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May 20, 2010

Incroyable

Sometimes the comedy just writes itself:

An advertising campaign placed by the Ministry of Defence in the official Army magazine, Soldier, urges female soldiers and civilian staff to use a condom, warning: “On deployment, there'll be 50 blokes to each woman.”

Military personnel are officially prohibited from sexual relationships in war zones but the rule is rarely enforced provided there is not impact on discipline or operations.

I wonder: does having to ship a pregnant soldier home from a war zone qualify as "impact on discipline or operations"?

On the bright side, I suppose we can always remind ourselves that this sort of PC nonsense would never fly on our side of the pond.

Posted by Cassandra at May 20, 2010 12:14 PM

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Comments

I have a question. How does the US military handle women who do get pregnant during non-deployed status?

Posted by: Allen at May 20, 2010 12:41 PM

I was talking with The Unit about this the other day.

He said that in many ways, it's really no different from a guy who suffers a severe sports injury (and guys do this ALL the time) that lays them up for up to a year sometimes. We're talking broken bones, etc.

Most times there is no repercussion except that you're obviously non-deployable.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 12:48 PM

Thanks. I would suppose that if the military wanted to push it they could discharge anyone who engaged in behavior, with forseeable consequences, that rendered themselves unfit for deployment.

Posted by: Allen at May 20, 2010 01:15 PM

It's kind of funny.

My husband loved sports when he was younger. As a full Colonel, he's kept himself in better shape than most guys half his age. But he had a wife and two small boys and being deployable was part and parcel of his job requirements.

This is a difficult area. No one says to a man, "You can't have kids b/c that will make you less dedicated/useful". I didn't work FT when my kids were young for a variety of reasons (not the least of which was that I have never believed anyone can do a job as well in 2 hours or less a day that they'd do in a full 8 hours or more).

There are a lot of careers I was very interested in that I passed up because I knew I wanted children.

It used to bother me - a LOT - when I was younger that most men just assume that watching/raising their own children is women's work (i.e., not their responsibility). But when you love your kids, you do what is best for them, not necessarily what you want to do.

I've seen the tradeoffs women who wanted both a career and family have to make and I decided they didn't make sense in light of my priorities. But that doesn't mean I liked it.

But life is full of things that aren't "fair" :p There aren't many things people are actually prevented from doing. More often, we are limited by which trade offs we find acceptable and the prices we want to pay.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 01:29 PM

The analogy to a sports injury makes some sense to me. Men who indulge in contact sports know they may render themselves temporarily unfit for duty, but we don't give them a hard time about it.

I guess a male soldier who knocks up a female soldier is rendering someone unfit for duty, as well.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 20, 2010 03:17 PM

I guess a male soldier who knocks up a female soldier is rendering someone unfit for duty, as well.

Bingo.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 03:22 PM

Just because of that 50-1 ratio, there are always morale and unit cohesion consequences to two soldiers linking up sexually while deployed. Heck, there are similar consequences to plausible rumors of two soldiers linking up in that way. It drives people insane, who are asked to put up with a complete repression of their sexuality for 12 months or 15 months, to think that somebody else is flaunting the rule. Even where there are no command climate issues -- to some degree, even when the soldiers are married and were before the deployment -- it's bothersome to some folks.

Sports are an odd analogy, because playing hard contact sports or other dangerous sports is actually very good training for duty. It's risky in one sense, but in another is a way of polishing the spirit and -- for the vast majority of people who do not suffer injuries -- keeping the body in good trim. Actually, all military training is like this -- field exercises, rifle practice, everything one might do to train for war carries a similar benefit/risk analysis.

Pregnancy has significant social value, but there's no obvious way in which it might increase your military value. I'm certainly not opposed to a woman who becomes pregnant not deploying. I'm just saying that playing sports is a good way to prepare for your duty, even though (like actual military training) it carries some risk of an injury that could render you unfit for duty. Pregnancy is not obviously such a thing.

Posted by: Grim at May 20, 2010 04:43 PM

Analogies are often imperfect. So the faults of the sports analogy don't bother me so much, but one could also think of someone suffering fairly sever injury through simple everyday carelessness such as slipping down an icy stairway and breaking an arm (or for the getting someone else pregnant equivalent: your carelessness [recklessness?] which trips someone else down the stairs).

