by Tom Kratman
Yes, that was the book’s original title. Toni didn’t like it. “No nipples on covers, Tom,” she said, and she be da boss.
In any case, now that I have your attention...
Have a seat. You already know where the beer and cigars are; help yourself. Now, lemme tell ya a story; true story, as it happens.
Once upon a time, in the dim mists of antiquity, which is to say, circa 1992, a US Army infantry captain was drinking whiskey while sitting on the front porch of his wife’s family’s house on their ranch in Panama. The ranch was sufficiently remote that, while it’s not exactly the middle of nowhere, you can see the middle of nowhere from there – said true middle of nowhere being just about a half a mile down the road.
This captain was on terminal leave, between leaving the Army and entering law school. Between watching the grass grow, watching the cows and horses eat it, etc., having not a damned thing to read in his own language, and – of course – the whiskey, the captain had a lot of time and opportunity to think. Among the things he thought about were the changes coming to the Army – and, by the way, he still had, and has, a great emotional attachment to the Army, and especially to the infantry – and how much he wasn’t going to like them and, indeed, wouldn’t have liked them had he stayed in. One of the things he didn’t much like was the set of changes – if you had asked him he’d certainly have called those changes “decay” – resulting from the large scale presence of women in the Army.
Oh, sure, he knew some good ones. Indeed, he knew one MP lieutenant whom he’d gladly have taken on as a rifle platoon leader in the first company he’d commanded. Hell, for that matter, he’d at least have considered firing any of the lieutenants he’d had at the time to make room for her.
A brief digression, here: that MP lieutenant is a more important part of the story than she likely knows. See, this captain and that lieutenant – Kat Miller’s her name – had served together previously, in Panama, without being remotely aware of each other’s existence. She was an enlisted MP on the Pacific side of the Canal; he an infantry buck sergeant on the Atlantic side. His only recollection of her there is having seen her standing gate guard once at Rodman Ammunition Supply Point.
The captain actually became aware of her existence at the National Training Center and was somewhat impressed. Then, some months later, in Egypt, during Bright Star 85, he got to observe her a bit more closely. And he’d been very impressed. Indeed, he’d been so impressed he didn’t really trust what he was seeing. So, sneaky bastard that he was, he took to walking the perimeter at night, chatting with the MPs of Lieutenant Miller’s platoon.
Yup, they worshipped the ground she walked on. And, though she was quite good looking, they didn’t worship her especially because she was good looking, but because she was good. That doesn’t mean that her men – being brainless, as most young men are, most of the time – weren’t affected by it. But it wasn’t the primary factor.
So he told her so, on the dusty street of an old abandoned RAF base north of Cairo. The conversation went something like this.
“For what I am about to say, you may report me to Equal Opportunity. Nonetheless, it must be said. I have been an observer of women officers for some time, and you are –”
“Sir, don’t worry about it. I have my own opinion of most female officers.”
“Okay. Well, in any case, you are the first and, so far, the only woman officer I have found to be worthy of commission, in any branch. I don’t think most men holding a commission are worthy, either. For whatever that may be worth to you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
On the whole, though, and more because of the baleful influence of radical egalitarian feminism and its demands for appearances over reality and form over substance, he thought introducing large numbers of women soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines had been a mistake. Miller was an illustration of what perhaps could be, not what was.
Ah, but at least they weren’t in his beloved infantry, since few or none were quite as admirable as Lieutenant (later Colonel) Kat Miller.
Amidst his reveries, one of the things that occurred to this captain – sitting there, sipping whiskey, half a mile from the middle of nowhere – was that, if an angel of the Lord were to descend and announce that women would never be allowed into the Army’s infantry, and all it would cost would be the captain’s life, he wouldn’t have even asked the manner of his death.
Since the skies didn’t open, nor such an angel descend, he decided to do the next best thing within his power. He was going to write a book on the subject.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the captain was me. And, whiskey’s influence at the moment or no, I was deadly serious about writing that book. That said, it wasn’t a momentary decision. It had been building for many years.
My first assignment – after leaving Fort Polk, LA, where I did initial entry training, more specifically, OSUT – was to Company D-2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, with the 101st on Fort Campbell, Kentucky. At that time, the WAC, or Women’s Army Corps, barracks for Fort Campbell were behind my own company’s. Despite proximity, we didn’t have much, anything really, to do with the WACs. They were, for all practical purposes, fillers, who worked for organizations to which they didn’t belong, none of those organizations being infantry. They didn’t go to the field much, if at all, while we mostly lived there, for certain highly constrained values of “lived.” Misery wears a Screaming Eagle patch.
In any case, we didn’t have much to do with each other, the WACs and the grunts. We observed them. Maybe they observed us, too; I don’t know. One thing I, and the rest of my company, observed, en masse, was a young WAC, middling cute, actually, sitting on the front steps and pleading with what I believe to have been her (male) First Sergeant. Why she had a male first shirt I don’t know, either. I do know she was pleading for something, and that he was firmly shaking his head “no.” Unfazed, she kept it up until finally, tossing his arms in the air, he agreed. I know, too, that the next Thursday evening we saw her, trundling her sleeping bag to a waiting car, driven by a male. Someone down to the left end of the formation announced, “Well, now we know what she was begging for.”
We didn’t really know, of course, though it was a fair guess that what she’d asked for was a three or four day pass to spend with her boyfriend and what her first sergeant had done was give it to her, even though he apparently didn’t think he should. We did know, however, that her particular technique would not have worked for us, with our top sergeant, Jack “the Rack” Rackley. He’d have given us the stub of his middle finger, the rest having been shot off, and sent us on our way, quite possibly with extra duty for wasting his time. We were not, and I am not, nearly so certain that her technique wouldn’t have worked with Rackley, for her.
