Monday, March 31, 2014

The Weakest Link

When she was good,
She was very good indeed, 
But when she was bad she was horrid 
--There Was a Little Girl, 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of 
--19th cen. nursery rhyme 

She may be weary, women do get weary,
wearing the same shabby dress
And when she's weary,
try a little tenderness.
--Try a Little Tenderness, 
Frank Sinatra

~I think ugly girls should be
shot at birth by their parents.
It's bad enough being born a girl...but ugly and clever...
~fancy you're clever, do you?
  ~I rather hope so. I'm done for if I'm not! 
--My Brilliant Career (1979)
Myth, media and reality: Tough Grrrls

The Marines recently pushed back the requirement that female recruits successfully accomplish 3 pull ups as more than 50% could not manage that feat, "delaying the prerequisite as it tries to integrate thousands of women into combat roles by 2016, the Associated Press reports."

The myths surrounding female vigor have shifted over time. There were the fabled Amazons who possessed physical prowess and goddesses who wielded the power to command others to do their killing. There was Boudica and Joan of Arc, and the rare women throughout history who went to war under cloak of male's clothing.

Patriarchy emphasized female reliance upon the male's brawn, and diminished her further through representations of the hysterical woman at once enslaved to her hormones and therefore a threat to the male's surety of his lineage, while at once ensuring the male's place as the satisfier of her wanton lusts.

Freud introduced us to the male's fear of engulfment and the vagina dentata, and the ever-receding possibility of sexual parity issuing not only from the inherent structural differences between the sexes but also our own particular neurosis and psychoses. It would seem the sexes would be forever consigned to opposite sides of the cave, cowering, glowering and licking their chops. The agreement allowing for one-on-one cohabitation was the marriage contract, a prospect based upon the distribution but not equalization of labor.

The 20th century ushered in film, actors, computer graphics and a social ethos which says, "Free to Be ... You and Me." In a generation we went from female cops like "Cagney and Lacey" -- of indeterminate sexual orientation -- to sexy killers like Ziva David on the popular television series NCIS. The boys can play with dolls, and girls can watch G. I. Jane and Lara Croft Tomb Raider. It's all good.

Fast forward 30 years and the new tough females are borderline or straight-out psychotic killing machines, like the female characters on the t.v. series Person of Interest. Forget bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan -- she does not care about making you feel like a man, because she's too busy co-opting your positions. Or so the media would have you believe.

The press hypes the new aggressive Alpha female and most accept the idea of women in combat and the death of the draft. But Ranger's position has remained steadfast: women should not be in the combat arms or maneuver or deployable units.

He does not hold this position because he is a misogynist or a dinosaur, but because the facts bear out his position. He is sorry to stomp on the parade of those who maintain the happy thoughts like "anyone can grow up to be President.

The Army teaches that a unit is as strong as its weakest link. Soldiers train hard to achieve a strong chain that can pull a heavy load. Individual training strengthens the individual, and these single units are integrated into unit training after which they become deployable assets. This is the basis of all combat effectiveness and unit cohesion.

Combat is neither glamorous nor does it have redemptive value. In training, men frequently lose weight and get beaten down hard. It is doubtful that women could perform on the brute physical level of men like Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sergeant Jon Caviani and SSG Roy Benavides, who killed enemy in close quarters combat with their fighting knives after having suffered grievous wounds (Caviani put his knife in a man's brain and was forced to leave it as it became bone welded and would not extract.)

SSG Fred Zabitowsky broke his back and ribs but managed to pull three men out of a downed helo and drag them to an extraction area. He was burned, broken and gunshot, yet he hefted soldiers onto his back. Like so many MOH recipients, Zabitowsky accepted the award on behalf of his fellows, whom he credited with operating at the same level of heroism. (We have written about Ranger associate Paul Longgrear, who led his men out of the Battle of Lang Vei with a broken ankle and head wound.)

These acts are those of the fighting male operating full bore. Unlike Title IX in women's sports, the battlefield may not be arrayed so that women fight only their physical peers. The fact is, most men who qualify for military participation can physically dominate most women in a fight scenario. This is why most Olympics sports are segregated by gender -- it is not to give them the disadvantage, but rather to offer them parity in competition. This "separate but equal" is fair.

Ranger anticipates objections that these are extreme scenarios, but this is what the military's "chain" concept is all about. 