Your own actions (whether they generally provide military benefit or not) have rendered you or someone else undeployable. Generally speaking, unless you took those actions for the purpose of rendering yourself non-deployable, I would chalk it up to "$#|^" happens".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 20, 2010 05:59 PM

So how do you deal with a woman soldier who somehow becomes pregnant before each deployment. I know that I'm going to lose any good guy brownie points I may have now... I'm half way through my first deployment with a mixed unit, and sorry, I'm not impressed. We have a couple of really good female soldiers, many who are OK, but a significant percentage game the system big time, include some that should have deployed but didn't. Until such time as the Army requires and enforces the same standards for everyone I don't see much potential for improvement.

Posted by: Pogue at May 20, 2010 07:38 PM

I think you start with the idea that motherhood is a service to country and society that is at least as important as soldiering. Having started from there, you can end up in several different places, but that seems like the right ground from which to begin.

Posted by: Grim at May 20, 2010 07:51 PM

So how do you deal with a woman soldier who somehow becomes pregnant before each deployment.

I have a problem with that, actually. A big problem. But then I have a problem with men who take risks on their off hours that make them undeployable too.

I've never seen an officer I thought was a better officer b/c he played sports. I buy off on the staying fit thing b/c if you can't lift heavy things and have no stamina, you're not much use. I have a problem with getting out of shape or putting on a lot of weight.

There are always ways to get around the rules whether you're male or female. I am not a big fan of making excuses when that happens, however.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 20, 2010 09:38 PM

By 'contact sports,' I'm thinking of things like martial arts. These are very good things for a soldier or Marine to train in, but they do carry certain risks. (Also horseback riding -- there's probably no better peacetime training for developing the mind that can handle the kinds of crises that appear in situations when you're under sudden, unexpected, incoming fire.)

I had two ribs broken riding a horse, which I carried with me to Iraq; they were re-broken while I was there doing mixed martial arts. That didn't make me 'undeployable,' because I sucked it up, but I suppose it could have -- certainly, every time one gets on a horse there's a chance of severe injury or even death. Still, I think that a man (or a woman) is better for riding than not. It does polish the spirit, and develop capacities in the mind, in ways that are directly related to success in combat situations.

Posted by: Grim at May 20, 2010 09:56 PM

I wonder: does having to ship a pregnant soldier home from a war zone qualify as "impact on discipline or operations"?

I would have to say that yes, it does...

Posted by: camojack at May 21, 2010 01:33 AM

I can see a spectrum, from rendering yourself undeployable by undermining your health with drugs or alcohol or fat, to getting in a wreck as a result of reckless driving, to injuring yourself in a fun but frivolous hobby like bungee-jumping, to sustaining injury in healthy exercise or training, to plain unforeseeable bad luck. Where pregnancy fits in that spectrum depends a little on where you think sex fits in life, and how you sort out the justness of your response to the fact that careless sex renders women physically handicapped for a while but does not do the same to men. I think this is an area where it's easy to commit either of two errors: blaming women more for pregnancy because it's hard to sympathize with something that doesn't happen to men of equal culpability in the act, or excusing women because we're conditioned to get all "aw" in the face of a pregnancy.

As for a woman who deliberately gets pregnant in order to duck service, I place her with a man who shoots himself in the foot. There are many ways to avoid service that don't involve lying or cheating. I make no claims, personally, for the courage to face gunfire, but that's something I'm responsible for working out BEFORE I sign up for military duty, or else face prison or a dishonorable discharge if I find it out about myself too late. I believe women are as responsible as men for facing up to the challenges of courage and honor. Giving us a special pass, or excluding us from the test in the first place, means treating us as less than human.

To give a more trivial example of the same kind of dilemma, back when I was in the clutches of the Megalaw machine, I used to fantasize about going to another city and presenting myself to the authorities as an amnesia case. By the same token, I sometimes saw pregnancy as an escape hatch. (The lengths we'll go to to avoid simple, direct action to change our lives!)

Posted by: Texan99 at May 21, 2010 10:03 AM

"The lengths we'll go to to avoid simple, direct action to change our lives!" ...

I do understand that a blanket rule cannot be applied, but I know from sad experience what it is like to deal with a person who takes desperate action to avoid change. If there's a woman in a unit who gets pregnant in order to avoid deployment, separate her and breathe a sigh of relief because she's gone.

