The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Women in combat

prompted by this Atlantic article on integrating women into combat, I thought I’d run through the basics (as I understand them), on this issue.

Let’s start with capability.  On the con side, women generally:

  • have less upper body strength;
  • suffer stress fractures more easily;
  • run more slowly.

On the plus side, women generally:

  • have more long term endurance under adverse conditions.  The list of endurance swimmers is as dominated by women as the list of weightlifters is by men: there are no male distance swimmers who can come even close to the best women. This translates into military jobs such as forward observing and sniping.
  • Appear to have far better fire control than men.

On the even side:

  • As best I can tell from looking at Olympic shooting and sniper records from WWII (where Russian female snipers feature on the list of top snipers), as well as anecdotally from gun-clubs, women are just as good a shot as men.  A common joke runs that husbands try to convince their wives to shoot, then are upset when their wives are better than them.

In terms of capability, I don’t see a ton of argument for keeping women out of combat.

There are, however, social realities.  The Israelis, who have a lot of experience with this, decided that the problem with women in combat wasn’t women, it was men: the men couldn’t get over the possibility of harm, or worse, coming to women.  On the flip side, in the US military, rape by fellow soldiers is far too common.

And rape is likely to be the reality for women who are captured, as well.  Do we want that?  Men may be raped if captured, but they will not become pregnant as a result.

I do firmly believe that everyone in society should be combat trained.  I think it ups the compliance costs for governments who wish to head in authoritarian directions for combat training to be given to the sort of people who normally wouldn’t have it.  People who have authoritarian personalities are, generally, more comfortable with violence and more likely to be trained in its use.  It’s good for society for everyone to have that training so authoritarians don’t have a near monopoly.  It is for this reason that despite all the problems with it, I support the draft: when the US moved to a volunteer army, made up primarily of southerners, it created a dangerous situation: an army that is not representative of the population, which considers itself (and is considered) superior to civilians.

Combat training, however, is not the same as being combat troops.  Everyone may receive Basic and even some advanced training, without being expected to fight except in the most desperate of situations.

Finally, if a nation does want to go down the route of female combatants, I tend to think that combat units should be gender segregated: this protects women from both men’s concern in combat, where it is inappropriate, and from their predation back on base.


Hope you’re all having a good Christmas


Happy New Year


  1. Celsius 233

    As a certified firearms instructor and an ex-competitive shooter, I can offer this: IME, women listen better than men when being taught to shoot. Men tend to think they already know how to shoot and only ask when it’s apparent they’re not very good.
    When teaching a firearms safety course, the women did better by 9-1. It was a course for beginners, almost by definition, and I enjoyed the women far more than the few men who enrolled.
    I’ve never been one to limit what women do or aspire to do. I was never in the military and had zero interest in joining; it’s beyond me why a woman would want to join much less go into combat. Their choice however.

  2. Celsius 233

    Ian; Finally, if a nation does want to go down the route of female combatants, I tend to think that combat units should be gender segregated: this protects women from both men’s concern in combat, where it is inappropriate, and from their predation back on base.
    Further musings; the very fact you are having this conversation here is telling in so many ways. By implication, it shows it’s still very much a man’s world.
    I would sure be interested to hear from some women on this.
    Until I hear from the female side on these issues, I can’t say I’m informed.
    I do know the predation issue looms large and isn’t being dealt with; that’s just ignorant and stupid.

  3. Formerly T-Bear

    Ian, I think you’ve overlooked something important and that is the difference between the male of the species and the female in what triggers aggression (the fight or flight response). In the male it appears to be a hormone enabled response; the female response appears to be existential in nature, something must pose an existential threat to being to bring forth the full response. Military training is designed to modify and control the initiation of this natural response, in the male to trigger aggression on command, direct its energies toward a commanded object and to control the ending of the response by command. It may be entirely beyond the ability of command to initiate, direct and control the same aggression derived from the female of the species. I suspect the mythos of the Amazon warrior carries with it a warning about unleashing female aggressive energies. FWIW

  4. par4

    Start hanging rapists on the parade grounds with mandatory attendance.

  5. someofparts

    T-bear, I have all the questions in the world about attributing aggression differentials to biology. I would really want to have an exhaustive report from anthropology before agreeing to anything like that.

