Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tennoheika Banzai!

The proposed cover art for the Aoshima 1/700 scale model kit of the Japan Naval Self-Defense Force vessel Hyuga:

Note the sinking PLAN carrier Liaoning in the background! Clearly "Operation Senkaku" was a devastating success for the JNSDF and the East China Sea is now an Imperial lake. Poor deluded Rob Farley, clearly baffled by Red Chinese propaganda, claims
"Obviously there’s been some sort of dreadful accident– apparently near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands– and the Hyuga is rendering desperately needed assistance to the Chinese ship. Those Ospreys are undoubtedly rescuing scores of Chinese crewmen. I can only hope that the goodwill and generosity evident in this artwork helps serve as a bridge between the two great East Asian nations."
Ha! Foolish Yankee, you won't be so amusing when California has become part of the New Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sex and Violence II: Electric Boogaloo

My friends Jim and Lisa over at Ranger Against War have been conducting an on-going discussion of the recent rescinding of the 1994 DOD "Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule".

Their last post here - "Sex and Violence" - made some of the points they're discussing but with a somewhat different context.

In their RAW posts I think they make some very good points about how we in the U.S. look at gender and roles and warfare. But I also think that they - and I may be advancing their position too far, here - posit that the DOD action is foolish in attempting to integrate men's and women's roles in the armed forces further than they already are, and I'm not sure that I agree that they are considering all the factors involved.

First, let me say this; frankly, if no American ever had to be an infantryman again, ever, that'd be jake with me.

I spent too many a weary klick under a rucksack to have any romance left about the Fucking Queen of Fucking Battle. That royal bitch can bite me. And that was in peacetime. The lot of an infantryman in wartime is a misery I can't even really begin to imagine.

Second, I don't see any real mainstream impetus to make this a real issue. The usual flank elements on Left and Right are spun up, but I don't sense any sort of popular interest in or push for female infantrymen and tank crews anytime soon. The reality is that most women - hell, most sane people - don't want to be high-velocity projectile interceptors for a living.


Part of "citizenship" in the U.S. means being on the parapet of Ft. McHenry "when freemen shall stand between their loved home and the war's desolation!"

While I don't like the idea of fighting as a qualification for citizenship it has been an important element of citizenship in republics since Greek and Roman times, and very definitely since the advent of "the army as the school of the nation" that came with the First French Republic in 1789. By restricting a citizen from taking up arms to defend her country you make her less than a full citizen.

Full stop.

To me that puts the burden on the person who wants to defend the idea that women are by their gender unsuited for the highest risk of mortal hazard they seek; that to insist that a woman's military service should be limited to Combat Support and Combat Service Support MOSes - which have historically and organizationally been considered and treated as second-class citizens in the U.S. Army - you have to make the case that restricting her military "franchise" is justified by the benefits to her, you, and the nation.

(And let me add here that I see no really serious push from anyone to open the infantry MOSes to women. But without the 1994 memo the possibility is there and the possibility has brought jim, especially, out of defilade and bringing direct fire on the subject of female soldiering.)

Jim has a series of points to his argument about this over at the first link to RAW. Let me list them here and try and put down some of my own thoughts in return:

--Men and women are different, and possessed of different strengths
Agreed. With the caveat that this is always and in everywhere true. It is also true that individuals are different and possessed of different strengths. That is material to certain things; a 4'2" midget is unlikely to play center for the Portland Trailblazers. It is not quite as clear how this applies to military service. I have served, and worked, and played various sports with women who were mentally tougher and physically stronger than some men. I have had the same experience within the genders; some men are tougher than others. I will agree that the strongest men are stronger than the strongest women. Toughness is another matter; I have known many women who can outrun and outruck men their own age.
--In male's compartmentalized brains, there is also a place for "his" women. These women elicit a different response.

--There are some spaces and subjects which are the chosen domain of men (see, Fight Club for the idea.) In his life, the Army's Combat Arms was such an area -- their real-world "Outward Bound" in which men tested their limits against their fellows and the enemy, and lived the Jungian warrior archetype.