Posted by: valerie at May 21, 2010 10:30 AM

I would say that view of pregnancy as "leaving women physically handicapped for a while" is the wrong place to start. Women with young babies are not handicapped in the sense that someone sustaining an injury is handicapped. Rather, they are exhausted from, and bound by, a service of significant practical value.

Childbirth and child-rearing are things that are of significant social benefit. We really need young women to do this; the alternatives (both demographic decline and mass immigration to avoid demographic decline) create significant problems.

There's significant tension between your desire to have women treated as not "less than human," and doing young women an injustice by treating them as if they were not women. In a very real sense there is no such thing as a human being; you will never meet one. You will meet many men, and many women.

A law that tries to apply one standard to both is practical if and only if there is no reason not to do so arising from that dual nature. This is very often the case -- for example, in terms of drivers' licenses, the standards can be the same. Yet even here we have to take some thought to craft standards that recognize our dual nature. "Because it is important to see things that are distant, you may get a license if and only if your vision is, or is correctable to, at least 20/50" is a standard that does no injustice to anyone.

Compare: "Because it is important to be able to see over the steering wheel while sitting in a standard car seat, you may get a license if and only if you are at least 5'3" tall."

If we have to be careful even in such matters as driving, we certainly have to do so when treating the matter of sex directly. Women who bear and raise children are doing us a service, at least equal to soldiering in value; it's a service that we ought to honor, even if they are doing it to avoid another service.

Otherwise, we are telling women that they must give up motherhood in order to compete in a man's world. To treat them justly, we should instead make a world for both men and women -- which must, therefore, allow women to experience motherhood on their own terms. We should condemn women for choosing motherhood only if they are not raising the children well (and are thereby harming both the child and the broader society). We should not view them as handicapping themselves, but as fulfilling another responsibility -- one they have from nature, and which benefits us all.

To my mind, that's not treating them as 'less than human.' It's treating them as women, who are fully human, but in a completely different way from men. It would be unjust to insist that women meet standards crafted for men, as if their not being men were some sort of failure. It's likewise unjust to treat their becoming pregnant as some sort of "handicap," simply because it prevents them from doing other things. Far from a handicap, it's a service of high value. The challenge is not to force women to be more like men, but to make room for them to be women without being scorned.

Posted by: Grim at May 21, 2010 11:21 AM

Let me add: people (including men) often join the military to escape from other things, too. That doesn't make soldiering less honorable. Motherhood should be seen in the same way.

Posted by: Grim at May 21, 2010 11:27 AM

It would be unjust to insist that women meet standards crafted for men, as if their not being men were some sort of failure.

This doesn't address the situation where - in order to be "qualified" for a job, men have to meet a physical standard, but somehow women who don't even come close to meeting that physical standard are nonetheless judged "qualified".

That's a problem, Grim.

The standard isn't, in this case, a standard that simply being male satisfies because as we all know, many men can't and don't meet it. And if they can't or won't meet it, they are not allowed to serve.

Is this "fair"? I doubt it. But that's really quite irrelevant.

Either the standard is there for a reason or it isn't. If it's not valid (and I think you may have a hard time arguing that) then lower it until women can meet it too.

But if it is valid, then it should apply to everyone.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 21, 2010 11:33 AM

This is what that 'template' piece was talking about, Cass. There's a basic error in assuming that men are the standard, or that standards crafted for men should apply to women; or that crafting standards for women is really 'lowering the standard' for men.

So, in terms of upper body strength, the USMC gives you a perfect score on the PFT if you can do 20 pullups at age 18. (As I recall.) Women don't have to do even one pullup to get a perfect score: the reason for that is that they have a completely different test, the flexed-arm hang. This is not a 'lower' standard; it's a different standard. And it's one that is crafted for women, with their reality in mind.

No one suggests that women who are Marines should not be held to the standards crafted for women who are Marines. It's just that different standards are needed for them v. men who are Marines. The fact of lower upper body strength is a reality, but it isn't necessarily a handicap -- you just have to learn to use your body in different ways, so that upper body strength is less relevant.

For example, look at the female soldier who took a prize at the recent mixed martial arts competition. (John Donovan had a post on it, the one with the strange 3rd place trophy.) It's probable approaching certainty that she couldn't do 20 pullups, but that fact is not a handicap; it didn't keep her from thrashing her (mostly male) competition.