    Also, speaking as a female, I’m a serious fan of firearms training and gun ownership for women. Entirely aside from the topic of combat, I have found from personal experience that it is sorely needed to protect ourselves from the men in our own communities. Arm women, let us get busy teaching each other that we are entitled to safety and dignity, and you fellas can stop worrying about escalating rape statistics.

  6. e.a.f.

    there is no need to segregate units along lines of sex. Just ensure people who rape other people, are brought to justice, just like in civilian life. Right now women in the American armed forces are more at risk of being raped by other military personnel than being killed or injured by the “enemy”. The most worst of it is the military’s refusal to deal with rape in any meaningful way and their abuse of the victims.

    Women can kill as well as men. They can shoot as well as men. War today is not what it was 30 yrs go. Any female who is fit and has the skills ought to be permitted to join a combat unit.

  7. pond

    Consider a military formed for purely defensive purposes rather than empire building and colonial aggression.

    Such a military would fight on its own territory against hostile invading armies.

    Such a military would be seriously disadvantaged by depriving half its population from small-arms, tactical, small explosives, and hand-to-hand military training.

  8. Celsius 233

    @ pond
    December 27, 2013
    Consider a military formed for purely defensive purposes rather than empire building and colonial aggression.
    Yes, one can consider; but that is not the present reality. I would much prefer we stay with the now and not some future eventuality.

    “… a military formed for purely defensive purposes rather than empire building and colonial aggression…”

    But we’re not there yet, not the present reality; so what’s your point?

  9. Pelham

    Women don’t have as much upper-body strength as men, but that’s per pound. Once you add in the size factor as well, women grossly underperform men — hence the scandal a few years back of fire departments around the country retaining videos for the men’s amusement of women trying and failing miserably to master basic firefighters’ obstacle courses.

    Women are better on lower-body strength, but nonetheless are weaker there, as well.

    Women do tend to be good shots, although they’ve generally performed poorly on the History Channel’s “Top Shot,” which is actually a pretty telling competition in that it requires skill across a range of weapons (although some, admittedly, are silly).

    Finally, men (in general) are better at spatial orientation, a key ability in using maps.

    Rape is, indeed, a huge problem. But then in addition, there’s consensual sex and all the complications that go with that. Not that a purely male military would eliminate consensual sex in the ranks, but at least it would cut way the heck down on unwanted pregnancies.

    Separation of sexes in the military is a great idea, as is universal military training. In addition to diluting the monopoly of authoritarians in this area, it would give the rest of us some real buy-in to what is, after all for men and women alike, our country.

  10. bystander

    A quibble re: suffer stress fractures more easily

    I had occasion to dig really deeply into the research on this a few years back. It may be that women suffer more stress fractures, but it is less clear that they suffer them “more easily.” There are a *lot* of variables which may influence the incidence of stress fractures. And, it seems that the greatest amount of systematic (I use that descriptor loosely) research has been done on women in the military – where there exist even more possible variables for which to account. IMO, this line of research is poorly developed and there is a lot more definitive work to be done. I would make the assertion above only with caveats and conditional qualifiers.

  11. The Tragically Flip

    The Toronto Sun’s Peter Worthington, son of a Cdn Forces General, did a pretty good series many years back on gender integration of Eritrea’s army. This would have been the mid 90s. I’m no fan of Worthington’s politics, but the point he drove home quite well was that women in mixed units is a much bigger problem when women are a small minority in the group. Eritrea’s experience showed that once women were >30% of a given unit, the ill treatment they suffered decreased dramatically. Just something to do with crowd social dynamics, it’s hard to pick on a group that’s big enough to stick together and defend themselves.

    My experience in the Canadian Forces as a reservist largely supports this anecdotally – I was infantry and women were maybe 10% of the unit and had a rough go. Units like Medics and logistics had a much higher number of women and things were much better for them. Maybe some of this is rah-rah jingoism instilled in combat-arms soldiers more than combat support roles, but I doubt it.

    The US military’s problems with women can’t be disentangled with the all-volunteer thing. Much of the volunteer base are of course economically optionless people but the military also self selects psychopaths and other social misfits. Canada too – people who “get off” on stupid shit like shooting machineguns and fantasize about killing, people unable to form strong friendships outside of the enforced camaraderie of a barracks. Also many would-be cops who failed their psychological or intelligence screening. At least a draft army is not overrepresented in these demographics.