Twenty-four Medals of Honor were recently belatedly awarded to men who had been denied their awards due to racial or religious prejudice. Ranger challenges anyone to read these MOH citations and image a female performing the same deeds. It does not come down to bravery or patriotism alone, it comes down to sheer physical capabilities.

So what's the solution? Put women on 155, 8 inch, 4.2 mortars? Will they pull motor stables with the mechanized and Armor? Will they carry a Barrett 50 or a GPMG? Will women hump ammo as assistant gunners? Can they throw a grenade and fight with men in close quarters combat? Endure the filth and privations of the battlefield?

Ranger does not believe combat effectiveness should be compromised in the name of raising the glass ceiling.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]


  1. Damn. We're here again?

    First, in all honesty, jim, I don't and haven't seen anything like any sort of enthusiasm for any of this shit amongst the young women I meet. Hell, I don't really see it amoung the young MEN I meet, other than the usual sort of delusional "FuckthatlooksCOOL!" sorts of idiocy that have kept young men volunteering for the infantry since Alexander the Great's time. I honestly don't see this as critical to the survival of the Republic, not with all the OTHER economic, social, and political issues before us. Irking? Sure. A political hill to die on? Not so sure.

    But, second, the last time we talked about this the whole point was that, no, 99% of all women can't do this hero shit (and neither than about 70% of all men - ask me about the goddamn dirtbags I trained if you want an earful about THAT...). And if you set the physical standards high enough you'll fail that 99%...AND the 70% and then watch the services screech...

    Anyway. Throughout history armies have served as playthings for the social and political whims of the kings and countries that have controlled them; given U.S. society circa 2014 is it surprising that the armed services have been directed to try and make this work?

    Were the survival of the U.S. contingent on the quality of its infantry I'd be more worried about this. But right now I can think of a dozen problems more immediate. Sorry, man. This one just doesn't light off the attack-warning sirens...

  2. I'm with Ranger. In a way. Or maybe not? There are lots of MOS's that women are perfect for and would be as good or better at than men. Fighter pilots (or for that matter pilots of any and all military aircraft), intel pogues, tankers perhaps, snipers (a la Lyudmila Pavlichenko, and many, many others.

    But line-infantry and artillery not so much IMO. Of course if you set a physical standard for those two MOS's and some women can pass those standards and want in, I don't see any way you can keep them out.

  3. My problem with the solution to gender equity is that it relies upon the Army (and Marine Corps) personnel services being the arbiter of who should and shouldn't be in the combat arms. They do a real shitty job of it now, so in what world are they going to actually select that 1% of women for the job?

    I served with some of the first women in artillery. They were not Amazons. They weren't terrible or a detriment, but they were not in the top half of the class.

    The real question is what value is added in doing this? All I can gather is that there are real costs and the benefits will be that tens of women's careers in the military will be improved slightly and everyone in America can feel good about themselves.

    PF Khans

  4. In Canada, this was settled as a fundamental matter of equal rights by our supreme court a couple of decades ago. Our army performed as integrated male/female light infantry in Afghanistan.

    We may (or may not) have been as effective as a solely male army, but no one here seems to care about the issue. This suggests that the differences were not big enough to make a fuss over.

  5. AEL,
    It's all about assumptions.
    I for one do not consider a kick ass COIN where there was no military strategic goals as a war.
    I'm talking about a real war.
    Plug that into some national assumptions about the nature of war/combat.That may not cause anyone to care, but that doesn't change the reality.
    Combat is not about equal rights.

  6. Farting around the hindu kush, dancing with Pasto tribesmen was something I always considered "real work" for an infanteer. Doing it for over a decade constitutes a 'real" war for me, but each to his own.

    I agree, combat is not about equal rights. But those rights are part of what defines our society. Given the lack of controversy, Canada has decided that it is willing to possibly have sub-par combat arms to maintain our beliefs (even if I see no actual evidence to that effect) Fortunately, we have 3 oceans and a friendly neighbor surrounding us. Our existence is not determined by the strength of our individual soldiers.

    We only need them for natural disasters and foreign adventures and they seem to meet those challenges just fine.

    Canada is lucky for our ability to base our society on the rights of its citizens.

  7. "I for one do not consider a kick ass COIN where there was no military strategic goals as a war"

    You can get just as dead in some meaningless Third World scuffle as storming ashore on Omaha Beach. And your point about the multiple problems in mixing the boys and girls in combat outfits is absolutely valid.