Posted by: Grim at May 21, 2010 11:45 AM

No one suggests that women who are Marines should not be held to the standards crafted for women who are Marines. It's just that different standards are needed for them v. men who are Marines.

Then what you're really saying is that the standard for men isn't necessary to do the job.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 21, 2010 11:56 AM

This is what that 'template' piece was talking about, Cass. There's a basic error in assuming that men are the standard, or that standards crafted for men should apply to women; or that crafting standards for women is really 'lowering the standard' for men.

You are missing the point.

I was not discussing "standards for men" or "standards for women" but standards for a job.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 21, 2010 11:58 AM

I'm saying that the standard is meant to be: this job requires someone committed to keeping themselves in top physical condition. That -- more than the ability to do 20 pullups -- is what qualifies you for the job. A person with such a commitment will find a way to get the job done.

Now, judging whether or not you meet that standard requires different measurements for men v. women. That doesn't mean the woman who can max out the flexed arm hang is less devoted to physical conditioning than the man who can do 20 pullups, or that she's less competent as a Marine.

We screw up by thinking too much about physical standards, though. This makes it seem like women are always being held to a lower standard.

However, there are other ways in which women are, on average, superior to men -- the ability to do social networking, for example. Consider an office that is mostly female, except for one man who joins the office. There are standards of behavior (written and unwritten) that are different for the women as for the man. The man won't do all the things to build and maintain the social network that a woman would do; but he also won't be expected to do them, and indeed will not even realize that the things are there to be done.

This is a way in which the man is being held to a much lower standard (if you want to think of it that way) than a woman in his position would be. Really, though, it's not a lower standard -- it's a different standard. And it's proper to hold him to that different standard, because he doesn't have the same building blocks that a woman has. His brain functions differently; things that seem natural and important to a woman never occur to him at all. And vice versa.

If we can't make room for that, we end up doing injustice to people -- both men and women -- who try to branch into areas that are not normally done by members of their sex. This is as true for a man who joins an all-female office, or tries to become a primary school teacher, as for a woman who joins the Marines.

Posted by: Grim at May 21, 2010 12:09 PM

'I wonder: does having to ship a pregnant soldier home from a war zone qualify as "impact on discipline or operations"?'
***
I agree with Camojack that "it does!" Moreover, there are plenty of "operations" not in war zones, that are affected by unwanted pregnancies.

It's a lot of fun when you work in an already critically manned 24/7 command post Stateside due to high ops tempo in the war zone. And your female colleague is with child! Really look forward to those 12-hour shifts, missing weekends/holidays with the fam, not to mention disruption in workout/school routines. Why? So someone else can have it all, be all they can be, i.e., have a fam, a job, a career. Oh yeah, and perhaps accomplish the mission...

Posted by: ziobuck at May 21, 2010 12:12 PM

I'm saying that the standard is meant to be: this job requires someone committed to keeping themselves in top physical condition.

That's a different standard though, Grim. What it says, in effect, is that your actual physical abilities are less important to the performance of your job than keeping fit.

The problem with this is that people can be "fit" and still have all kinds of handicaps. I suggest that "being fit" isn't really the goal.

Case in point: when my husband was a 1st Lt, he sustained severe nerve damage courtesy of a military flu shot.

He never stopped running, doing situps, etc. So he was very "fit". That didn't matter - had he not worked his butt off for a year to build up the muscles around the ones damaged by the flu shot, he would have been med boarded out of the Marines.

He also was moved out of his billet and into an office job at regiment for the year. He was undeployable and couldn't even go to the field. None of this was because he wasn't "fit", because he remained in top condition.

I agree that your average office job doesn't require upper body strength or great stamina. The problem is that every Marine is supposed to be a rifleman as well as whatever their MOS trains them for. And as Ziobuck pointed out, pregnancy may in some sense benefit society but it can have a real impact upon unit readiness.

The only way to deal with that is to have more men on hand to make up for women who may not be fit for duty at various times. And pregnancy, unlike sports injuries, is something that can be scheduled.

The armed forces may decide to take the hit because we think there are benefits to having women serve. That's a tradeoff.

My problem is that the tradeoff isn't accounted for honestly.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 21, 2010 12:22 PM

I don't really have an argument with anything you just said. All I'm saying is that the Marines are right to hold men and women to different physical standards, out of recognition that they are different physically.