  12. The Tragically Flip


    “Start hanging rapists on the parade grounds with mandatory attendance.”

    This kind of thing doesn’t work in regular society, why would it work in the military? Besides, if you have a military justice system this serious about investigating & prosecuting rapists, you’ve likely won 90% of the battle. The harshness of the punishment has never been the primary problem: A system that ignores/dismisses or even punishes those who complain of rape is the far bigger obstacle.

  13. Bruce Wilder

    I lean so strongly toward women’s liberation that my first inclination in not really having a specific opinion is to support repeal or erosion of the prohibitions, and let the military work things out. (They’re not going to ask me anyway.)

    In a high-tech military, I wonder if universal service is really feasible. Are there even enough slots? The U.S. combat military is surprisingly old, drawing as it has in recent years on large numbers of national guardsmen. Universal service would mean that the bleeding edge was more universally young. If you want suicidally aggressive, young is good. Otherwise, I wonder.

    In my thinking, though, I don’t think I would worry too much about whether women could shoot straight. As craft has disappeared, we’ve developed weird ideas about “skills”; being a sniper isn’t really much of a skill with modern weaponry.

    What wins wars is managment, organization and leadership: logistics, having the strategic good sense to occupy the “high ground” (recognizing what the “high ground” is, geographically or otherwise), keeping up morale, being able to get to a desirable end-point (aka, being able to persuade by force of arms).

    The gaping weakness of the “greatest” military in the world today is the inability or unwillingness of its leadership to bring any war to a conclusion in any finite length of time. You cannot win a war if you cannot end it on a timetable of your own choosing. That’s 80% of what “winning” means — forcing an end. Wars are so costly, that if you cannot end them, then you lose . . . every time, regardless of what happens on fields of battle.

    One point of great significance in admitting women, formally, to combat (keeping in mind that women have long been in roles exposing them to great danger), is that it opens up the top jobs: the general staff and their support. If women can serve in combat roles, then they can be promoted to command combat units.

    The pluses and minuses of women in the upper, and central or core ranges of the hierarchy, is where the most consequential social changes will occur. In the popular imagination, “high testosterone” is associated with rage, but in hierarchy, it can be a good thing, promoting formal fairness and transparent scorekeeping, even idealism about honor, etc. Women, god love ’em, tend to practice a different sort of politics. Whether the combination could become a superior alloy, I don’t know.

    I’m not as worried about authoritarian followers filling out the ranks of the military, or those in possession of “combat training” such as it might be, as I am about sociopaths in leadership. The psychology I would worry about is the psychology of social dominance orientation. Oddly, I suspect that the contemporary military, attractive as it may be to authoritarian followers, is not usually all that attractive to those possessed of a strong orientation to social dominance. The deterioration of the American economy has provided far more expeditious paths to the top for sociopaths and would-be demagogues, who are usually better salesmen than bureaucrats. Making a career as a Caesar or a Napoleon just isn’t a plausible model, at the moment, though times change, of course.

  14. markfromireland

    Professional military officer here with several decades of experience as a peace keeper in:


    Iran-Irak border following the war launched against Iran by Saddam Hussein at western urging.

    Irak both pre and post American war of aggression and illegal occupation of the country.

    Most recently Syria – where some rebel units are making use of female snipers.

    As a matter of principle I’m strongly in favour all women being trained to defend themselves against the threat of violent assault irrespective of the type of assault or its motive. In the USA where the level of social violence involving guns is very high that means teaching them how to use guns. It also means guns in places like San Salvador and for the same reason thank you Ronald Regan. In Scandinavia, most of the UK, and in Ireland throughout the EU im fact the level and type of social violence is such that civilians don’t need guns to defend themselves against violent criminal assaults including rape.

    To address the specific issue of women combat soldiers:

    There’re several reasons why women combat soldiers are a bad idea. Experience both with the Israelis and the Americans is that they’re bad for unit cohesion.

    Then there’s the fact that they are far far far more likely to be raped either by their comrades or if captured by the enemy by enemy troops.

