Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Playing to Win

I checked the news today and found that there was something historic again happening.  For those of you who have not heard, the Pentagon has decided to lift the restriction on females in all combat occupations.  Several of the more 'elite' groups have several years to explain why there shouldn't be females in certain roles, but for the most part, it seems as though America's military is done with its discriminatory practices.

Good for us.

I'm sure there are more than quite a few Americans out there who are again thumping their chest in pride at how we continue to become a more progressive society.  Our inclusivity is again at a level which puts us amongst the proudest progressive nations in the world.

I've got some personal experience with females in combat, and by in large its not something that I'm particularly concerned about.  Neither did I care terribly about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and from friends that remain in, neither did anyone else.  The Army knows better than anything else how to keep itself running, so I'm not worried about this causing large-scale disruption or anything.

Honestly, this is probably something that I should be much happier about, but for some reason I can't quite get behind this current action by the government.

I think it has to do largely with what I see going on in this video.  No, not the jokes, but what happens near the end:
In my first term, we ended the war in Iraq; in my second term, I will win the war on Christmas.  (Laughter.)  In my first term, we repealed the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” — (applause) — wait, though; in my second term, we will replace it with a policy known as, it’s raining men.
The President is remarking on some of his accomplishments during his first term.  And he leads with what I believe to be a pretty strong one.  Ending a war.  Good job.  No applause.  Next up in the slot, ending 'don't ask, don't tell' (applause) does not really do it justice.  People are very pleased with this outcome.  Check the tape, around 15 minutes in.  This is apparently a bigger deal to most Americans.

And pretty soon women in combat roles is gonna be a bigger deal than Afghanistan.

Honestly, it hurts every time I witness shit like this go down.  Every time, it becomes more and more clear to me that the risks I ran, the blood and tears, the bodies, the shit, all of it was completely and utterly unimportant to America and to most Americans.  It really hurts to know that my friends who are dead are dead because of ambivalence and that deep down no one cares about winning.

Which brings me to my second video.  A classic to many people, I feel like this man a lot when I think about the war.  Since when was it ok to lose?  Since when was the Army about anything other than winning wars?

Let me be clear, I do not believe that women nor openly gay soldiers in combat will not endanger lives directly. But that does not mean it is appropriate to change these policies now.  You play to win the war.  We are at war.  We should be doing things that help us win the war.  Otherwise we should just quit.  It is heartbreakingly clear to me that America does not understand this.

While these current issues are often compared with the racial desegregation of the military in the 1950s, there is a critical difference in how these issues were portrayed and why they were carried out.  Racial desegregation was enacted to ensure that African-Americans continued to support the military and because it was inefficient and ineffective.  It was a waste and it made things more complicated, not less.  In short, desegregation was argued for on the basis of its inherent military benefits.

No one today even considers such things as military benefits.  We enact these current reforms because we want to feel better here in America.  It feels better to tell ourselves that we don't discriminate, even if it probably means that some unit is digging an extra trench for their new female counterparts to shit in.  We can be just that extra notch prouder, even in our non-service, while some company spends what little down time they have getting some extra sensitivity training on how to deal with openly gay squad mates.

I'm so sick of this bullshit.  And again, the bullshit is not these reforms, its why they are being carried out and when they are being implemented.  We are trying to social engineer our Army while it fights a war for no military benefit.  Its something that screams of an overblown ego.  And perhaps this too would be acceptable, but we are not winning.

But we aren't playing to win, are we?


  1. Talk about random. But here we go.

    1. Women are already serving in combat at every level.

    2. Women are already serving in all "elite" units, just maybe not all jobs. These jobs are attribute and ability based, and I don't see things changing much. (hint: maybe Delta already has many female soldiers, the just don't kick in doors with the Operators, they do missions more suited to their abilities)

    3. This means infantry or Special Forces will have to allow woman to join their ranks. I read that the services will now have to set initial entry standards that will be gender neutral. SF won't change a thing, they can just invite woman to SFAS and let them carry the same ruck as everyone else (which is a minimum of 60lbs, but that is a light one).

    I really don't know how infantry will do it because they don't test initial entry soldiers right now. The MEPS stations will now have to have a system of weights or measurements, or even the recruiting station, some physical tests that woman will have to pass before being assigned to specific MOSs.

    All and all, I don't see a huge big deal here. Nor do I anticipate huge changes within the military. You will have the outlier females who will be in the infantry, but we will see if it isn't just a fad.

  2. bg: Assuming that Benning School for Boys is willing to insist on having every Molly meet the physical standards that Joe has to meet - and that's not all that effing high, I've trained troops there and a hell of a lot eleven-bullets ain't exactly John Rambo - the number of enlisted females ending up qualified as 11-series will be down in the low tenths-of-digits and those will be fearsome Xenas that I wouldn't want to meet in a fight...