A woman who has nerve damage from a flu shot will be in just as much peril as your husband was; but in order to avoid that fate and demonstrate that she can still meet the standards, she will need to do a flexed arm hang instead of pullups. That seems right and proper to me: not a case of 'lower standards,' but a case of different ones.

Posted by: Grim at May 21, 2010 12:26 PM

'The analogy to a sports injury makes some sense to me. Men who indulge in contact sports know they may render themselves temporarily unfit for duty, but we don't give them a hard time about it.' -Texan99
****
T-99, I'm not in total agreement with you on men not getting a hard time about contact sports injuries affecting unit readiness. If one puts themselves at "undue risk" in sports resulting in a disabling injury, where one becomes non-ready (non-deployable), I can guarantee you someone in the food chain will take grim notice (GRIM notice :p).

Use to work as a missileer (sitting cold war alerts in stateside missile silos) for Strategic Air Command. It wouldn't be understated to say SAC was "anal" about anything nuclear. However, in their defense, you don't want "crazies" on meds with their finger poised on the nuclear button.

Anyway, I can tell you the bosses were not please that a good number of young missileers played with the local rubgy clubs (Hmmm. "Crazies"?). We were always scrutinized and "threatened" with disciplinary action if we got injured and couldn't pull alerts. I can tell you a lot of other sports got a bad rap during this period of my life. :) And you would think these guys with black and blue, stitched up faces, limping on alert, just came from a war zone. Gotta love that testosterone!

I guess this is where the pregnancy/sports analogy breaks down. In a generalization, guys can fight through the pain to mask an injury to themselves and still accomplish the mission. However, a pregnant soldier can't hide the "life" inside her. She may even be willing to endure the discomforts, morning sickness, and other hormonal changes, but ultimately she cannot jeopardize that other life.

Posted by: ziobuck at May 21, 2010 02:07 PM

The problem is that people can't even find out who is allergic to flu shots or not. That's the problem. Yet centralized authority deems themselves capable and wise enough to make such decisions.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 21, 2010 04:05 PM

"It's probable approaching certainty that she couldn't do 20 pullups, but that fact is not a handicap; it didn't keep her from thrashing her (mostly male) competition."

The obsolete idea that isolation training of certain muscles is what produces capability in physical activities is well on its way of going the way of the Dodo. As it should. It was a false idea to begin with.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 21, 2010 04:15 PM

I'm saying that the standard is meant to be: this job requires someone committed to keeping themselves in top physical condition. That -- more than the ability to do 20 pullups -- is what qualifies you for the job. A person with such a commitment will find a way to get the job done.

If that is the requirement, then the reason you need different standards is that you are using the wrong measures in the first place.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 21, 2010 04:51 PM

The problem is that people can't even find out who is allergic to flu shots or not. That's the problem. Yet centralized authority deems themselves capable and wise enough to make such decisions.

The problem with this Ymar is that in a military context, you the individual, do not matter (and most likely cannot matter). The military, unlike civilian life, really is a collective.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 21, 2010 04:56 PM

From the point of view of ability to do a strenuous job, women about to give birth are physically handicapped in exactly the same sense that sports-injured men are physically handicapped. The difference lies in whether we assign moral culpability to the female soldier's having voluntarily placed herself in that position (or perhaps to the male soldier who voluntarily placed her in that position). If you step back and look at human culture as a whole, you might well say that bearing children is more important than serving in the military. I don't necessarily disagree, but it was up to the woman to make that choice before she joined the military. Her military service oughtn't to be something she's trying out unless and until she gets pregnant -- or at least, not if we expect women to be held to ordinary standards of honor, courage, and truthfulness that we assume adult men are ready to be held to.

Grim, this is the point on which we so often differ: whether it's possible to escape the charge of treating women as a special case, grading on a curve, simply by pointing out that they have special and valuable qualities. Sure they do, as do men, but those qualities don't negate the ordinary obligations of adult responsibility. They just mean that the circumstances that are likely to trigger the adult dilemmas for women may differ from the ones that men are most likely to face.