    One of the things that makes the more thoughtful members of the Israeli Officer Corps break out in a cold sweat is that they got pasted by Hizballah every time they invaded Lebanon. Moreover Hizballah are getting better at what they do. During the last Israeli invasion Hizballah troops made determined attempts to take Israeli troops alive. As several Israeli officers said to me that they failed was pure luck. The same officers also said to me that once Israeli lower ranks worked out what was going on that their field performance plummeted because if there’s one thing that terrifies an Israeli it’s the prospect of being held captive by the Hizb. It terrifies their government too because the dynamics of hostage situations between the Israelis and the Hizb is that on the basis of past experience (and I’m not just talking about Goldwasser and Regev) it will be the Hizb who drive the negotiations and set the price. Do a little research on what that worthless conscript Gilad Shalit wound up costing the Israelis in payment made to Hamas. And Hamas are pale pale shadow of the Hizb.

    That’s for the males. What do you think would happen to any Israeli government when Hizballah trumpeted loud and long that they’d captured female Israeli troops? How much higher do you think the price would go?

    Somewhat but not all that far off topic:

    Ian do you remember writing about two US soldiers who were captured in Irak by resistance fighters? (I’m talking about the two who were tortured). Now at the time that PFC Menchaca, PFC Tucker were captured the 502nd Infantry Regiment (to which they both belonged) was the subject of numerous and well-founded accusations of torture. The 502nd were accused of torturing both people who were captured in arms against the American invaders and of torturing civilians entirely uninvolved with the resistance.

    In the area where Menchaca and Tucker were captured and the area where there tortured bodies were discovered posters appeared saying that Menchaca’s and Tucker’s captors were going to subject them to torture in reprisal for what the Americans were doing. (Mahmudiya was later introduced as a red herring the Americans). These posters also said that efforts would be made to capture other American soldiers and to torture them also.

    Suddenly the reports about American soldiers torturing Irakis stopped. Irakis who were held at that time when asked about their treatment by my Iraki colleagues and by Iraki human rights bodies such as Hammurabi all commented that suddenly the abuse and torture that was so widespread it was taken for granted stopped.

    It. Stopped. All. Of. It. Just. Like. That.

    Isn’t that interesting?


  15. Ian Welsh

    Yes, at the time, I did write that a nation should not torture prisoners, or it can expect prisoners taken by its enemies to be tortured. That’s the lowest level of ethical reasoning, but if that’s what it takes.

    Of course, prisoners did still get tortured further up the chain.

    Unit cohesion is one reason why I said that if you want to do it, the units need to be segregated.

    I would assume Hizbollah would not torture Israeli soldiers. I hope I am not wrong.

    Certainly some of the heavier weapons will be problematic for most women (re: markmanship), but that problem is simply enough dealt with. Again, the sniper records of WWII in Russia (who used women widely), show female snipers entirely competitive with men. In any case, it is simple enough to create markmanship cut-off points. As for strength, in roles where it is important, requirements should not be reduced for women. It’s not clear to me that all combat roles in a modern army are such roles (again: see Russian female snipers, or pilots).

    Tragically flip: good point on the possibility of a tipping point. It would be interesting to see US data on units where rape is most prevalent. There is still the unit cohesion issue, of course.

  16. Celsius 233

    @ Bruce Wilder
    …being a sniper isn’t really much of a skill with modern weaponry.
    You obviously aren’t well versed in the realities of what it takes to be a sniper. Today’s rifles, optics, and ammunition are the best ever and can group 10 shots in 1/4″ moa (minute of angle) at 100 meters. But it takes a very highly skilled individual to deliver that potential of the equipment.
    I’m sure MFI can verify that.
    As to the rest of “it”; I’ll leave that up to the women.

  17. John Puma

    I’m with “pond,” to wit: “Consider a military formed for purely defensive purposes rather than empire building and colonial aggression. Such a military would fight (solely) on its own territory against hostile invading armies.” My emphasis “( ).”

    Certainly this is not the current reality but by indulging in superficial “efficiency” discussions such as this, by alleged intelligent, forward-thinking, compassionate people, further delays the time at which it is reality.

    What profound question is next: “Do women have electronic gaming skills sufficient to kill innocents 10 thousand miles away by drone?”