Fast forward about ten years. For my many, oh, many, sins, though an infantry officer, I am serving as a logistics weenie, pending taking over a rifle company. I am in charge of the Port Support Package, in Alexandria, Egypt, during that same Bright Star I’ve already mentioned. The Women’s Army Corps is gone; gender integration reigns. This is my first experience of women soldiers, at any real proximity, and I am not impressed.
I am about to let my troops – none of whom were really mine except for the exercise – take a richly deserved day off in this, Party Central of the Islamic world. Naturally, being somewhat educated about the Islamic world, I fall them in for an inspection of their go-to-town clothes. Everything is fine, until I get to the two women in the group. I get to them, standing side by side. I look up. I look down. I look up and over; I look down. I count, Yup, four jugs, four nipples. Then I look up again and order, “Both of you, go put on bras.”
And they, in a way remarkably similar to that WAC on Fort Campbell with her first sergeant, proceed to attempt to argue the subject with me. The conversation, which quickly becomes entirely one way, goes like this:
“Shut the fuck up and listen. This is a Moslem city. You will start a riot if you go out in public like that. But that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I am a fucking captain, you are fucking privates, and you will fucking well do what I fucking well say and go put on your fucking bras.”
That worked, of course, but it shouldn’t have been necessary.
Note that the two girls came back, to apologize, a couple of days later, after another American female was sexually assaulted in an elevator. The apology, while certainly sincere, was misdirected. They felt they’d been rude, as if to an equal, and unwise. The idea that their wrong was in being ill-disciplined was, as far as I could tell, completely alien to them.
Fast forward another four years. I’ve commanded two companies by now, a mechanized infantry company and a mechanized infantry battalion’s headquarters and headquarters company, and am looking for a third. Fun times are over for a while and I am out of the line, working on a brigade staff for Army Recruiting Command, AKA USAREC. Eventually, I am able to escape staff and command a recruiting company.
USAREC is the first assignment where I am working with women, in large numbers, day in, day out. As far as being recruiters for the Army goes, I have no complaints. They’re as good as anybody. However, this does not mean that there are no problems. Suffice to say that, in Recruiting Command, fraternization is normal and sleeping with subordinates quite unremarkable. No, I didn’t, though the offer was there from time to time. It’s not good for discipline, doncha know.
A book comes out, Weak Link: The Feminization of the American Military, by a former infantry officer, Brian Mitchell. It’s a pretty fair compendium of all the problems associated with large numbers of women in the military, as well as a fair bibliography of opinions, both pro and con, on the matter. It is not, however, without flaws. One of these is a question at the macro level: Can we afford to lose a substantial number of women – the bottleneck in the production of the next generation’s cannon fodder – in war? Mitchell ignored the question, though it is, absent invention of an artificial womb, in fact, pretty damned important.
The other concerns an incident that took place in South Korea, in 1976, where, with war seemingly impending, and the commanding general having ordered everyone to their battle positions and assembly areas, large numbers of women take to their heels, or show up for duty with children in tow, and no small number of males kiss off their duty to ensure their girlfriends are safe.
I ask one of the female master sergeants, there at headquarters at 5th Recruiting Brigade, one who had been in Korea at the time, about the incident: “Is this true?” It was. However, while true, the incident is misleading. “Sir, we were still WACs. We weren’t trained to fight. They barely let us even look at weapons. Nobody had ever said fighting was expected of us. Hell, Congress had ruled we were not to fight. What kind of general outranks the United States Congress?”
“Good point,” I agree.
That incident in Korea isn’t the only misleading thing with some bearing on the subject. A movie comes out while I’m with USAREC, Glory, concerning the raising, training, and early combat actions of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the state’s two free – that’s important – black regiments raised for the Civil War. It’s a good movie, in most respects. But it fosters a couple of half truths which, like most half truths, are wholly misleading.
In the first place, the 54th was not a regiment of runaway slaves. Oh, there are some; men who escaped – self-selecting, like William Carney, as they did – at a time when escape was quite difficult and very dangerous. Most of the men of the 54th, however, were born free. Some, indeed, were born free in Canada. Company G, for example, was recruited in Toronto and came south to fight.
What difference does that make? It makes a vast difference. If one were to peruse the accomplishments of the black regiments in the Civil War, one wouldn’t find much to commend or condemn among the regiments composed of freedmen. Oh, they were important to the war effort, but not for fighting so much as for labor, and to guard behind the lines. The couple of occasions they were given the chance to shine, notably at the Petersburg Crater, circumstances, to include some incredibly stupid decisions, tended to screw them.
So the best we can say of the freedmen regiments is that we don’t know. That said, it would be a very surprising thing – an unconscionable defense of slavery, really – to suggest that having been enslaved didn’t do bad things to one’s character, didn’t set one in the mind of being inferior, didn’t strike at one’s self confidence and morale at the very core.
The good regiments, conversely, 54th and 55th Massachusetts, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Louisiana Native Guard, 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored, 20th USCT...some few others...were by and large free born. They did well, fought well, and, in disproportionately large numbers, died well. But they had never, in the main, been subjected to the literal degradation and decay of slavery while, for that fraction which had, they had either self-selected for sheer obstinate courage or could draw considerable moral support from those who had or who had been born free.