I suspect that we often assume that the job requirements we're used to are more closely related to job performance than they actually are. Often, they're a traditional, even ritualized, set of requirements that we drifted into after many years of assuming that the job applicant pool would share certain characteristics. You could make a good case that the average woman's physical characteristics make her better qualified to be an astronaut, for instance, but for many years you'd have found lots of people eager to explain why the physical standards we applied to astronaut candidates were obvious and inevitable, even if they excluded women more or less automatically. It wasn't that you really needed that Y chromosome to do a good job in space, it was just that the job pool always had been male, and we thought of the entrance standards in terms of what men are good at. Ditto for doctors and lawyers, not so long ago. And the consolation prize always was that, if you were a woman, you had this fabulous ability to bear and raise children that was so important, you couldn't be spared for 1,000 different jobs reserved to men. No doubt the childbearing ability really was that great (though I don't grant that men are not just as capable, and obligated, to rear children as women are), but it wasn't the point. If childrearing were so obviously superior as a life choice, why was it necessary to exclude women in the first place? Couldn't we trust them to do what was best for themselves? Assuming they were responsible adults, that is.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 21, 2010 05:28 PM

The difference lies in whether we assign moral culpability to the female soldier's having voluntarily placed herself in that position

Or rather whether we assign the same moral culpability to her than the male soldier who voluntarily went snow skiing and got himself injured.

I actually passed up an offer to go skiing in college because I could not in good conscience excuse missing the first 2 weeks of my season with "But Coach, snow skiing is excellent athletic training."

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 21, 2010 06:29 PM

Indeed, T99, that's just what I'm talking about -- letting them be free to elect motherhood when and if they decide it is right for them, out of recognition that it is a very valuable life choice. If they want to be Marines, fine. If they later decide to be mothers, fine. The only things that they might be excluded from are certain military duties that are unsuitable for women -- the infantry, perhaps -- although opinions even on that may be changing.

The pull up standard is obviously dispensable; the Army doesn't use it, for example. What it serves as is a stand-in for something else, which I'm framing as 'a commitment to physical fitness.' Every Marine is a rifleman, as Cass says, but carrying a rifle doesn't require you to be able to do any pull ups. A woman who can do well on the flexed arm hang can carry the rifle just fine.

However, we still need different standards. If we said, "Really, the standard for this job is that you be able to flexed arm hang for a minute," men who only held themselves to that standard would become out of shape! They need the other standard in order to capture the real thing, which is that commitment to fitness.

But the standards are imperfect, as both you and Cass note. Actually, I'm suspicious of standards at all; people are non-standard-issue by nature. There are lots of reasons to let people try to do things they want to do, even if you don't think they can (or should). The military is one of the few areas in life in which I'm willing to tolerate rigid standards, because so much depends on it. We just have to accept the occasional injustice arising from those standards, because you always get injustice any time you create a standard. There will always be people who could have been great, but end up excluded for reasons that they have no control over and could have overcome if they'd had the chance.

Posted by: Grim at May 21, 2010 06:38 PM

"Actually, I'm suspicious of standards at all; people are non-standard-issue by nature."

Probably because of your anti-authoritarian biases?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 21, 2010 07:31 PM

"The problem with this Ymar is that in a military context, you the individual, do not matter (and most likely cannot matter). The military, unlike civilian life, really is a collective."

That's what the Army said when they tried placing Army officers in command of Navy ships and expeditions.

Didn't work out so well for them or their civilizations.


Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 21, 2010 07:33 PM

"There will always be people who could have been great, but end up excluded for reasons that they have no control over and could have overcome if they'd had the chance."

it's not so much that you tolerate this in the military as war tends to weed it out automatically.

If your nation gets into a situation where greatness is required, either you produce it and destroy any rules forbidding it, or your nation goes up in smokes.

Not exactly hard to figure out.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 21, 2010 07:39 PM

It's true, Grim, that you seem to be unusually flexible in your thinking about the physical standards that should apply to jobs, even military jobs. And I agree with you that it would be a good idea to give women choices about whether to bear children or to take on jobs that are incompatible with bearing children -- as long as they make those choices before they accept the jobs. If women should be excused from active military duty because they have infants in the house, then so should men. Otherwise all women will be automatically dumped into a mommy-track kind of semi-inclusion, or deemed peculiarly incapable of fulfilling a contract they entered into as adults with their eyes open.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 21, 2010 07:49 PM

You know, Ymar, the thing about war is that some of the people who are best at it are terrible at peacetime military life -- or, indeed, peacetime life in general. Look at Sherman, for example.