    Implicit approval of the perpetual war machine is, I’m sure, a holiday gift much appreciated by the Americo-fascist, military-industrial-financial-congressional complex.

  18. How about abolishing the military — at least as it is currently operating and understood — instead?

    Mädchen soldiers, sure why not? But why “soldiers,” period?

    To continue or expand aggression against weaker opponents more efficiently — but in a gender neutral way? Integrating women into Imperial murder squads — which is what our Special Forces are — as is proposed in the Atlantic article,seems rational enough… if the point of the exercise is to continue the same course of military expansion and global dominance (ie: Empire) we’ve been on for so long now. Fuck yeah.

    As for reviving the draft as a means of controlling the authoritarian impulses of the Overclass, it doesn’t quite work that way in the real world.

    Conscription works to instill unity, nationalism, patriotism, loyalty and most of all obedience to authority in disparate populations who might otherwise reject obedience, nationalism and acceptance of authoritarian control if left to their own devices.

    Conscription serves as no brake on authoritarianism at all. Nor does it curb the imperial ambitions of the elites. Just the opposite, as bitter experience demonstrated time and again before the abolition of the draft in 1973.

    On the other hand, the volunteer military (“” – there are many involuntary aspects to it) serving the US today is conceptually a private armed force employed on behalf of corporate interests with little or no connection to the public, and thus it is in fact dangerous.

    A conscript military is just as dangerous, though perhaps in a somewhat different way.

  19. wondering

    This, from a Canadian. Surely you are aware that there are many nations with women in combat roles. There is ground between “no women in combat” and “every woman (and man) in combat”.

  20. Don Carlos

    May I suggest a radical idea to goodhearted liberals: How about we stop training killers for ruling class war criminals? Most active US and Canadian soldiers are sent to occupy other peoples, just like the Israeli military. Occupation of others debases the occupiers, dehumanizes them, regardless of gender. This entire article ridiculously plies the mote of a fabricated gender issue and misses the beam of an Aggressive War Military(US/NATO). Soldiers trained for aggressive war and occupation, again, regardless of gender, always commit atrocities, torture, kill civilians and see the peoples they war against and occupy as subhuman. Some of the torturers at Abu Ghraib were women and the lead officer was a woman. “Biological differences” claptrap overlooks the coarsening indoctrination every soldier experiences. The mass murder machine of Empire is no better with gender equality. Affixing halos over abattoirs may help liberals rest easier.

  21. Compound F

    What do you know about war or women? Females have been through every male war ever, throughout the entire history of Life; and they keep reproducing.

    You question their combat capabilities, when the sex ratio remains 1:1.

  22. Celsius 233

    @ Compound F
    December 29, 2013
    I roared at your comment. Shazam!
    Talk about a snapback to reality!
    Thank you…

  23. Compound F

    pardon me. after re-reading your post, my sniping was probably out of of place, but the thesis stands (no species exists without females; by the default definition of female; they have seen more war than males, if only because males are merely the specialized, warring but not reproducing subset of females).

  24. Celsius 233

    Compound F
    December 29, 2013
    pardon me. after re-reading your post, my sniping was probably out of of place…
    Commendable in your rethinking and reconsideration. However, your point still stands, no?
    Ah, I see now you state such.
    Never mind…

  25. dandelion

    Ah…. separate but equal — how is that supposed to work? Jane Crow?

    Women’s units: assigned to KP, latrine duty, nursing, maybe teaching in DOD schools?

    If men are worried their female comrades will be raped, do you seriously think they’ll allow women to form into sniper units or walking point?

    Do you seriously think women are not aware of the threat and possibility of rape, something they’ve been told about since the age of about 8? Why is the fact that the possibility that the threat of rape disturbs men more significant than the fact that women spend their entire lives negotiating this threat? Don’t you think a woman enlisting for combat realizes she might be raped if captured? (The kicker is that she probably doesn’t expect she’ll be raped by her platoon — some unit cohesion there, all right.)

    I grew up inside the military and remember very well the ridiculous half position female soldiers occupied before they were permitted combat roles — neither one thing nor the other. Wearing camouflage fatigues, unable to carry arms, working as secretaries.

    I’m not old enough to remember when the same was done with black units. Truman in 1954 ordered the military to integrate. Unit cohesion! Disaster! White racists can’t accommodate! Much assault, I’m sure — in fact, I saw plenty of racial incidents on military bases.