And then there’s the other thing that annoyed me about the movie, that scene where the men of the 54th – explicitly, if wrongly, portrayed as runaway slaves – are issued their first uniforms and everything changes in an instant from disorder, indiscipline, and general raggedness to precision, as if the mere symbol could change the reality.
The very idea is nonsense. One doesn’t overcome a lifetime’s conditioning with a symbol. No, not even if you desperately want to. No, not even if you can convince a court and legislature that your fantasy must be given wing. It just doesn’t work like that.
Fast forward another year. Saddam Hussein, UHBP, has come through for me. I am getting sick of USAREC and he, stout and helpful fellow that he is, has invaded Kuwait. I am on the phone within hours to my branch manager. Within a day or so I have orders to go to Fort Bragg. I am, so I am told, the only captain to escape from USAREC for the First Gulf War. Yes, yes, it’s as an ad hoc Civil Affairs bubba, but, as the chaplain in Vietnam once prayed, “We thank Thee for this war, O Lord, fully mindful that while it is not the best of all possible wars, it is better than no war at all.”
While over in the Gulf, first in Saudi Arabia, then in Kurdistan, and for reasons completely incomprehensible to me, three different females – all quite cute, and I mean really cute, not “Saudi cute”– develop what appear to be crushes on me. Look, I said it was incomprehensible, didn’t I? One is an Air Force enlisted woman, one an Army Medical Service Corps lieutenant, one an Army Reserve engineer captain in a reserve Civil Affairs unit. No, I’m not wearing a wedding ring, but that’s because I would prefer not to have a finger torn off, as one of my sergeants did in my second command. I go out of my way to make clear I am married. The Air Force girl backs off. The second lieutenant gets angry, largely because of the stupid way I handled her. The captain couldn’t care less that I’m married, and she’s married, too.
The point, though, is that none of them should have been interested. Yet, as the wise man said, “Eros mocks Mars.” Hey, at least I didn’t go through with it with any of them, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted. And, just as they shouldn’t have been interested, I shouldn’t have been tempted. Yet I was. (Yes, ladies, should any of you actually read this; I was tempted.)
In any case, I didn’t, unlike the (married) reserve Civil Affairs captain who was screwing the (married) buck sergeant with the impressive chest in the 24th Infantry Division’s Inspector General shop. Well...actually they were apparently screwing out in the sand dunes, but you get the idea. And at least they were keeping it within the Army family, so to speak, unlike the (married) Navy girl with the Dolly Parton silhouette who was caught boffing the British Marine on a pile of camouflage nets in a tent at the base by the Turkish-Iraqi border.
Let me say it again, because it’s important: “Eros mocks Mars.”
My last duty position in the Regular Army is as the Adjutant – in semi-civilian-speak that would be personnel management officer – for the 96th CA. The office is a mess. There’s a three year backlog of paperwork. Yes, literally three years. It takes months to get through it and get caught up. In the process of doing so, I find in my desk the record of an investigation dating to some not-very-distant time prior. I don’t know if every charge in it went to court-martial, though some did.
One of the subjects of the investigation is a young female non-com. Her (married) first sergeant, on a deployment to Honduras, if memory serves, made her a simple and straightforward offer: Blow jobs for good NCOERs. This sounded fair to her. In her words, in her sworn statement: “I need good NCOERs.”
Brother, sister, Eros mocks Mars? Hah! Eros makes Mars his bitch. And to quote somebody or other, “A ring plugs no holes.”
And then I left the Regular Army and headed for law school by way of Panama, which brings us back through that porch a half mile from the middle of nowhere, and my determination to write a book that would at least keep women out of the infantry, the armor, the combat engineers, and the artillery, of all varieties.
Lest my reader be in any doubt at this point, as far as generally permitting women in the combat arms goes, when I began my little project I was, as they say, “Agin it.” The one exception was just that, exceptional, and not worth what would have followed, based on everything that I had seen to date concerning large numbers of women in the armed forces: indiscipline, fraternization, de facto prostitution, demoralization, etc., none of which was curable in good part because of the highly politicized coddling of military women emanating from the White House, Congress, Academia, the Media, the Judiciary, all of it egged on by NOW (the National Organization for Upper Middle Class White Women, sic) and DACOWITS (Defense Advisory Committee On Women In The Services).
Hence, my first year of law school, into the issue I – you should pardon the expression – plunged. I spent altogether too much money on books, some of them rather hard to find, altogether too much on the phone, talking to people from PPCLI, The Black Watch of Canada, CFB Petawawa, etc., and a vast amount of – fortunately free; I was a law student, after all – Westlaw and Nexus time, tracking down everything available on the subject.
And discovered a number of interesting things. Chief among these, unsurprisingly, is that feminists writing on the subject were worse than clueless. They couldn’t even grasp what they didn’t know. Got a less than credible myth on women in combat? Nay, sister; that myth – since it supports the agenda – is now Pravda.
This, by the way, was not restricted to feminists without any military background. Oh, no; some of the military feminists were among the worst of the lot. Example: The late Major General Jeanne Holm, in her Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution, warmly cited an incident during the First Gulf War, wherein some Iraqi POW, safely disarmed and behind wire, calls a female MP guarding him, “bitch,” to which she responds, “prisoner.” The incident purports to show women as capable of doing anything a male soldier could. How the general came to the conclusion that guarding a prisoner someone else has captured and disarmed is equal to that capture and disarming is left begging. Was she so ignorant she didn’t know the difference? Did she assume her audience was so ignorant they wouldn’t know the difference, so long as it fit the agenda? Inquiring minds would like to know. Sadly, my ouija board is down for calibration. We can be sure, however, that ignorance and an agenda fit in there somewhere.