    Same-same for the other combat arms OSUTs Knox, Leonard Wood, and Sill.

    PFK: "We are trying to social engineer our Army while it fights a war for no military benefit."

    You're kidding, right?

    One word, brother: Korea.

    The Army and everyone to the right of Adlai Stevenson screamed when Truman integrated the Army. Everyone knew that Negroes didn't fight, everyone knew that racial hatred would explode the Army, destroy unit cohesion, and end in catastrophic defeat.

    Except, no.

    Again, I see this as a primarily cosmetic change that will largely affect only those ambitious female officers who are pissed off at having to ride the back of the promotion bus. I knew VERY few enlisted Mollies who wanted a career in the CA, and those were, as I mentioned to BG, truly scary ladies who could kick my ass.

    And, frankly, as a medic, if this opens up some MEDDAC slots for those of us with hanging junk, well, all the better. After my first enlistment I got damn sick and tired of being cold and wet and outdoors all the time and kinda liked the notion of driving to work in whites. But because we were not a female-restricted MOS a whole pantsload of those sweet, sweet REMF slots went to the gals. Hot chow and indoor living, baby!

    And "(y)ou play to win the war"?


    Dude. You play what the political leadership says you play for. Die for a tie? If that's what the game requires. Sacrifice yourself for some grand geopolitical fuckup? All the time. Get sacrificed, a lost pawn, in some moronic clusterfuck, a Gallipoli, a Dieppe, a Dien Bien Phu?

    Goes with the job, man.

    Soldiers are the currency a nation spends on it's armed adventures. There's nothing - nothing - on the face of the coin that says "Spend Me Wisely". Soldiers lives since Ramses' time have been tossed away on dross, wasted in foolish, impossible pipe dreams, and sacrificed for no better reasons that hubris, pride, stupidity, and blindness.

    In a perfect world, yes; a polity will use force only for the best reasons and then with the wisdom and judgement it takes to succeed.

    In the real world we live in?


  3. To all,

    I'm not actually arguing against restrictions on combat MOSs and whatnot. I don't care. I care though, that America cares more about this than winning the war, because its a shitty way for America to treat its soldiers. It lacks even the basic respect for what goes on in the war.

    So please, argue you fervently for gender equality, I don't care, that, in fact, only proves my point all the more. Americans don't give a flying fuck. And it hurts me.


    First of all, desegregation was kicked off by Truman in 1948. It wasn't in the middle of a war, and there was no war on the horizon, so I think there is a tremendous difference between planning for the future and then having to fight and doing the opposite.

    Secondly, no one is arguing that ending don't ask don't tell or opening all positions to females will actually improve the combat effectiveness of the military. The arguments provided are all about discrimination and unfairness and whatnot. Good arguments, but not at all the point of the military. Its about winning. Or at least it should be, because, you know, we're at war.

    This is in direct contrast to how civil rights activists and professionals described the challenges of a segregated Army. Many emphasized the fact that it was a) a tremendous burden to have double the facilities and separate everythings b) a deterrent to African-American involvement in the military period. There were inherent military benefits to these activities. Did a lot of generals disagree? Sure. But that doesn't actually affect my point that those in favor of desegregation cared about winning more than their pet project.

    Again, I'm not against this probably largely cosmetic change to America's military, but this will be a greater burden on the military and will not directly improve our ability to win wars, and so I question its appropriateness in a time of war.

    "Soldiers lives since Ramses' time have been tossed away on dross, wasted in foolish, impossible pipe dreams, and sacrificed for no better reasons that hubris, pride, stupidity, and blindness."

    For sure, but in a country that claims to give a shit. Claims to be 'of the people, by the people, and for the people' it feels a lot less like Ramses spit in my eye and more like the whole country took a shit in it.

    Is it really too much to ask that a country want its military to win the wars in which it is currently engaged in more than some other sort of social policy enactment within the military?

    PF Khans

  4. Again; soldiers are supposed to fight battles. Wars are fought by a tangle of commanders, diplomats, politicians, statemen, charlatans, idiots, madmen, and fools.

    Not to mention that wars are fought for all sorts of reasons besides "winning". What would a "win" have looked like in Iraq, for example? An American colony? An Iraq that looked like Pennsylvania with more schwarma and mustaches? Wasn't gonna happen.

    Again, this is just what you say it is - a cosmetic change that will largely effect only a tiny number of female troopers who are ambitious enough to want to climb to the top of the promotion ladder. The effect of the geopolitical moronity of the past 60 years - sending a large conventional force into foreign civil wars in Vietnam and starting one in Iraq - had a hell of a lot more to do with not "winning" than what those conventional forces had hanging under their BDU trousers.

