).
In the conflicts we find ourselves these days it's more important than ever to show the enemy mercy. Why? Well, because most of our enemies don't wear uniforms and because it's typically very hard to determine enemy from innocent (unless of course they're shooting at you), we are put in a position of having to maintain a high degree of concern for the rounds we send down range. Many of the lessons learned in recent decades related to combat effectiveness and TTPs have resulted in a trend towards decreasing escalation of force. Why is that? Because as we learn more about terrorism, insurgency, and guerrilla warfare (and indeed they are all just different levels of the same game) we find that with each mistake in combat--with each accidental killing of an innocent man, woman, or (worst case) child--we set ourselves and our mission against our enemies back. It should be no wonder to people who've fought in recent wars that the motto of ISAF in Afghanistan is "Help and Cooperation."
My Final Argument
I just got done talking with an artist named Zackary. She was getting ready to show some of her new photography and I was tasked with ensuring the tech needs for her show were all running smoothly. After helping her out before the show, I checked out her website and saw this: "Zackary Drucker is an artist who breaks down the way we think about gender, sexuality and seeing. Her participatory art works complicate established binaries of viewer and subject, insider and outsider, and male and female in order to create a complex image of the self." (http://zackarydrucker.com/about)
"Huh," I thought. . . and then it clicked.
Perhaps of interest is that Zackary is a transgender woman. Funny enough for someone who should have a keen sense of perception (you know, intel shit), I didn't get the idea she was transgender until I was setting up her microphone and noticed she had a bit of a deep voice, which is, I suppose, why I wanted to see if her website said anything about it.
Though I only saw her briefly in a low-light setting, everything Zackary did and said seemed very feminine to me... at one point she even put a picture of herself and her boyfriend on the projector screen and I thought, "Aww... they look like a pretty cute artistic couple." Only later would I learn that not only is Zackary transgender (Male-to-Female) but her boyfriend is transgender as well (Female-to-Male).
So, what's the point in bringing up all of this? Why should you care?
Let's do a thought experiment: What if Zackary and her boyfriend, Rhys Ernst, were to try out for the infantry? In the mind of someone opposed to women being in the infantry, who would be the "woman" whom you'd oppose? And why?
My guess is that the same people who oppose women being in the infantry would also oppose any transgender person from being in the infantry--why is that? Can you really say it's because of biological differences that lead to combat ineffectiveness? Or, my guess is, you're relying on a rather limited view of what "gender" actually means and, just as your logic about whether or not a woman should be allowed in the infantry breaks down into circularity, you must rely on circular reasoning to maintain your views on transgender people. What's the circular reasoning here? You assume there are only two genders: male and female. This assumption makes it impossible to accept that some women become men and some men become women. . . how do you deal with such circularity given that transgender people exist?
Like it our not, there are some dudes who look like ladies and there are some ladies who look like dudes. That's reality. Personally, I fully support the transgender community and hope to learn more about the community over time so that I may better affect positive change in terms of human relations one day.
Still, the fact remains, if women are already barred entry from the infantry for what I believe are basically reasons tied to sexism and being out of touch with reality, what would the infantry say about a transgender person wanting to join?
I think I know the answer and I think it has nothing to do with many of the current arguments about women being combat ineffective or unable to grow the muscle mass needed for hauling gear into combat.
Clearly if we're talking about a transgender woman these rules don't apply . . . so, are your arguments really based on combat effectiveness and biology or are they based on good-old-boy traditions that are out of step with the reality of the world in which we find ourselves? This, my friends, is the real issue here--certain people in this country don't want women in the infantry not because they can't hack it and not because they'd be combat ineffective; the reason is simple: if women join the infantry then the good ol' boy's club has been ruined for the good ol' boys who are members.
Over time, women are likely going to shift into more combat roles. Even writing this post (the longest of three!) in the form of argumentation doesn't much matter since the transition to women in combat is already beginning. So, why am I so passionate?
I think the reason I see this issue as important is because it represents a cultural paradigm shift that's taking too long to occur. Even the most powerful military in the world has been pitifully unable to walk in step with innumerable findings coming out of decades of research in gender studies, openness, cultural relativism, and classical liberal philosophy. At once we have whole segments of the population saying that our government is growing too large and that power shouldn't be centralized because such massive centralized power has the ability to abrogate the classical liberal dictates our country was founded upon; while, at the same time, many of the people spouting the end to centralized government go on supporting the complete refusal of certain rights to women.
So, since I consider myself to be a supporter of freedom and the ideals our country was founded upon, I find it irritating that our own military--the arm of our nation that conducts the most brutal type of international relations--has been slow to ensure that the freedoms it claims to fight for are part of the very fabric of its own structure. If you fight for the U.S. why would you fight against bringing the kind of liberties we've been ordered to bring to other countries to our own country's women?
For whom are you gonna risk your life to defend? If not for your own citizens, then for whom?
Go ahead, do a poll--I dare you. I'd bet my left nut you'll find more right-wingers on the anti side than left wingers, but I digress.