As an aside, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. I should have expected such nonsense when the very determined-looking young woman gracing the cover didn’t know enough to adjust her helmet’s chin strap properly, while apparently neither Holm nor her publisher knew any better, either.
That kind of ignorance – bad analogies, especially – was something of a theme running through feminist writings on the subject. Sometimes it was tacitly equating a doctor with an infantryman. Sometimes it was holding up a spy as an exemplar of women combatants. Bonnie Tsui’s She Went to the Field was a particularly egregious example of this.
Sure, there are risks to both standing the line and gathering the intelligence, but they are not the same risks either in quality or intensity, nor are the moral factors required all that similar, being individual on the one hand, and collective on the other. Sometimes, in an exercise of ignorance incarnate, it was things like pretending that Dr. Mary Walker deserved her later revoked Medal of Honor, or that Jiminy Peanut, the nation’s worst ex-president, reinstated it because she deserved it. Or accepting at face value – never answering or even raising the question of likelihood – every cross-dressing tale out there, especially the thoroughly disproven literary fantasies of “Lucy Brewer,” pseudo girl Marine.
Cross-dressing women combatants? Oh, it’s just barely credible that it might have happened, somewhere. Questions like how she managed to hide her sex, especially how she managed to hide her sex during her period, never seem to get answered. Even so, accepting, purely arguendo, that it happened, guess what? It says absolutely nothing – zero, zip, zilch, nada – about the prospects for gender integration because a woman who has actually been successful in hiding her sex has also, thereby, removed herself from the pool of visible, prospective romantic interests. What kind of mental-logical deficiency leads people to think that a hidden woman stands in the same position as an open one? I confess, this baffles me.
Or... But if I go on, I’ll no doubt be accused of misogyny. I’m not sure why; there are plenty of men just as ignorant about the subject, and just as insistent that their ignorance is wisdom.
Though, speaking of misogyny, there are those feminist pacifists, who made and make no bones about their reasons for wanting women integrated throughout the combat arms. They – if only implicitly – think it would either reduce American ability to wage war or, at least, make the military more humane, less masculine, and less warlike.
Is it possible they know what they’re talking about or suggesting? No, it isn’t just possible; it is certain that this would be the result if these pacifist women – aided and abetted by a craven political class, an ignorant and arrogant judiciary, and some morally cowardly flag officers (that means morally cowardly generals and admirals; Lord, forgive us our redundancies) – were able to have the introduction of women into the combat arms done their way.
Something herstorians (sic) trot out regularly (illustrating thereby their own intense lack of fitness to comment) are the examples of royalty – Vietnam’s Trung sisters, Queen Teuta of Illyria, Elizabeth I of England – and female political chiefs – Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi, for example.
How valid are examples like those? Not too very. They do show something about the intense devotion a female chief can inspire in her male followers, true. And that’s about it.
Royal and politically highly placed women are above the ruck and muck, you see; so elevated that romance and sex – even where these women don’t fall under what we might well call the “mom factor,” men’s natural devotion and obedience to mother figures – are more or less unthinkable to the rank and file. Such women are, in the nature of their positions, not integrated, even in the rare cases where they’re not past the age to inspire romantic leanings in others. That said, both the Trungs and Teuta are examples of feminists ignoring the rest of the story where convenient; they may know about and cite to these women, noting in particular Teuta’s defiance of Rome. They won’t usually tell anyone that the Trungs were defeated and committed suicide, or that Teuta’s fate was defeat in war followed by dismemberment of her kingdom, along with a hefty punitive tribute to Rome.
Ah. So after all this research, old Tom has all the ammunition he needs to make a fair argument against women in the combat arms, right?
Ummm...no, actually. Oh, yes, in the course of my researches it became pretty damned obvious that feminists had less than nothing credible to say on the subject. Indeed, their thoughts represented a net diminution of human understanding.Still, I was able to glean a few, more or less misty and occasionally hidden, truths. Some of these were women specific. Others, a bit more expansively, concerned the integration of sexually compatible people, male or female, heterosexual or otherwise.
The first of these, and the really important one, was that it had been done, repeatedly, if rarely, though never successfully in a way that modern progressive sensibilities would approve of, were modern progressives to look at and admit the details.
The details? Consider Joan of Arc, for example. Brave? Yes. Inspiring? No doubt. Effective? Enough, surely, to make the English want to see her burn. Proof positive of the ease of integration of men and women in combat units? Not a bit of it.
You see, Saint Joan wasn’t just a girl nominally leading an army. Oh, no. Recall her other name? Sure you do; she was called the “Maid of Orleans.” That’s right: Maid...virgin...unsexed, elevated above all that by sanctity and fanaticism...untouchable and untouched. Joan says nothing about integration of sexually compatible people; she addresses only the possibility of integration where love, lust, sex, romance, favoritism, and de facto prostitution (“I need good NCOERs”) are or can be made non-issues.
Elevation of a potential sexual partner and love interest into the sacred realm of the untouchable is one way – sometimes – to put an end to personal love, lust, sex, romance, favoritism, and de facto prostitution. Marriage has been another, though – remembering that female sergeant and reserve captain (have I mentioned that I’d gladly have commanded a firing squad to shoot the son of a bitch? Her, too, since the husband she was cheating on was also a soldier), out in the sand dunes by Nairiyah, Saudi Arabia – not a foolproof one. Marriage without proximity tends to fail more often.