    And, for the record, tho the integration decree went out in '48, if you check the record you'll see that the Army that went into Korea was largely still segregated. The Army itself didn't WANT to integrate and dragged its feet, largely for the reasons I mentioned.

    But once guys started getting starched in mass quantities in the Land of the Morning Calm the survivors realized that a brother could stop a PPsH round as well as a white boy, and the foot-dragging largely stopped. So it would seem that social engineering can be accelerated by live-fire exercises, no?

    Anyway, given that this is really fairly trivial, given that other nations have seen it through with only minor issues, and given that there's no real data to support the dire consequences, I'd say that we'd be better off spending less time worrying about whether Suzy Creemcheese wants desperately to go to Infantry OSUT and more whether some idiots in Washington D.C. want Suzy and her brother Sam to go fight Islamists in freaking Africa...

  5. When male Yank members of our International Vespa Club come to the island every so often for a Rally, one of the guaranteed comments is about the large number of truly "buff" members of the Hellenic Coast Guard they see. They not only perform the duties common to their US counterparts, but the HCG serve as Port Police. Of course there are equal numbers of very fit male Coasties, but who's looking?

    The fact is that to enter the HCG, everyone has to take a series of competitive tests (the top composite scores are enlisted) and pass each, to include, written, psych eval, medical and a demanding 8 hour physical strength, agility and endurance battery. No post enlistment training to get up to standards - you meet the full service standard to enter and stay in. And the standards are the same for males and females, no "gender norm" adjustment. The obvious high number of "Babes in Uniform" says, at least in the Greek population, it can be done.

    The only down side, as one of the guys put it, is no "Pat Downs" to get on or off the ferries.

    My experience over a few years in two shades of Green, is that there are, indeed, some women who can, and do, measure up to CA standards, just as there are many men who don't. As long as the standards aren't "gender normed" to generate numbers, more power to them.

    I ran into no shortage of blatant, self-serving "careerist" males over the years, BTW. They were a dime a dozen at CGSC, yet not one female there was obviously so. And the four in my section were not only top grade people, but also railed against "gender norming" physical standards.

    1. During my time at the Benning Institute For Wayward Youth I watched a good 5% of every BCT class get pencil-whipped through some portion of the POI to prevent the TRADOC or Post highers coming down on the companies for "excessive loss rate".

      The excuse was "well, if this gomer can't cut it later on the gaining unit can just chapter him out."

      And, of course, I'd BEEN in that "gaining unit" and seen some of the waste product that had come out of FBGA. Not a pretty sight.

      So IMO how this works out will all depend on the Army; it has nothing to do with civilians shitting on anyone or anything. The civilian politicians are just doing what the vocal lobbyists in their constituencies are asking them to do.

      If the Army insists on a genuine standard for CA it will find that the only females who end up in CA are capable of meeting it, and will probably find that they will lose a small but significant number of males who had previously been pencil-whipped.

      But if the directive comes down that "you WILL qualify 5% of the females coming through reception station", well, then, that will be a problem.


    Little Ladies

    I don't know if this is true, but it certainly makes sense.

    If the United States had previously allowed women to serve officially in military combat roles, including special operations forces, there might be fewer sexual assaults in the armed services, the Pentagon's top general told reporters Thursday.

    Having studied the issue of rampant sexual misconduct in the ranks, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that he has concluded that the phenomenon exists partly because women have been subordinated to men in military culture: "It's because we've had separate classes of military personnel."

    I doubt this is a provable assertion, but if an institution makes women subordinate it wouldn't be too surprising if the men in that institution end up seeing them that way. And that's been the situation.

    [end quote]


  7. And Maddow has reported and commented on the subject of equality in the military



    1. Here is an excellent article written by a female Marine Captain about her argument why the USMC should not follow the Army's lead by opening up all jobs to females. She makes great points and makes one consider what ultimately motivated the Army to take this measure and what the 2nd and 3rd order effects will be.

      As a former infantryman, I have my own concerns about the matter. I am concerned about anything that could lower basic standards for the sake of "fairness and equality" over survival in a combat environment. Combat is never fair, but it can be a great equalizer. Let's be careful what we are asking for. Females are already in the combat zones doing incredible things.

      Let's use the Army's model of dealing with an uncertain future: Look at the worst case, best case and then most likely scenario:

      Worst: Decrease in combat effectiveness of select units which results in morale problems at best, deaths at worst.

      Best case: It could be a great move to ensuring that a top 1% of 14% of the Army (females) get their fair shot at glory and get to be "all they can be." Some select units will benefit from having these extraordinary soldiers.

      Most likely: Very few females will qualify (or wish to attempt to qualify) for these jobs in the Infantry, Field Arty and Special Forces. Those few who do make it, as per the argument in the article, won't have the longevity to appreciate the career these jobs will open up to them. The effect on the combat readiness of such units, frankly, it hard to justify that it will significantly increase, however, it is easy to see how it could decrease.