    But there are layers upon layers of social and political complexity above the simple physical facts of killing people with fire and steel. Stating the physical facts isn't going to change that in warfare any more than it changes it in any other matter.

    We know, for example, that allowing for free movement of capital will encourage corporations to seek to pay the lowest possible wages. This, in turn, will produce just exactly what it has done; the offshoring/outsourcing/temping of living-wage jobs and the slow erosion of the American middle class.

    Is this "good" for a middle-class electoral republic? Of course not, and we know that. Structuring economic regulation, legal protections, and foreign policy so as to encourage the formation of a small semi-heridary oligarchy and a large group of under- or unemployed helots is not going to produce a stable democratic polity.

    But we're doing it anyway, because it suits the immediate needs of the most influential elements of U.S. political society.

    And this is going to turn out to be no different, if the drive to integrate the women into the armed services turns out to have a similar sort of push-down from above.

    But, frankly, jim, I doubt it does. The glory days of U.S. combat arms are likely a thing of the past; the future probably holds nothing more lethal than "kick-ass COIN where there was no military strategic goals..." and for that you don't exactly need Darby's Rangers.

    So to sum I, I guess what I'm saying is that 1) this is unlikely to be an issue that rises to the level of existential survival of the United States, and 2) it is likely to be driven by political and social forces outside the physical demands of actual fighting.

    We might not like that, but what soldier ever did? We've been ordered to do all sorts of goofy stand-on-your-head bullshit since Hammurabi ordered the first spearman to charge a mudbrick wall. That's why the phrase "Soldier, shut up and soldier." was invented...

  8. Chief,
    If we are in reality only going to fight level 1 threats then let's just out source to Eagle Scouts with marksmanship badges.
    Or let's just do away with the military completely.
    That works for me.

  9. In order to conceive of the nature of protracted "maneuver warfare", or operations at echelons above platoon level, one would have to have had some experience with it. That experience is, thankfully in some ways, gone from the ranks, and has been absent from Congress even longer. Today's military has not experienced extended operations without mess hall meals on a daily basis, for example. When mess opns were reduced to two hot meals per day, troops were writing home as if they were being subjected to inconceivable hardship. Won't even begin to detail the grumbling when McChrystal shut down Burger King, Pizza Hut, etc. Even the Wall St Journal praised Petraeus for reopening them.

    We ain't fighting the war you once knew, jim.

    1. Al, in refernce to "In order to conceive of the nature of protracted "maneuver warfare", or operations at echelons above platoon level, one would have to have had some experience with it." Take a gander at This.
      It goes right to the heart of Today's Warrior mentality.

    2. Nice. It also relates to something I've been saying for a long time regarding the "politics" of these recent wars. As long as the US military can remain operationally committed there is no need for the politicos to admit strategic defeat, although their radical political goals (essentially re-defining the Afghan and Iraqi political identities) assured that given their unwillingness to commit the necessary extensive moral and material resources to achieve these aims.

      We have been acting astrategically for some time, so why not let the girls "play" as well . . . these all come down to essentially political questions, which our handlers are loath to deal with directly . . . pity the nation.

  10. Al,
    Since all soldiers practice "worst case planning" it would be fool hardy to believe that wars at EAC are a thing of the past.
    We plan for the worst.
    That ain't 3 hots and a cot.

  11. fasteddiez - excellent link and spot on. Thanks.

    jim- "Soldiers" may practice worst case planning, but today we are dealing with "Warriors", which, I fear, is a self aggrandizing term that results in the modern day force thinking it is the end all and be all, just as noted in the article eddie linked us to.

  12. So just to make this point, in what way has our Army proven capable of handling the limited wars that we've fought in the past decade? A couple of people here have made the point that we're not fighting the tough wars of the past, but, seriously, Iraq and Afghanistan are basket cases and our military has proved most adept at propaganda here at home than anything else.

    At this point, it's not a matter of losing combat capability, we should be considering how to improve our abilities because they're really pretty shitty as is.

  13. Mike,
    I've been thinkin' about your comment since i first read it.
    I think you're saying that women make great pilots.
    I'll add that they are great shooters also, but so what??!?
    If a pilot is shot down then he must use his back and legs to e&e.
    Also i reckon you're saying that as pilots we'll be ok with them stuck in some hole like the Hanoi Hilton , or worse a black hole site run by some rogue government.
    I assume u read BHD. Think of WO Durant>
    Yep, anyone can fly a aircraft, but that isn't the point.
    Now , is it??
    As always , thanks for your thoughts.