Basically these two points boil down to "My head gets messed up when I have to deal with girlie stuff". I agree here, too; us guys, living in the U.S. as it is today, often have this problem.

However, it's OUR problem. There's no reason that the women around us need to make it their problem, or shape their lives around our prejudices.

Add to that the whole "mens domain" argument has ALWAYS been used to keep the "other people" out, whether they were women, or black, or Asians, or whoever the men on the indside didn't want. It was the argument against letting women vote, it was the argument against letting women into the sorts of fraternities like the Chambers or Commerce and the Rotary and the Lake Snootibottom Golf and Country Club where the Boys backslapped and made deals. As a man I agree that it's fun to shut the door on the He-Man Woman Hater's Club and keep the girlies out.

As an adult I can't defend that as behavior really appropriate in an adult.
--We have no warrior princesses today, no Boudiccas, outside of Hollywood or cartoon versions of Zena the Warrior Princess and ilk. For most girls today, that image has been superseded by Snow White or Cinderella. For most women, their reality lies somewhere in between (They can bring home the bacon, serve it up to a man, all the while retaining their ineffable femininity.)
The Snow Whites and Cinderellas aren't going to volunteer to go to the Fort Benning School For Wayward Boys.


Let me tell you a little secret; I was on the trail as a reserve drill sergeant at FBNC. I ran part of the 11B POI. I watched guys I didn't trust to be in the Army, much less in the infantry, get pencil-whipped because Benning had numbers to meet and couldn't afford to wash them out and didn't want to recycle them. A typical U.S. Army infantryman isn't some sort of Spartan soldier all whipleather and steel. The best are outstanding. The average are actually damn good troops. The worst are total shitbags. My guess is that the "average" infantry Joe is about as good as the top 5 or 10% of the Mollies. And don't forget - this is in a society that has told it's women for 200+ years "you're a dainty thing, you're Snow White, you're Cinderella". Open the door to the gals who want to kick ass like crazy monkeys and who the hell knows what could happen?

And the reality is that only a tiny percentage of U.S. women would want to give the Infantry a shot. An even tinier percentage would be capable of passing the physical qualifications (assuming the the U.S. Army put it's boot down and insisted in a physical standard just to go to 11B OSUT. My fear that political pressure to "pass" the women would force the Army to let some slide is about as great as my fear that the Army would refuse to institute such a standard knowing how many male recruits couldn't meet it) required to get in. And I'm betting that tiny percentage which remains pretty much excludes anyone with the slightest pinkish poofy tint of Snowhiteyness.

But as much as this is a charming image, in my opinion the difference between it and the sort of tough country gals and urban gang girls who would actually take a whack at Benning is pretty huge.
Basically what I get out of the bulk of jim's argument - and I should add that he makes a hell of a lot more cogent and sensible (and savory - someone in his comment section has already basically classified a large proportion of military females as whores who fuck their fellow troopers for extra TDY pay; looking at the images of women in that guy's mind must be like lifting up a mossy rock - ugh) than a lot I've read elsewhere - is that a hell of a lot of the argument over keeping the girls out of the male-only MOSes comes down to "the girls will have to just accept this because the boys can't get over the way they feel about the girls."

But we HAVE gotten over a lot of the way "we" feel about "the girls". We don't consider them property anymore, most of us don't consider them a life-support system for either a womb or a vagina anymore, we've let them do a lot of the sorts of civilian jobs that men do.

We've gotten over the notion that black people can be slaves. We've gotten over the idea that people with mental illness are possessed by the Devil.

Why CAN'T we get over the "girlie" stuff?

Here's another thing; I have had issues with female soldiers in my past.

Many of them went back to the fact that men, both in the women's civilian pasts as well as men who were their military equals and their superiors, had expected them to "retain their ineffable femininity" while changing the tires on a deuce-and-a-half or repairing electronic equipment or packing parachutes. They had learned - largely through the men in their lives - that they could play the "girlie card" and get out of some of the hardest, dirtiest work.