    Yet it was done.

    If the problem of rape in the military and unit cohesion lies with men rather than women, why not do as the military (eventually and spottily) did with white racists: punish, refuse to promote, discharge?

    Just as, if the problem of rape in the civilian culture and the problem of employment discrimination in the civilian culture lies with men, why not actually prosecute and incarcerate rapists and why not fire men who can’t accommodate 51% of the population?

    Why must women constantly accommodate to what boils down to male neurosis?

    As to biological differences: bullshit. At the outer edges of the spectrum, sure: the tallest man will be taller than the tallest woman.

    But the spread of difference within a gender is greater than the spread of difference between genders. There are plenty of short men, slow men, weak men, non-aggressive men, and there are plenty of tall women, fast women, aggressive women.

    And also: much of the data regarding women’s fitness and strength comes from a time when women were actively discouraged from engaging in activities that would increase both those capacities.

    Really really disappointed every time I encounter the internalized sexism of male thinkers I otherwise respect and enjoy reading.

    Women: actually fully human, not a subgroup of the male default. And also: the majority of the population.

  26. Phoenician in a time of Romans

    @EAF: “There is no need to segregate units along lines of sex. Just ensure people who rape other people, are brought to justice, just like in civilian life. “

    This would be the civilian life in which somewhere around 15 to 20% of women have been raped and in which maybe only 5% of rapists see jail?

    One reason why justice for rape is so difficult is because the evidence so often comes down to a “he said, she said” duel, and the just presumption must be for innocence. Segregate the units, and that presumption changes – a male in a female area first has some explaining to do.

  27. Phoenician in a time of Romans

    It’s not clear to me that all combat roles in a modern army are such roles (again: see Russian female snipers, or pilots).

    No, but as the Falklands War shows, even in a First World military, a lot of the infantry role is going to involve and keep on involving a bunch of people moving heavy loads long distances over rough terrain without faltering.

  28. VietnamVet

    In my two years and nine months in the US Army, I never had a personal contact with a WAC. I am in the last cohort of Americans who was drafted and I am 70 years old.

    The current privatized army is structured to fight wars of occupation in defense of Wall Street / City of London’s empire. The last American people’s army mutinied. I was there.

    Soldiers carry 60 pounds of supplies and munitions and live in the field for months. Stonewall Jackson’s men marched 350 miles and fought five battles in 30 days in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

    Colonial armies hold up in forts, suffer from politics, make a profit for contractors and don’t win wars.

  29. dandelion

    “One reason why justice for rape is so difficult is because the evidence so often comes down to a “he said, she said” duel, and the just presumption must be for innocence. Segregate the units, and that presumption changes – a male in a female area first has some explaining to do.”

    That argument has been used for a very long time to keep women separate and unequal. It is not possible to be separate and equal.

    Further, if we should segregate women in the military to protect them from rape, then statistics and logic dictate we do the same in the civilian world.why not in the civilian world? I believe that the anarchy created by the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan and the subsequent rapes led directly to the first formation of the Taliban in Kandahar. How’s that working out for the women of Afghanistan? But gender segregation does seem to work for the women of Saudi Arabia and it is in fact how it used to be done in most US work places. Female only factory floors, for instance, supervised, of course, by men.

    The way to stop rape is for men to stop raping. Period. The way to stop men raping is to prosecute aggressively — and for other men to stand up against rape rather than build structures that do everything but hold men responsible. See the Yes Means Yes blog. The presumption of innocence is a red-herring, because many crimes are committed without outside witnesses — it is the jury who decides which party to believe. The problem is not he-said/she-said, the problem is that women are not believed. By cops, by prosecutors, by judges, by juries, by the population at large.

    But suppose we did segregate units by gender. Have you ever been on a military base? Segregated units will not stop genders mixing at service clubs, exchanges, etc.? And guess what: on those military bases there are dependent teenage girls who are, technically, civilians. You think they’re safe in those clubs, exchanges, etc? Guess again.