Still, with proximity, it has been done.
This is from memory, old memory, so it may be off in some of the details. Somewhere in the bowels of Building 4, Fort Benning, GA, there is, or was, a collection of forty or so thin volumes covering German experiences on the Eastern Front in World War Two. One of these, one I ran across in the Spring of 1984, concerned a Russian heavy tank, more or less isolated behind German lines, circa November, 1941, that managed to trundle up to a crossroads through which the supplies for an entire army of some eleven German divisions had to pass. Over a period of three days the Germans tried repeatedly to destroy the thing, since that army was going nowhere fast until its supply lines were secure. Their own tanks, underarmored and outgunned, just weren’t up to it. A night attack by engineers wasn’t quite successful. Finally, they were able to do so by distracting the crew and maneuvering an anti-aircraft gun to shoot the thing in its more lightly armored ass. Three of the four crew were killed. The one survivor was a woman, as was one of the dead. The other two dead were their husbands. In all, they were their regiment’s political commissar, his assistant, and their wives.
Note some of the interesting features and parallels here. They were a political crew, hence probably fanatical, transcendentally motivated, as was Joan. Sex, rather than being an impossibility, was a given, but equally sexual and romantic competition was a non-factor, a given, given their married status. They were a tank crew, hence danger was about equal, while jobs were distinct, so there was little room for the play of favoritism. And the couples were physically close enough for the marriages to be real and effective.
Similarly, there was ancient Thebes’ (the Greek one, not the Egyptian) Sacred Band, which I mention in the book and, in effect, recreate in the book. The Sacred Band was composed of gay lovers, in pair bonds. You want to know who destroyed Sparta’s hegemony over ancient Hellas? You know, Sparta? 300? “Here obedient to their laws we lie,” Sparta? Nightmarish apartheid state Sparta? Yeah, three hundred gay guys, which is also to say three hundred sexually compatible people, leading Epaminondas’ main effort, on the left, at Leuctra, 371 BC.
But, again, the details are instructive. Yes, they were three hundred sexually compatible people but, like that Russian tank crew, they were effectively married and close enough in space for the quasi marriages to be effective. Marriage? I think so, in effect. Men weren’t allowed into the unit except in dyads. And seriously, if a wedding ring means something, what does it mean when two people chain themselves together at the waist before going into battle, as at least one account I’ve read about the Sacred Band claimed? That, boys and girls, is commitment. “Together we conquer or together we die.” So – as with that tank crew – romance, lust, love, and sex were preemptively taken care of, not subjects of competition.
Even so, the parallel only carries one so far. Favoritism? In a glory-driven military culture – which is to say, one not a whole helluva lot like our culture – favoritism was being posted at the point of greatest danger. Fatigue work? They had slaves for that. Promotions? They didn’t have chains of command or ranks quite the way we do; their fighting style was just too simple to require a complex chain of command.
Sadly, the most we can say from these examples is that sexually compatible people have been successfully integrated if, and only if, love, lust, sex, romance, favoritism and de facto prostitution can be made military non-factors.
This is not something that can be done by decree, however. Laws and rules? No. I once met a wise sergeant, at the USDB at Fort Leavenworth, trying to explain how female prisoners still managed to get pregnant. Holding his hands palms inward, about six inches apart, he said, “Deterrence always seems to fail by about this much.” Indeed, an Assistant Inspector General of the Army, one Major General – later reduced to brigadier general; what a travesty! – David Hale, used his position to seduce – though morally it was a lot closer to rape and the filthy swine should have hanged by the neck until dead for it – the wives of his subordinates. Get that? The number two man in the IG? You know; the IG? The people who are supposed to enforce the rules? Yeah; when some idjit trots out the armed forces “incredible ability to control behavior and change values,” just tune that person out; they’re too stupid and ignorant to be entitled to an opinion.
Perhaps I should say it again: “Eros makes Mars his bitch.”
Where rules, regulations, and laws fail, however, structure can sometimes succeed. It did with the Sacred Band. It did with that Russki tank crew. It did with the 54th Massachusetts. And it also has with women.
The first of these, in approximately modern times, were the female regiments of the Kingdom of Dahomey. Although possibly tainted with a touch of shocked gentlemanliness, the record from the French, who crushed them, is still pretty clear. Those women fought. They didn’t win; they didn’t even get a decent exchange ratio. Still, they fought and that’s the important thing.
Then, in the Great War, there was Maria Bochkareva’s somewhat tackily named “Women’s Battalion of Death.” There were other Russian all female formations, but that was probably the only one of note. Discipline was fierce, with roughly 85 percent attrition before ever leaving for the front. Fierce discipline? I recall reading one anecdote in which Bochkareva supposedly came upon one of her women making the beast with two backs with a male soldier from a nearby regiment. She pinned the two of them to the ground. Bodily. With a bayoneted rifle. In any case, Bochkareva’s battalion did go to the front, did participate in combat, briefly, and apparently did do reasonably well.
Then there were a couple of Viet Cong companies mentioned by SGM (Ret.) Dan Cragg and LTC (Ret.) Michael Lanning in their Inside the VC and NVA. Yes, all female. And, again, they did reasonably well until attrition and wastage wore them out.
So, from Bochkareva to Victoria Charlene, we can say with at least some confidence that ground combat units composed entirely of women can do at least reasonably well.
Integration is, of course, the really big bugaboo. Everything’s, everyone’s, got to be integrated. After all, it worked with whites and blacks in the armed forces; why not with everyone?