Not because they couldn't. But because - no fools they - they didn't want to do it and knew that if they played the men right they could "...elicit a different response."

This was bad for the women. And it was bad for the men, too, because in doing what the women got them to do they developed a sort of big-brotherly contempt (at best) or snarlingly misogynistic (at worst) contempt for the women's abilities to do hard, dirty work.

I think that both men and women would be a LOT better off if the default position for us guys was a little less studly and for the women a little less poofy. I mean, you should be able to be as studly and poofy as you and whoever you're dealing with enjoy. But I think some hardcore in women, and some recognition that women CAN be hardcore, would be good for us both.

Again - I DO understand the difficulties, I DO understand the arguments against this. But - given the reality that the only women capable of making the grade as 11-bush are going to be the hardest of the hardcore - I'm not sure that those arguments trump the political reality that if you can tell her she "...can't do that because you're a girl" then how is she your political, military, and social equal?

I'm not saying a woman should have to be a fighting soldier if she doesn't want to be.

Hell, I don't think anyone should have to be a fighting soldier. The food sucks, the pay is shit, and the working conditions would embarrass a Tijuana maquiladora.

But given the connection between soldiering and citizenship in a republic...shouldn't we have to make a hell of a massive case against giving the woman or women who want to take it, that chance?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sex and Violence

Why is it always, "sex and violins"?
--Ruth Buzzi, Laugh-In

The new pornography is left-wing;
and the new pornography is a vast graveyard
where the Left has gone to die.
The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.” 
--Letters from a War Zone, Adrea Dworkin

I seen ev'ry blue eyed floozy on the way, hey
But their beauty and their style
Went kind of smooth after a while.

Take me to them lardy ladies every time!
 --Fat Bottomed Girls, Queen

Let them eat war
That's how to ration the poor
Let them eat war
--Let Them Eat War, Bad Religion

Not war pornography -- war AND pornography. Now that we have your attention ...

War is the specialized, systematic application of State violence, and it is a perversion of civilized values, yet it is an activity that few societies have extirpated. It is also an activity designated as a career track primarily for the disadvantaged of our society. But war is an exploitation -- if it were not, our politicians would seek active combat service (which they avidly do not.)

We all know what pornography is when we see it, and aside from those 5th Avenue feminists who have the luxury of arguing that women in the porn industry are empowered by selling their anatomy, porn has traditionally been but one realm of the exploitation and objectification of women. Yet we have now opened a new realm of women's exploitation, and we call this a good: putting women in the combat arms.

To allow women to participate in the perpetuation of the violence will raise their glass ceiling we are told, thereby facilitating their career opportunities. This is the bottom line for arguing for women on the front lines. But this "privilege" will only be seen as such by a certain segment of society.

--Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, 
Reich's Women's Führer
Why are women in porn seen as exploited, while sending them off to fight in war is well and good? Neither war nor pornography are held as social goods, yet our internet lives bathed in porn sites, and the acceptability and necessity of war are peddled as unquestionable. Hypocrisy, thy name is U.S.A.

Is this argument for sending women into combat a backlash to the feminist movement? While women have still not gained economic parity with men in the workplace, we are now fast-forwarding them to star in their own personal snuff films, while screwing them all the way there (20% of women in the military have been sexually harassed by their male counterparts, according to recent studies.)

Further, these women will be fighting and dying for the rights of women in foreign lands to be exploited at the hands of males, as they always have been. It is a historical Mobius strip, for the women who they die for may one day gain their rights to fight and die for some other women to be exploited, ad nauseam. This is presuming that these imagined future women will have the crusading American impulse to help the scapegoat. But few look beyond the present moment, to see the implications of their bravery or foolishness.

The same people who would criticize porn (overtly) are the same who would argue for (someone else's) women to kill, fight and die in the depravity and degradation of war. How is having sex with strangers and pretending to enjoy the encounter less socially acceptable than fighting?

Exploitation by any other name ...

--Jim and Lisa

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Battles Long Ago: Khalkhin-Gol 1939

Over at GFT, some military history;
The Imperial Japanese Army becomes the first outfit in WW2 to discover that if you give Grigory Zhukov enough men, time, and armor that he will eff you up.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sick man?