    And how are you going to keep the units separate at forward bases? Razor wire between men’s and women’s sleeping quarters and the latrines and the mess tents? No — what you’ll do is keep women out of forward bases altogether. Which again leads to separate and unequal career paths — since combat experience is vital to promotion beyond a certain rank — so what you’re actually proposing is the kind of gender discrimination that is flat-out illegal in the civilian world be applied in the military world because some men rape.

    How very progressive.

    As for keeping up on maneuvers, again I ask: have you been in the military or ever been on a military base? Believe me, there are male infantry who are overweight, slow, short, near-sighted, subject to panic attacks, functionally illiterate, adverse to following orders, etc. etc. All this notion that women cannot be in combat seems to assume that every male combat soldier is a perfect specimen, a Rocky Balboa in BDUs. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that just is not the case. Or that every combat role is a hand-t0-hand life-and-death proposition.

    Finally — and this is to Ian too — the notion that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman, worse even than death, is rooted in patriarchal notions about women’s sexuality. How is a women soldier raped by the enemy (or by friendly fire) worse than four G.I.s tortured, killed, their bodies dragged through Fallujah then hung from a bridge?

    But somehow it seems worse to the men posting here. Because of the shame? To the woman? But who imposes that shame? Or is it worse because of the disgrace to the men? Because they didn’t protect their women? How can you not see the patriarchal power structure embedded in those notions?

    How dare the men here propose laws to forbid all women from doing what some women are in fact capable of doing? Especially when the basis for that proposition is rooted in what seem to be Hollywood-based visions of military life and work, as well as patriarchal protective notions about women’s vulnerability to rape and how responsibility, shame and punishment for that crime should be distributed.

  30. Phoenician in a time of Romans

    The problem is not he-said/she-said, the problem is that women are not believed. By cops, by prosecutors, by judges, by juries, by the population at large.

    If you were on a jury, charged with establishing guilt “beyond reasonable doubt”, had the responsibility of possibly sending someone to jail for a decade or more, and 80% sure from her testimony that a woman had been raped, would you convict?

  31. dandelion

    How exactly do you quantify certainty?

    I asked if you’d ever been on a military base and you didn’t answer. Now I wonder if you’ve ever served on a jury or just watched one on TV. Beyond reasonable doubt doesn’t mean beyond all doubt. The key word there is reasonable, and sorry to say, that’s a subjective judgment.

    Would you vote to convict a mugger who claimed innocence over the testimony of a man who claimed he was robbed but can show no injury, no charges on his credit cards? How sure would you have to be? It’s he said/he said. How exactly would you quantify that certainty in any way that wouldn’t be purely subjective?

    In fact, muggers in that exact trial circumstance are convicted all the time, because the jury weighs the testimony of each party and gives more weight to the testimony of the party they believe and votes to convict if the preponderance of that evidence (yes, testimony is evidence) points toward guilt.

    But somehow rape requires an immaculate conviction.

    But you’re also the one who suggested the solution to men raping women was to segregate women into “women’s areas” (perhaps with pink water fountains?) that somehow would have to be created and fenced on military bases, which believe it or not are communities, complete with schools, shopping centers, bars and restaurants, movie theaters, swimming pools, golf courses and bowling alleys populated not just by military women but also by dependent wives and daughters who are also at risk from military rapists (and would these dependents also have to move into these special “women’s areas”?

    Honestly, I’m cracking up imagining the poor housing clerk having to explain to an officer or a non-com that his wife or daughter can’t live on post.) And of course we haven’t even touched on the problem of host-country or off-base women and girls who are raped by military men — the women on Okinawa or in the Philippines or in the small-town America that surrounds most military bases. How should they be segregated into women’s areas so that they’re protected?

    I’m the one who’s suggesting the solution lies in the application of law and justice under the proposition that women are equal citizens under the Constitution and/or under the proposition that the Military Code of Justice applies to rape and that a fully involved JAG, with command decisions regarding prosecution evaluated all the way up the line, could stop this problem cold.

    I’m guessing you’re male.

    I’m not posting on this thread again. I’m frankly sick of men (and some women) suggesting the various ways in which women should limit themselves with respect to the full range of human experience, potential and emotion because some men rape. I’m doubly sick of progressive men (and some women) suggesting the same.

  32. Ian Welsh

    Having a battallion made up entirely of women is something the military can do if it wants to, they certainly did it with men: this does not require having the entire base be all men, or all woman. Absolute safety is not the point, reduction in harm is.

