Riyadh: Saudi Arabia: Saturday 26th January 2013
In the wake of the US Government’s decision to rescind the ban on Women applying for positions on the front line of the armed forces, I have heard some of the stupidest and most illogical thinking articulated by people on both sides of the Atlantic.
I would not normally be moved to write on such matters but on this occasion feel compelled:
- No one is talking about quotas for male and female front line soldiers: So, pray tell, why are people going on about this? If the overall standards for fitness and physical strength are not met, the women applying will not be employed as infantrymen. All that is happening is that women are no longer barred from competing for the position. If you are not good enough, you will not get in.
- It is not merely Infantry soldiers positions. There are actually many different designations currently denied to women on account of proximity to front line activities, including Intelligence officers, whose role in a company is essential in hostile action and whose skills in foreign languages are often subject to shortage.
- In denying a portion of the population access to key posts you effectively block their prospects of promotion: It is rare for high-ranking positions to be awarded in a modern fighting force without combat time. Allowing women to serve in the branch of the military they choose, effectively removed a glass ceiling. And please don’t tell me that promotion is the wrong reason to want to join the army. There are plenty of young men and women down the centuries who have gone to war for no better reason than the prospect of a new uniform and the prospect of medals and adventure.
- Women already serve at the front in Afghanistan and run the risk of death or injury. Helicopter pilots, medics and sappers all operate in places where they might be called upon to return fire. Indeed many have done so and with great distinction.
- Men and Women represent different facets of Humanity: But that said there are women who exhibit the characteristics of a warrior and men who exhibit the characteristics of a carer. I accept this. It is logical and sensible and frankly I did not, until this week think it required to be articulated. However, I was wrong. For the record, girly girls, are on the whole unlikely to be called upon to spoil their nails in the poppy fields of Helmand.
- Women are not killers: See item 5 and refer to the numerous recorded evidence to the contrary from the history of the Red Army, Joan of Arc, Boadicea or from classical antiquity. I accept of course, that many, women are soft and gentle and diplomatic and consensus building. I suspect however, that they will not find their way into the army’s front line any more than a wilting flower like me will.
- Serving on the front line with women will not change how professional soldiers act: This suggestion implies that all male front line soldiers act in absolute accordance with their intensive training under all stress conditions, when in reality they don’t. Some soldiers act utterly irrationally under stress. Colonel “H” Stevens won a Victoria Cross leading the attack on Goose Green, in 1982, in the process utterly subverting his senior position at the top of the chain of command. His charge was inspiring and brave and rightly lauded. But the simple fact is that his training told him, quite correctly that it was not his job. Serving with women will not make male soldiers irrational. What will make them irrational is requiring them to take responsibility for the lives of men and women in high danger, high stress combat situations. In these circumstances, some will excel, some will flounder and some will pull through as a result of fear and basic training. However, if you believe the army is modelled on a Carry-on film, then I can see where you are coming from.
- Enemy’s might target women: Yes, possibly. But here are a couple of things to consider. Firstly, this will be much less likely in mixed battalions than in segregated battalions. Even if the US Army decides to deploy Female only army groups (Highly unlikely), the example of Black soldiers in the Union ranks in the American Civil War is instructive. Blacks in front line positions knew that they were extremely unlikely to be shown quarter from Confederates (and it is safe to say many former slaves probably did not wish to extend that courtesy to their former masters. Black soldiers were more at risk than white soldiers. Knew it and served all the same. What is the saying: One volunteer is worth 10 pressed men.
- The single biggest damage to the US military was lifted a long time ago: Forget ‘Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.’ Forget women on the front line. The biggest weakness in the US Army was when they employed ‘The Draft’ (The system of lottery whereby young men who were “called” were obliged to a period in the army. It meant that young men wholly unsuited to war and wholly unbelieving in the cause could be enrolled to fight. Removing this, as the Army did following the Vietnam War, turned the army into a totally professional body able to channel recruitment into the sort of demographics it requires to fill its diverse range of careers. Even in the worst imaginings of the people I have heard opposing this decision, nothing could weaken the US army as much as a return to that random selection process.
And while we are at it…
I cannot pretend, as a British Person, to understand the American debate over gun control but I have followed it with great interest. It represents both the best and worst of America for me.
- On the one hand, the popular will of the majority is wilfully usurped by the will funded and organised special interest lobby Group, the NRA: This terrible because it allows an individual or individuals to effectively bypass the democratic process. But it is wonderful because the American System effectively protects the minority interest. True Liberal Democracy does this, protects us from the dictatorship of the majority.
- On the other hand, this utterly removes the need for the Second amendment as Americans no longer need to protect themselves from the State.
- I don’t really understand the visceral anger of many Americans over the thought of no longer owning an assault rifle, because, ownership of the same won’t protect you from an unmanned Drone. But I do admire your American can do Spirit.
- I have never heard anything so crass as a tax cutting individualist advocating spending tax payers money on putting trained and armed police officers in schools. However, I suppose it will cut dinner money theft in half overnight.
- Q-C Iraq vet says she was in line of fire (qctimes.com)
- ‘We’re all in the front,’ veteran says (thenewstribune.com)
- Military to lift ban on women in combat (latimes.com)
- Q-C Iraq vet was in the line of fire (qctimes.com)
- U.S. military to open combat roles to women, sources say (cbc.ca)
- AP sources: Pentagon opens combat roles to women (news.yahoo.com)
- Military has to decide which combat jobs for women (news.yahoo.com)
- AP sources: Pentagon opens combat roles to women (cnsnews.com)
- Pentagon opens combat roles to women (kmov.com)