We in the UFPJ-DVN are peaceniks, we think peaceful methods of resolving disagreements should always be our nation's first resort. We think resorts to military force should be way down the list of acceptable responses to these disagreements. That said, how do we view women serving in our armed forces? Liz Trotta of Fox News feels that women should not be serving in the military at all. She feels that for male soldiers to rape their female fellow soldiers, their comrades-in-arms, is not so much an acceptable thing to do as it is an inevitable result of males living in close quarters with each other and of needing to be brutal towards the bad guys, the nation's enemies.
Trotta was condemned for expressing this view, but she decided to double down on it anyway. Is the military being used as, in Trotta's words, “a social services operation or a testing ground for gender wars” or is it and should it be “a fighting machine”? Trotta's reasoning, in her defense of keeping women out of the military, is that the mission of the military must come first and that allowing females to serve alongside males is partially based on the (rather obsolete) idea that success in war depends on the physical strength of the combatants.
How critical is it that combatants be physically capable? I was told a rather amusing story when I was back in the Navy, a small group of sailors was listening to an officer (Not sure whether he was from the Army or the Marines) who tried to get them all motivated and bloodthirsty towards the enemy of the day (This was during the Clinton Administration, so not really sure who the enemy of the day was) and said “You guys are killers!” My fellow sailors gave the officer the outward appearance of agreement, but thought to themselves “Yeah, we kill. We push a button and ten miles away something blows up. But no, we don't go around sticking bayonets into bad guys and getting their blood all over our uniforms. Yeah, technically, we're killers, but not in the sense like this officer is relating to us.”
The Army and the Marines are indeed close-up killers, who take on the enemy in a hand-to-hand manner, but the Navy and the Air Force are more technical services who mostly do their fighting at a distance. Back in Roman times, every single person on the field engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Nobody was in a separate supply corps because soldiers foraged for their food each night, taking meals from either the woods and forests or from the civilian population. By the time of the America Civil War, military units were beginning to develop a long “tail,” a supply line that stretched back to the home front that carried not only ammunition, but food, uniform items and other necessities.
It simply isn't necessary for everyone who wear a military uniform to be a physically strong, hand-to-hand-combat-capable male. That's why it's entirely possible to have females serve alongside males without any loss of combat effectiveness. Can females serve in an actual combat capacity? Well, they did just that in Iraq and are doing so in Afghanistan, where they aren't formally part of combat units but there are no real, formal front lines there anyway, so their official status as combatants or non-combatants isn't terribly relevant. Mibazaar list all current female casualties of the Iraq War and it says that as of February 2012, there are 102 of them. As of December 2011, another site lists 45 female casualties in Afghanistan.
Who's to “blame” for females serving alongside males in combat? Liz Trotta blames feminists, I blame the people who first developed artillery pieces in China (1132) and who then introduced them to Europe (1415). With the move away from swords and spears to artillery and then hand-held rifles, combat was no longer the exclusive province of the rough, tough guys who could engage in hand-to-hand combat.
So, why do females and gays and other minorities wish to take part in the military and/or combat? What's in it for them? Well, blacks during the Civil War recognized that if they were to take an active role in helping to free their brothers and sisters who were still in bondage in the Southern states, then they would have a moral claim to a dignified and respected citizenship in the society that would follow. In the Reconstruction period, this theory wasn't always observed or adhered to, but they sure gave it a good try.
Central to Reconstruction was the effort of former slaves to breathe full meaning into their newly acquired freedom, and to claim their rights as citizens. Rather than passive victims of the actions of others, African Americans were active agents in shaping Reconstruction.
Seems pretty obvious to me that females and gays are building on the example of African-Americans to gain full citizenship and, contrary to Trotta's assertions, it's far from clear that US military effectiveness has to be sacrificed as a result. I've collected a number of pieces at the United for Peace & Justice - Delaware Valley Network - Education Committee page under the tag of “Military Rape,” which heartbreakingly, details the struggle that our military sisters are having to wage in order to gain full citizenship.
Postscript: Interestingly, Trotta agrees with the lefties who claimed back in 2003 that PFC Jessica Lynch was in no real danger after being taken into custody by the Iraqi army, that she was being medically cared for by humane and dedicated Iraqi doctors. In contrast to the early, melodramatic incarnation of the Lynch story, the leftist Guardian of Britain covered the revised view of the story in May 2003. ABC News followed along in June of that year. Lynch herself gave formal testimony in February 2009. Of course, in April 2003, a few days after the event in question, the Toronto Star was noting archly that the Lynch story was a propaganda victory, an
...archetypal, blonde-in-peril, made-for-TV movie coming to a ratings sweeps period near you. (And doesn't Saddam Hussein make the perfect Oil Can Harry, tying the pure-hearted heroine to the railroad tracks?)
Trotta's view that Lynch was presented as a feminist archetype, as a capable, kick-ass female heroine was something that I'm quite, certain no one thought of at the time. A woman getting captured by sinister bad guys and rescued by “elite teams of hunky U.S. Army Rangers and U.S. Navy SEALs” is hardly the stuff of feminist propaganda, but rather the stuff of Karl Rove's public-distracting PR machine and that of other propagandists going way, way back in history. We lefties thought the main purpose of the story was to distract from the non-existent WMDs and the fearful toll in blood that was being spilled for no good reason. In that, the Lynch story served its purpose.