  14. PFK,
    The US Army has cocked up a lot of limited wars.
    Korea, RVN come to mind.
    Hell, we didn't do too well in the 1st and 2nd Seminole wars either.

  15. Jim,

    I'm aware of that, my point is that we're approaching this argument like we've got room to maneuver and possibly dick up how well we fight wars for the good of civil society. Is that actually true? Do we have room to potentially weaken the military's ability further?

    PF Khans

  16. PF Khans,

    Lets say that the army had used the M1 Garand for the last 10 years as the standard personal weapon (but everything else was still the same) This would clearly degrade the army's ability to fight.

    Now, would it have changed any battle outcomes substantially?

  17. jim-

    Your "back and legs" argument for aircrews would hunt if we were, indeed, screened for such physical ability. Fact is that flight status requires no strength or endurance abilities beyond that of the basic service criteria for any other occupational field.

    As far as POW status, that's an occupational hazard, and yes, the public's emotional response to a female in captivity might be greater than that evoked by a male in captivity, even though they both agreed to face the same occupational hazards.

    As to our nation's scorecard in "limited wars", the force structure had little to do with the outcomes. Leadership at the highest levels, civilian and military, screwed the pooch.

    That said, I would offer that one of the underlying themes of the AVF has been emphasizing the "opportunities" and "benefits" for individuals in the Armed Forces more so than the "responsibilities" and "sacrifice" inherent in military service. If we are going to be an "opportunities" based military, how do you "sell" limited opportunity and benefits?

    The reality is that the AVF is dependent upon women to meet end strength, and has been for years. The Army, for example, is 16% female. Unlike the "Yeomanettes" of WWI and "WAAC" & "WAVES" of WWII, women are no longer in the military in limited numbers for the duration of the "emergency" to "free a man to fight". They have become a permanent and necessary element of the force. In a military based on "opportunity" and "benefits", it has become increasingly difficult to sell women on second class status and restricted "opportunity" when they are essential to meeting end strength goals. It's a corner that the AVF has painted itself into, and a corner the Services will have to make the best of.

  18. PFK,
    Yes, i understand your point and feel it to be valid.
    Maybe making aviation a branch was a mistake. Shouldn't they have the same physical standards as do the guys they ferry to work?
    Your last cmt is to the point and in line with my thinking.
    We are scraping the bottom of the barrel and calling it equal rights etc..
    I for one cannot and will not accept the fact that women are cutting the slack for a narcissistic, self involved, nation.
    This whole ball of wax is obviously not about equality , but quite the opposite
    .What i find extremely strange is that no female soldiers ever weigh in here at the pub. It's us old farts , and PFK,and Lisa , but never a whimper from a service woman.
    What gives with this?
    Forget getting shot down, forget being in a hole for years,none of this is the key point.It's just the tip of the ice berg.The question is not if we are gonna fight coin or theater , the question is =what the fuck are we doing??!
    If we are gonna only kick ass and take names from level one baddies, then why do we have carrier groups capable of destroying civilization?There are no glass ceilings in a nuc war.
    We talk bullshit and call it policy.
    Now there's some fulminate and i hear that hoppes no. 9 will nuetralize it.

  19. To all,
    I also often wonder -if the service is now so professional and wonderful then why are the suicide and sexual assault stats so egregious?
    Maybe sexual assault and women in the ranks may be related items.
    Why, how or where did any one stick their finger in a pie and pull out a plum and call it equal rights or equality to have the opportunity to serve in active ground combat?
    Life is not an episode of THE UNIT or a video game Call to Honor.
    So why do we pretend other wise.?
    Yeah, i'm an old fart who believes that men have testicles for more than fashion design.

  20. jim

    I checked out of the net in 95, so I can't address what is percolating in the ranks today. However, I do think there are totally new psychological stressors on today's troops that may help to explain the dysfunctions you mention. Read the new thread I just started.

  21. To all,
    I'd like to reinforce my position.
    In the latest Ft. Hood shooting a female MP Officer engaged the shooter and fired 1 round. She missed the target, but hey a man sized target is mighty small.