Monday, October 19, 2015

Women in Combat

I find myself for the most part agreeing with remarks by former US Marine Chad Russell interviewed on NPR for a show airing today, saying the US military is moving too quickly to put women in combat roles.  He was sharing his view (and that of many like minded) in light of recent remarks US Navy Secretary Ash Carter, who questioned the validity of any tests suggesting the status quo be sustained.

Chad's reasoning was roughly as follows:  the NFL is all men playing football (the US kind), so lets integrate that with women first.  As an experiment.  Lets do something in the civilian sector first, because war fighting has to be about winning, that's paramount.  Anything too political and it's no longer about winning militarily but appeasing voter-spectators, playing to the crowds.  That's a different form of campaigning, closer to mob psychology.

That's a loose paraphrase as actually Chad was saying nothing about football, only citing recent test scores hinting that given an all woman football team, versus an all male one, both selected to be the best in their gender, the male team would more likely win.  They bulk up more on average and a team of them would just be more ugly and orc-like, no matter how hard the females tried.  Turn this into a battlefield, and the orcs win.  The tests in question were not about football either, but about boot camp.

Isn't there a reason we have women's soccer separate from men's?  It's not necessarily all about modesty or locker rooms or equal opportunity. It's about making this be a sports event, meaning a level playing field in principle.  "Best of breed within gender" is found to be more fair, through actual experiment, as a result of trials with real humans as guinea pigs.

So if the sports leagues are separated by sex, what's the argument for saying combat should not be?  Those urging the Marines to change their ways first, and not the NFL and/or FIFA are maybe abusing their powers of command?

The former Marine was not sexist just realistic, in my view.  He was making the point that the laws of physics and statistics do not bend even for US Navy Secretaries.  He was very nice about it.

That being said, as a Quaker I see combat as Freaking Out at the institutional level, with individual soldiers behaving rationally to protect themselves from harm.  The work is not glamorous because it's a wholesale breakdown in decorum and polite civility as droves have their dreams for a sane experience shipwrecked.

Every episode of combat is akin to a ship going down and people dying at sea, except the latter is more likely to be more romantic.  Battle shows humans behaving at their worst, earning their title as Fallen (sinful, disobedient to God, assholes).  The thought of dragging the fairer sex into this sewage pit, or simply accepting their presence as perps, seems like further degrading humanity as a whole, one more step towards depravity (whereas combat is already rude and crude, beyond the pale).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a good example of a woman in a lineage wherein women are best.  In her discipline, you don't find many if any men.  Letting women cultivate roles that emphasize their strengths would be better than letting them play Hulk.  Not that a female Hulk wouldn't be interesting, especially as she provided companionship to Mr. Hulk in the thick of battle.  Maybe they'll make that episode.

I know "letting" as in "letting women cultivate roles" sounds condescending to some as if I'm talking man-to-man behind the back of the women.  Female Marines might counter "we're not asking, we're taking and you're in no position to 'let'".  I admire such spunk.

Let me change pronouns then.  You ladies should think about completely dominating at least 50% of the sixteen government agencies (see below) that self style as being Intelligence (Homeland Security is one of them, so include TSA).  Like, grab the CIA as yours and yours alone why not.  Kick out all the old white guys to start with; keep a few tokens (don't make the takeover too obvious).  One of the top honchos, John Brennan, just had his emails hacked we heard on the radio today.  The time is ripe.

Just because women don't get to infiltrate the Marine combat units would not mean they couldn't form their own Special Units.  Why not do more in those directions, before going up against chromosomes?  And yes, there's a lot to be said for letting individuals cross over and play for the other side, talking about trans gender, with a cis female going by Sir, as some top Vulcan.  Or maybe just call her Boss?  Might this be an opportunity to make GMO something positive?  Perhaps with gene therapy we could someday have even more XYs in core USG IC work?

I'd say the AFSC is already not-a-patriarchy in many dimensions.  Although AFSC is a Quaker NGO, not part of the USG IC, intelligence gathering and networking, as well as analysis and community organizing, are among its skills.  I offer this example as encouragement to those frustrated by any glass ceiling in academia.  In living an academic's lifestyle, you may not have the same opportunities to live on the front lines in some war for hearts and minds.

NGOs have traditionally attracted females with little patience for "making money" as a life's goal.  They're more like Roz Savage, in it for the adventure, and to set new performance records outside of some one-dimensional "net worth" money-oriented measure. Careers in public service e.g. in government, cater to that same sense of taste.  That being said, having the top "richest people" in the world include at least an equal number of females would be refreshing.  A better balance within the USG IC may help catalyze the needed changes.