In the first place, no, sadly, it hasn’t worked all that well. Oh, sure, in the infantry, the armor, combat engineers, artillery, and such it’s worked reasonably well. Not perfectly, no, but reasonably well. In other branches? Branches that do not have the same kinds of stress applied in living and training? Nah. They’ll work together, different ethnicities. But become true friends and comrades? That’s a lot less common. It’s actually kind of rare, in peace, though the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan may have helped some.
On the other hand, if it has worked all that well, why do we still need a large and intrusive race relations (the name changes, that term – expanded for women – covers the idea in the plain) bureaucracy? Why set aside days, weeks, and months for this minority heritage or that? Why regular requirement for nag sessions? Why preferential promotions? Quotas? (Oh, yes, we do.)
That’s simple; it hasn’t worked all that well. It’s better now than when I was a private, where the company I was in had organized, dues paying, membership drive holding chapters of the Black Panthers and the KKK, this quite despite monthly nagging sessions from the race relations bureaucrats. Mind you, that was shortly after Vietnam and the entire Army was in appalling shape.
Remember what I said about ignoring history where inconvenient? It’s interesting, isn’t it, that in trying to equate racial integration with gender and gender-orientation integration, people in favor of the latter ignore the history of military racial integration. Where did it really start in any useful way? Go back again to the Civil War regiment I mentioned above, the 54th Massachusetts, which wasn’t the first black regiment, but was the first that mattered. Right; that was, in the rank and file, a segregated regiment, rather like old Thebes Sacred Band.
Now imagine the 54th charging up the glacis of Battery Wagner if it had been integrated in accordance with thoroughly enlightened sentiments. Imagine it composed of a mix of people who really didn’t much like each other, had very little in common, and weren’t all that enlightened, anyway. Imagine it failing miserably – white and black, nicely integrated and all together in utter disgrace. Imagine that failure setting back the cause of racial integration and equal rights by a century or two. “It isn’t hard to do-oo...”
And when we did integrate? Brother, sister, we were lucky, lucky in having some hard core corps of thoroughly professional and dedicated black officers and especially non-coms who came up via the Regular Army’s four traditional black regiments. If you want to know why it ultimately worked, to the extent it has, look at the whole history; look to the foundations that were laid from 1863 to 1948.
Of course, that will never do. The integration über alles crowd, like a mass of whining spoiled brats, will cry, “But I want it nowww!” Which is approximately as realistic as, and even less responsible than, Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Was racial integration ultimately worth it? Yes, despite the costs we paid and, to some extent, continue to pay. American blacks represented too large a manpower pool to ignore, and too large a talent pool to misallocate, while there were serious problems with providing their units with officers, in the segregated army, whenever that army had to expand for a major war.
Is gender and gender-orientation integration in combat arms worth it? Certainly not to the armed forces. Even if we could overcome love, lust, romance, sex, favoritism, and de facto prostitution – something I find most unlikely – I’d still have to say, “No.” The numbers are simply too small, while the intrusions of the EO (Equal Opportunity, the bureaucratic successor in interest to “Race Relations”) will be just as grand.
“But why can’t we? Waaah! That’s not fair! Waaah...I want it nowww! It’s not faiaiairrr! ”
Simple; we could overcome, to a degree, racism because it is at least mostly learned behavior and what can be learned can be unlearned. Sexual attraction is not, at least mostly, learned behavior, but innate and will never be unlearned. Again, go ahead and hold your hands palms inward about six inches apart, and repeat to yourself, “Deterrence always seems to fail by about this much. Deterrence always seems to fail by about this much. Deterrence always seems to fail...”
Besides their fixation with laws, rules, and regulations, the gender and gender-orientation integration crowd simply starts with a fundamentally fraudulent assumption. This is that the only real problem with these things is intolerance, and all that is required is to educate those wretched straight white males and everything will be just peaches and cream. “After all, it worked with integrating blacks.”
Well, sure, if you’re mindless enough to think that straight white male (or just straight male) intolerance is the only possible problem, then that makes perfect sense. But, to quote somebody or other, “Well, it ain’t, see?”
In the first place, racism, intolerance, bigotry, etc. are – again – learned behaviors. But childhood, the home, the school, the neighborhood are not the only places to learn them. You can also learn them from assholes, especially to include bigoted assholes, of which every group has its fair share. Yet another good place to learn them is from the simpleminded nagging you will endure at mandatory EO sessions. Anecdotally, I always found that racial intolerance was at its highest following one of those. I’ve no particularly good reason to believe that it would be any different if oriented toward gender and gender-orientation bigotry.
Let me state that a little more plainly: As near as I can tell, racial tolerance in the armed forces has improved since Vietnam despite, not because of, the race relations and EO programs inflicted on us.
In any case, the whole “we can easily integrate genders and gender-orientations because we integrated races” meme is nonsense. The two issues have little or no similarity, even if some lack the imagination and intelligence to see the differences. Which, as mentioned, they do, since they can’t see past the “straight [usually white, but sometimes just straight] males are to blame for everything” meme.
What, after all, are the similarities? Let’s see; males learned to despise females, in the home, from their mothers? Uhhh...no. Men don’t like women? Uhhh...no. Men and women are about equally strong, physically, as blacks and whites are, and thus any woman can do any job any man can do? Oh, puhleeze!
And then there are the thoughtless, sometimes fraudulent, similarities sometimes claimed. You know: “There’s no difference between Captain X favoring the girl (or guy, if he swings that way, or girl, if she swings that way) he’s sleeping with on the sly and Captain Y, the born-again Christian, favoring his Baptist buddies.” And there’s no difference between liking and loving, or disliking and hating? Again, puhleeze!
