The U.S. Army is quietly making a radical change in its personnel policy that may well see the 3rd Infantry Division redeploy to Iraq early next year with mixed-sex support companies collocated with combat units. The move violates not only Defense Department regulations, but also the requirement to notify Congress when such a change goes into effect.
The Army’s defense of its actions has been disingenuous. On one hand, the Army claimed in May that there were “insufficient male soldiers in the Army to fill forward support companies,” and therefore it “cannot support elimination of female soldiers from all units designated to be UA elements.” But if the Army knew about this back in May, why didn’t it ask Congress for more recruits at the time? One cannot escape the conclusion that the Army’s position appears to be that we don’t have enough young men to fight our wars, so women must be integrated into fighting units by subterfuge and sleight-of-hand.
But then, on the other hand, an Army spokesman recently told Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times that the policy of prohibiting women from serving in units supporting ground-combat formations is outdated. Today, said the spokesman, the threat is “asymmetrical… There is no front-line threat right now” since all soldiers, support or combat, face rocket, mortar, and roadside-bomb attacks, as well as ambushes.
First and foremost of my objections: if these allegations are true then the Army is breaking the law. Even if I agreed with the Army’s goal (which I don’t), I’d oppose their methods here. The senior officials responsible for this sleight-of-hand need a public and permanent reminder about civilian control of the American military.
That said, here’s why I think the Army’s making a big mistake here. Putting women in ground combat makes no sense. The military exists to kill people and break things, and anything that hampers that ability ought to be avoided unless there’s a really good reason not to. Putting women and men together in close combat hampers unit cohesion, and that gets our troops killed. Owens explains it in plain terms:
Despite recent attempts to redefine it, unit cohesion in combat is far more than mere teamwork. Cohesion arises from the bond among disparate individuals who have nothing in common but facing death and misery. This bond is akin to what the Greeks called philia � friendship, comradeship, or brotherly love.
Despite claims to the contrary, there is substantial evidence that the presence of women in a combat environment fragments unit cohesion. The first reason is traceable to the fact that men and women have radically different bodies. For instance, the female soldier is, on average, about five inches shorter than the male soldier, has half the upper-body strength, lower aerobic capacity, and 37 percent less muscle mass. She has a lighter skeleton, which leads to a higher incidence of structural injuries than for men. She also tends, particularly if she is under the age of 30 (as are 60 percent of military personnel), to get pregnant.
These differences have had an adverse impact on U.S. military effectiveness. Women are four times more likely to report ill, and the percentage of women being medically non-available at any time is twice that of men. If a woman can’t do her job, someone else must do it for her. Only 10 percent of women can meet all of the minimum physical requirements for 75 percent of the jobs in the Army. Women may be able to drive five-ton trucks, but need a man’s help if they must change the tires. Women can be assigned to a field artillery unit, but often can’t handle the ammunition.
The second reason that the presence of women in a combat environment increases friction is that the mixing of the sexes leads to the introduction of eros into an environment based on philia. Unlike philia, eros is individual and exclusive, manifesting itself as sexual competition, male protectiveness, and favoritism.
Those who deny the impact of eros on unit cohesion are kidding themselves. As the eminent military sociologist Charles Moskos has commented, “When you put men and women together in a confined environment and shake vigorously, don’t be surprised if sex occurs.” Mixing the sexes and thereby introducing eros creates the most dangerous form of friction in the military, corroding the very source of military excellence itself: the male bonding necessary to unit cohesion.
Feminists, of course, contend that these manifestations of eros are the result only of a lack of education and insensitivity to women, and can be eradicated by means of education and indoctrination. But all the social engineering in the world cannot change the real differences between men and women, or the natural tendency of men to treat women differently than they do other men. Unfortunately, far too many senior U.S. military leaders have bought into the idea that men and women are interchangeable and that future war will be neat and tidy. Fallujah suggests otherwise. What is the Army leadership thinking by tempting nature in the midst of war?
If you want examples, I’ve got a few recent ones.
- Former service members have filed suit to overturn the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning homosexual conduct, and they’re citing a recent court ruling as support. The US Army Court of Criminal Appeals just overturned the criminal conviction of Anthonynoel Meno, a soldier who violated Article 125 of the UCMJ by engaging in oral sex with a civilian woman while in a military barracks. If we permit consensual heterosexual sodomy behind closed doors while off-duty, then under the Lawrence v. Texas ruling we probably have to allow homosexuals to do it too. Even if this Lawrence angle doesn’t play out, the bar against heterosexual sex in the barracks has just been lifted. Either way, good order and discipline suffer.
- Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Fiscus, the Air Force judge advocate general (its top lawyer) stands accused of having affairs with enlisted women, officers and civilian employees under his command.
- Sexual harassment and assaults went unaddressed at the U.S. Air Force Academy, resulting in 56 belated investigations and a top-to-bottom housecleaning that detracted from the Academy’s mission to train new combat leaders.
I don’t see how increasing the interaction of military men and women in close proximity without privacy and for extended periods (especially in combat) helps our Armed Forces to accomplish their missions. Must we weaken our military in the middle of a war by sexualizing it even further? Let’s at least finish fighting this one before we go back to social experimentation.
UPDATE: I wonder how the German Army’s combat efficiency is doing these days? I also find myself thinking of General Rommel, and wondering what RPM he’s reached to date.