Something appears to be going on in Istanbul.

While the original protests do not appear to have had much, if any, political motivation at this moment there appears to be a relatively small but highly vocal series of protests going on against the government of Prime Minister Erdogan and his AK Party.

Why could this be significant?

Because - as our frequent commenter Sven Ortmann pointed out back in 2008
"Turkey is in a peculiarly important position geopolitically; It controls the Bosporus (exit/entry for Black Sea) and is NATO's access point to the Persian Gulf region (other than from the sea). Sea lanes through Suez Canal/Eastern Mediterranean can be threatened or blocked from Turkey's soil. It's the only almost-Western but Muslim country and could bridge the gap culturally between Europeans and Arabs, being in between both. I should add that the Pan-Turkic ideology (a nationalist party got about 1/8 of the votes in the 2011 elections) could put Turkey into a rival position to Russia in regard to influence in Central Asia (Turkic languages there). The West's encroachment has been stopped in Belarus (as long as the dictatorship doesn't crumble) and Ukraine (where any national election can change the trajectory entirely). Russia would not exactly be happy to face a Turkish challenge on its southern flank."
And, I would add that the intriguing aspect of these protests is the possibility of their bringing the Turkish Army out of its barracks, and I think that a lot will depend on the protesters themselves, the government, and how the Army perceives them both.

Here, for example, is a post from something called the "Social Action Network" that, I think, may overlook the possibility that the Army may step in if the Erdogan government appears to be in danger.

The author concludes with "This is not yet a revolution, but it is not only tear gas that marks the air in Istanbul. It is also a scent of revolutionary aspirations." without anywhere in the body of the article speculating or even acknowledging what might happen if the Turkish Army decided that the "revolution" threatened the Turkish state with either a leftist rebellion or an government-led Islamic reaction. The Army has a long history - beginning with the Ottoman years and continuing as recently as 1997 - of intervening in Turkish politics when things look sketchy.

The AKP was elected largely due to popular dissatisfaction with the military and the Army has so far respected that. At the same time I cannot believe that the Turkish Army is at all pleased with the openly sectarian policies, the pan-Turkish rhetoric, and the Syrian adventurism of PM Erdogan.

But...in the comments section one of our regulars (thanks, BB!) links to a pretty good summary over at TPM that concludes that at this time the AKP has pretty much destroyed the Army's ability and willingness to intervene in politics. That adds even more uncertainty to what's going on.

One of the big reasons I am peculiarly fascinated by this is the implications it has for the wider Middle East. Turkey and the political career of the AKP was until recently perhaps the only test-case for an "Islamic state lite"; the possibility that a polity with a largely Muslim population could, in the absence of an Islamic Enlightenment and a thoroughgoing rejection of sectarian politics, have an "islamic" party in power without that party using that power to attempt to implement islamic social policies. Much of the recent governing that the protesters are calling despotic centers around attempts by the ruling party to enact conservative islamic shibboleths into public law; restricting things like alcohol sales and advertising and public displays of affection.

If the Turkish islamic party cannot rule without imposing or trying to impose sectarian law on its secular fellow-citizens I think it bodes poorly for everywhere else in the Muslim world where the traditions and practices of nonsectarian government are less entrenched than Turkey. I consider this a big part of this story and I think that this aspect is being poorly covered. I suspect that to a degree this is "urban hipsters who want to go West" versus "rural hicks who like them some religious limits" but I can't get a feel for to WHAT degree.

I also suspect that the U.S. press, assuming that it bothers to cover this much at all, is likely to frame it in the context of the "us versus them" way that it has taken to reporting events from the Middle East, with the islamist AKP taking the "them" part. But that the larger import of potential instability, or military coup, or the potential failure of the "nonsectarian islamist project" in the pivotal nation of Turkey and its role in a fractious part of the world is likely to go unexamined...

Hard to tell at this point if all this will blow over or blow up, but I'd suggest that events in Turkey are well worth keeping an eye on.