And that’s the very short, one over the world, version of what I found in researching and what my own experiences told me. Sadly, that truncated version barely scratches the surface. You’ll get that when you try to compress an eighty or ninety thousand word book that you wrote eighteen years previous – and can’t find a copy of – into something under ten thousand.
I see, for example, that I haven’t mentioned Soviet female snipers, who existed, no doubt of that, though we may perhaps discount their kill records to some degree as being wartime propaganda. They’re also not a very good example of integration, since in battle they shifted locations frequently, operating in support of, but not generally as a part of, the forward units. In other words, their chain of command was different. So even if romance kicked in, it was displaced in time and space.
But how to do it? It’s a toughie. We’ve not only got the problems I’ve been harping on, ranging from love, lust, sex, romance, favoritism, and de facto prostitution to the distractions imposed by the EO bureaucrats; we’ve got practical problems, both physical and moral.
I took, and take, considerable personal pride in being able to figure out how to do pretty much anything organization and training related. So, once I found there was just enough historic backing for the notion of women in combat units, I began listing the problems. You can’t deal with or fix a problem, if you don’t know and admit it exists.
What are the problems? I’ve mentioned or alluded to a number of them above, but below is a somewhat truncated list, in no particular order:
A portion of those are really pretty easy to fix. Just toss gender integration. If putting straight men and women together, along with gays and lesbians, in the same units leads to “sexual tension” (that, by the way, is a silly-assed euphemism for the distraction caused by love, lust, sex, romance, favoritism, and de facto prostitution; it’s silly-assed because it addresses a mere fraction of the problem, thereby hiding the rest), then we ought to be able to eliminate it by not putting them together. That this would outrage the social engineers is gravy. Thus, 3, 6, 11, 12, and 17 are basically solved, while 2, 4, 7, 13, and 19 are at least mitigated.
However, as soon as we do that another set of problems arises, all related to item 1. Women just aren’t that strong, typically. They’re a bit closer to men in lower body strength, but not generally equal, and there’s normally no comparison in upper body strength. Yes, yes, there are women athletes, Olympians, for example, who are tremendously strong. Unfortunately, strength is their lives. It’s what they do, pretty much all the time. When someone can tell us how a woman can build and maintain that kind of strength while still leaving training time for things like marksmanship, field fortification, mines and booby traps, chemical defense, first aid, and any of the thousand-odd other things a modern soldier must know and be able to do, then women Olympians or other female athletes will have some bearing. Until then – and it will never happen – no, they don’t prove a thing.
There’s another touch of ignorance involved, and I’m not quite sure where it comes from. Somehow, some way, a lot of people seem to assume that training ends with basic training. If it were true, plainly we could take a very strong, Olympian, say, woman, basically train her for a couple of months, and that would be that; she would still be strong at the end of her training. Problem solved.
Nah; it doesn’t work that way. Training is continuous. Good, properly trained, troops, in combat units, more or less live in the field. No, not nine to five; Sunday to Saturday, 24/7, sometimes for weeks and months on end. They are moving, shooting, and communicating continuously, with bare scraps of time for sleep and hastily wolfed down meals. And it still isn’t enough.
I’ll phrase that another way. There isn’t time now to train men perfectly in everything they must be able to do while keeping them fit to fight. If women were to be in the infantry, say, and had to spend as much time as they would on physical fitness, just to keep up, they might be strong enough, but they’d also be technically and tactically incompetent.
This is clearly suboptimal. What to do about it? Could we limit female presence in the combat arms to just those very few women who are naturally about as strong as a man? I don’t see that satisfying feminists. Especially do I not see emphasizing natural abilities satisfying leftists and feminists who are convinced that everything, to include bodily strength, is a mere social construct. I do see it bringing to bear all the wretched meddling of the EO Fascisti, and for very little gain to anyone.
How about mechanized infantry, then, where the vehicle does the heavy porting? Unfortunately, the Bradley is practically a tank, in every objective sense. In the Second World War it would have been the most powerful tank out there; a Tiger II or JS-3 wouldn’t have stood a chance. Being practically a tank imposes some problems, notably ammunition upload if not actually firing the gun, and maintenance. Still, there would be at least nine or, since they’re girls, hence smaller on average, maybe eleven or twelve women to do the work. So we’d have to redesign the seats? So what? It’s at least possible that we could create female mechanized infantry and make it work.
Note: The Israelis have a gender-mixed, but mostly female, infantry unit, the Caracal Battalion. I understand it is considered to be second rate within the IDF. It appears to have been raised as a sop to Israeli feminists.How effective it would be is hard to say. And there is little out there on them that isn’t blatant propaganda. I’d be very surprised, assuming Israeli and American men and women are not all that different, if there isn’t quite a lot of fraternization going on, with all the problems that – again, you should pardon the expression – come from that. In any case, so far the battalion’s major operations appear limited to border guard and the 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. I don’t know that either proves much. There is apparently a tendency among the women of the Caracal to treat open lesbians like absolute dirt.
(At this point, Tom turns his eyes Heavenward and muses aloud: “Since the Caracal is a cat, I wonder if colloquial Hebrew has the same word and intent for ‘pussy’ as English does, and, if so, how the men in the battalion take that.”)
“Well, what about putting them in armor, Tom? You did mention that Russki tank crew, after all.”