    The structure of the US military has been remade radically many times. Most recently after Vietnam, from a draft army to a southern volunteer army which could be expected not to mutiny (and which lives fat on the land, as well: it’s a very expensive army even compared to the prior US army, which was not cheap). But the transformation during WWII was equally significant, and is something Pat Lang has written about. There was a time when enlisted men were not supposed to marry, when the idea of anybody but an officer living on base with their family was anathema. The weird apothoesis of the family in US military culture is uncommon: most militaries in history have been the opposite. To some extent, post-draft, this is simply a requirement of having a large professional army. If you want a huge army, you’re going to have to allow marriage, children, etc… Might as well make a virtue out of it.

    In any case, rape was only one of two points, the other was that there is evidence that many men can’t handle women in the way of harm, and it hurts men’s performance. That may not be fair, but the evidence for it exists.

    Whatever, force-integrate if you like, it’s not an issue I care much about one way or the other and the moral force of your argument is strong: “women should be able to do everything.” If it hurts performance, that’s fine, the US army hasn’t fought a ground-war I approve in ages. I do, however, care that women get combat training.

  33. Bizarre discussion to find at Ian’s place. I can only say I’m with Ché Pasa and Don Carlos.

  34. Celsius 233

    Sawadee Pee Mai, tuk khon.

  35. Celsius 233

    Sawadee (happy) Pee (year) Mai (new), tuk (every) khon (person)

    I’ve confused many with this salutation, sorry. It’s just a google away; google translate.

    Hey, you got a free Thai lesson 🙂

  36. David Kowalski

    One point is the demographics of the military. In WW II or the US Civil War, the average age of a soldier was 25. In Vietnem, the soldier was much younger. The use of “volunteers” means that the military is once again older but is also atypical of the society as a whole. Under the old rules, the sons of the wealthy and top politicians and bureaucrats were endangered as were the sons of common people. War, or at least a big war, was a shared experience. That’s gone out the window. Not only are the 1% safeguarded economically but they are also sheltered from military duty unless they choose to go as the child of a general, an admiral or other high level officer.

  37. Soullite

    Well, it’s nice to know that as a man, you don’t give a shit if I get raped.

    And liberals always wonder why most men want nothing, ever, to do with them.

  38. Soullite

    Well, that and the fact that liberals abandon their belief in ‘innocent until proven guilty!’ the moment a woman opens her mouth and screams rape, as is so completely made clear by the conversation above.

    Liberals hate and fear men. Men have every right to hate and fear liberals.

  39. Ian Welsh

    Can you get pregnant? No? Then the consequences of rape are a lot less for you. You’d think conservatives, constantly going on about how women should bear the children raped into them, would understand this. Perhaps you’re one of those people who think that during legitimate rape a woman’s body has ways of shutting preganancy down.

    Conservatives hate and fear women. Women have every right to hate and fear conservatives.

  40. markfromireland

    @dandelion rant above:

    ” four G.I.s tortured, killed, their bodies dragged through Fallujah then hung from a bridge”

    One of the reasons why I despise American ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ is the way in which like good little Americans they fall over themselves to loyally repeat their masters’ talking points. In this case the talking points come from Erik Prince and what at the time was called Blackwater Corporation. A corporation which for profit provided mercenaries and which indeed still does.

    “Four G.I.s” my arse. They were mercenaries. They were civilian scum who sold their military experience to the providers of mercenary soldiers. Two of them were specialists in ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ – that’s torture to you. They were NOT G.I.s they were mercenaries – people who sold their ability to use violence and in two cases to inflict torture on unarmed prisoners. It is a blatant and flagrant lie put about by one of the largest suppliers of private armies in the world that they were anything other than mercenaries.

    That doesn’t mean that they deserved to be lynched – nobody deserves to be lynched.

    Ian has a posting about “Does Generational Character Exist?” – there are two things for which the current generations of Americans of age to be politically active rightly deserve to be cursed by everyone else:

    1) The reintroduction of mercenary armies. Staffed by scum like the four lynched at Fallujah.

    2) The reintroduction of torture as a publicly acceptable policy and tactical option.

    “Four G.I.s” fuck just when you think they can sink no lower they bloody well sink lower.


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