  8. (to be fair, the article is filled with fallacies and anecdotal evidence, but please look past the presentation of the argument at pay attention to the key point, which is why are we doing this?)

  9. Look women can fight and whatnot and I don't think anyone is arguing about that. I find it frustrating that most of the articles are of the "Woman have been in combat?!?!" variety. This has little to know actual relevance to the problems at hand.

    What concerns me is that in order to enforce this we will either need to do away with the separate but equal gender system in place (latrines, sleeping quarters, etc) or increase the inefficiency of our training facilities and certain combat outposts. And we aren't ready or willing to discuss the end of separate latrines and whatnot.

    The logistics alone make this not a worthwhile military endeavor during a war. And while it did work in Korea, I would argue that was because it was essentially the opposite endeavor of what we are trying to do. Instead of two Infantry schools the Marines consolidated to one. But what about Ranger School now? I don't doubt that it can be done by women, but the facilities that would be required to bring it into compliance with all sorts of DoA rules and regulations might entail some serious changes.

    Look, at the end of the day, the question I suppose I should have asked was if this turns out to actually negatively impact some units or does put a greater burden on the military, would supporters of this effort back off because of the war? My guess is no. And that's because this is more important and the impression is that the US military can take an efficiency hit.

    I don't agree with that rationale. I think it's not only inaccurate, but its dangerous. It's dangerous because a) adding stressors on people in combat unnecessarily is stupid and b) it indicates to politicians that they can keep this war going for shits and giggles without any consequences. That's bad for the military, the politicians, the public, and democracy in general. We're closing in on a generation of 'crisis' and 'war' and the public is less concerned about it than ever. The Army can take one more for the team though, I guess.

    PF Khans

  10. Back in the early 80's Army Tactical Air Traffic Control units were "co-ed". "In the field", at the platoon level, it pretty much meant finding a way to deal with co-ed sleeping arrangements, as the female numbers weren't enough to justify a separate squad sized tent for two or three persons. The "privacy issue" was worked out by use of ponchos and the "security issue" by informal means. The "rational" males insured the women's safety from the less "rational" males. Since ATC units are small and close, in general, it was awkward and took a little effort, but it worked.

    The platoon that was under my command at Ft. Chaffee had a female Tower Chief who was a gifted Soldier and leader. At the time, she made a very profound statement about women in the military, "The problem with fully qualified women in the military is not those women. It is some of the men with whom they have to serve. If SGT Jones feels he has to divert one iota of his attention to protecting me from a stupid fellow soldier in our tent, that's counterproductive. If CPL Jones' upbringing leads him to instinctively worry more about me in a stressful situation than he does a male counterpart, that is not good. If SSG Brown takes this time away from his duties because his parents taught him to courteously want to help me heft a load I am quite capable of handling, that's "nice", but an unnecessary distraction from his assigned responsibilities. Note, Sir, that I have not mentioned the cretins who want to peek around the poncho to see me in my skivvies. That's minor shit compared to unit effectiveness issues in the other two concerns."

    To her credit, she wasn't making a case against women in the military. She was simply commenting on the "undesirable" consequences some generally "positive" societal imperatives of the time. Whether or not such "imperatives" are still part of our society is beyond my knowledge. But in 1984, they most definitely were, and I, myself was an adherent. That brief chat shaped my further dealing with the subject quite profoundly.

    Just another NCO who mentored me well.

  11. I remember that the Israelis have concluded similarly, but with a bright spot:

    At less than 20% females, behaviour of the males is a problem. At more than 50% females - dunno, hasn't been observed yet AFAIK.

    This coincides with lessons learned about minorities in general; minorities tend to be create much less inter-ethnic problems where they're a large minority. The most xenophobes appear to live in regions with hardly any foreigners.

  12. Sven-

    There are possible "hints" that can be taken from other cultures, but even within the American culture, it's difficult to generalize. Why does the Air Force Academy, for example seem to have a greater sexual assault rate then the other academies and the general public?

  13. PF Khans:
    "I'm not actually arguing against restrictions on combat MOSs and whatnot. I don't care. I care though, that America cares more about this than winning the war, because its a shitty way for America to treat its soldiers."

    If you hadn't noticed, the US government isn't that interested in winning the war. And treating its soldier's poorly while loudly telling everybody how much we love them is part of the game.

  14. PDF Khans

    Welcome back. I support your posting. But what exactly do you mean by we are at war? Afghanistan at this point is at the end of a misguided punitive expedition. We got UBL so that is a win in my book. Who are we at war with? I liked your point that your feeling is that the country took a shit in your eye. Poignant and to the point.
    Maybe you are realizing that the grand old USA has used you and your fellows as cannon fodder. Brutal but the truth. Keep posting!