Nah. The KV-1 I mentioned weighed about forty-five tons and mounted a 76.2mm gun. A round for the 76.2 weighed under fourteen pounds. A modern M-1 Abrams is about fifty percent heavier, which translates to heavy parts, generally. The 120mm shell in the M-1 weighs three to four times more, depending on type of round. And the weight of the new track for the M-1 is simply outrageous, something like seven tons, meaning four people would have to drag three and a half tons when breaking track. It’s possible for four men, if barely. For four women, or two and two? One doubts. In any case, we could try putting women in tanks, but I suspect it would be an exercise in either futility or dishonesty.
More dishonesty? Oh, yeah. Let me give you another example. Back in 1979, the Army conducted the Female Artillery Study. Thirteen hand-picked women, much larger than a male crew, after a considerable program of physical conditioning and technical training, successfully layed, loaded, and fired the 105mm cannon. However, note that the guns were positioned by men; the ammunition was offloaded and broken down by men (have I mentioned that one should never get into a fistfight with artillerymen? They are very freaking strong), in fact, all of the really hard work was done by men. And for the lightest guns we had. Yet this was a “success” purporting to prove that women could serve the big guns. What do you call that but “dishonesty”?
“But the Canadians put women in their Armoured Corps, Tom? Ha, ha; gotcha!”
Uh, no; I checked. Women were – and I believe still are – in their Armoured Corps, but in lighter armored cars; think LAVs, not tanks. And, even there, their tanks – Leopard Is – were a lot lighter than ours, mounting a lighter, 105mm, gun, and lighter track. I understand the Canadians tried, but it just didn’t work out.
“But what about the Israelis?”
Not them, either, except as instructors on the apparent theory – a sound one, I think – that women are just ever so good at shaming men into better performance.
Going back to artillery for a moment, note that both the Canadians and Israelis do have women in their artillery. On the guns, pumping rounds downrange? No, generally not. They do the physically lighter work, FDC, survey, that sort of thing. A few are Forward Observers, as was that Canadian captain killed in Afghanistan. Been there, done that (the FO part, not the KIA part); it’s easier than being a grunt, even despite the radio which she was almost certainly not carrying.
Unfortunately, the total amount of physical work for the battery – and it is immense – hasn’t changed, and the women cannot do an equal share when it becomes necessary – ammo download and breakdown, say – for FDC and everyone else to pitch in. This means more exhausted men. Someday, I predict, shells are going to fall short, and on the wrong people, because of that. Mistakes happen, and they happen more often when people are exhausted.
And you wonder why I detest liberal social engineers?
“Well, then; what about the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, you sexist, fascist beast?”
I don’t know. I do know that a couple of women – one MP and one medic – have won well-deserved medals for actions in combat. Note that list of problems. Look for the one that says women won’t be as brave as men. Right; it isn’t in there. I don’t know – and really I don’t think – we’re on very firm ground in assuming men are inherently braver than women, as individuals. We’re probably on much firmer ground in thinking that women who have been coddled and protected, and had men do all the hard parts, may be on average less willing to take courageous, aggressive action.
Sadly, however, it is not the courage of individuals, per se, that usually matters but the courage of groups. I really wouldn’t expect equal group courage from a gender integrated group, in part because the men will coddle the women to the extent they can, and then some. I think it’s at least possible to get as much courage out of a purely female group as a purely male one.
The thing is that, whatever we do, it has to be done well. There is no room for enlightened – which, when discussing war, is code for ignorant – liberal sentiment. A female combat unit may be defeated, with disastrous casualties, as was the 54th MVI at Battery Wagner. They should not be put in a position to be humiliated, like the troops at The Crater. They have to be able to perform in war. It’s not enough that they be able to put on a thin show in peace that the PC crowd can manipulate to try to “prove” a point. War is the place where pious platitudes fall flat. Battle is where legislators and judges have no real positive power. The enemy, however, gets a vote.
But to learn how to do that – because, yes, despite the parade of horribles I’ve written above, I think it can be done – you’re going to have to read the bloody book. Heheheh.
Ah, and I see I left out something important, history of the story-wise. You see, I wrote that original book as nonfiction. In the end, though, I didn’t like it. I’m a pedantic SOB – to say nothing of insensitive – at the best of times. This was only exacerbated by being a law student at the time. It was, by the way, the first book that I ever wrote. Somewhere around here I may still have a copy but where it is...
In any event, I didn’t like it. So I set it aside and worked on a novel that eventually became A Desert Called Peace, Carnifex, and The Lotus Eaters. At that point, I rewrote the book, then still called The Amazon’s Right Breast, as a novel, set in the same universe as the others. I liked that a lot better, well enough to let you all see it. Have fun.
And, so, I will leave you with this thought, from G. K. Chesterton:
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."
This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.
PS: I am really looking forward to the reactions to the book from both hidebound traditionalists and – ahem – enlightened liberals. You see, I gave them both a portion of what they want but, especially in the case of liberals and the PC swine, in the way most carefully guaranteed to offend their sensibilities. The traditionalists get to keep their males-only organizations and the male ethos. But there are still women in there fighting their hearts out. The left gets several things they really want – gay marriage, gays openly serving, women in combat – but without a bit of respect shown to social engineering or integration. This ought to be fun.
PPS: Why the title? Because, while I don’t think the Amazons existed, in fact, I think there is an important moral point to one of the details of the story: To be a combatant a woman is going to have to give up a significant portion of what we think of as femininity, in the case of the Amazons, half their mammaries.
Copyright © 2011 by Tom Kratman
Buy The Amazon Legion here.