Of course, there are other people (like Lee) that are strong in peace and war, at military life or in the intellectual life. Still, it surprises me how often one reads in histories of great wars something like, "He was a failure at everything he ever tried, until the war came, when..."

Posted by: Grim at May 21, 2010 08:06 PM

As for my anti-authoritarian bias, I have no such bias. As long as we all agree that I am the authority, there are no problems whatsoever. Plus, I'll use my authority mostly to encourage you to do what you wanted -- perhaps feared, but wanted -- deep in your heart.

Long live King Grim.

Posted by: Grim at May 21, 2010 08:11 PM

Long live King Grim, indeed!

Posted by: Texan99 at May 21, 2010 11:03 PM

Of course, there are other people (like Lee) that are strong in peace and war, at military life or in the intellectual life. Still, it surprises me how often one reads in histories of great wars something like, "He was a failure at everything he ever tried, until the war came, when..."

That probably has something to do with compromise. In peace time, there is more benefit to compromise than blowing each other's brains out, so obviously most of the prestige and trust goes from the people to the pastors and negotiators (now a days, lawyers and diplomatic politicians).

In war, talking is not going to get you anywhere fast. So the same man, who sucked at compromise and deals, now is put in a situation where he can simply ride over his opponents given the necessity of war. Now if he sucked at even riding over people using his command authority, then he'd truly be a failure. Like those shakers that can't protect their business associates AND can't protect their command personnel either. Might as well defect to the enemy then. They'd make better use of em than we can.

Long live King Grim.

It's funny how when the Japanese say "long life" they meant Banzai or a 10,000 years. Shouldn't you have retired by then?

And for some reason, Banzai is actually deemed correct by VC's spell checking system.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 22, 2010 09:10 AM

When did that become an English word?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 22, 2010 09:11 AM

On Lee, I remember something about his daughter or what not.

Found something interesting

Lee seemed like a Caesar in some fashions. Those particular individuals that excel at both military and political processes. The politicians or Old Guard back home always hated such people. Probably because it scared the piss out of them.

I'm not sure who feared Lee more. Northerners or Southern Democrat politicians.

I would have attempted to convince Lincoln and Sherman that Lee would have best served as a replacement for all Southern Democrat politicians at the time. His prestige would have gone far in restoring the South from economic destitute as well as implementing reform laws for blacks and against the KKK.

That actual relationship happened with MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito. Truman gets a positive point for ending the war, a negative point for being a Democrat and UN lover. He even beat Bush and Kennedy and Lyndon J and Nixon on the "quagmire" issue in Asian warfare.

Of course, Sherman had people problems, in some fashions, and Lincoln got killed. So a victory for the Democrats, so to speak, from the ashes of defeat. The war was won, but blacks were still put in their place for various reasons. By the North because blacks were mentally inferior to them. By the South, because they were controlled by politicians that liked slaves and more slaves.

And it continues to this day. The South voted for Reagan and freed themselves from Democrat policies. But that just meant California and the North becomes the substitute.

It is always easier to blame foreigners for your problems than fixing the problems originating from your own people. Muslims still haven't learned that lesson. And neither have the Democrats.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 22, 2010 09:33 AM

This goes double for people that don't want Sherman to march on their property. Don't let your political class take you to war, then while they have your manpower protecting their property, leave you in the rear to be destroyed.

If you had only hanged all the Democrats, Southern or Northern, and started over from scratch, things would still be better than active war. You don't know what'll happen in war. Might as well stack the bodies you Know are Guilty right now. That way you mitigate risk in human affairs.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 22, 2010 10:03 AM

You don't make girls soldiers. That's just wrong.

Posted by: Curtis at May 22, 2010 04:55 PM

...some of the people who are best at it are terrible at peacetime military life -- or, indeed, peacetime life in general. Look at Sherman, for example.

Oh, I dunno. He and Mr. Peabody did pretty well for themselves.

You don't make girls soldiers. That's just wrong.

You don't *make* anyone a soldier. You merely provide that person the example to emulate and that person does it himself. Or herself.

Posted by: BillT at May 23, 2010 04:31 AM

That's what the Army said when they tried placing Army officers in command of Navy ships and expeditions.

I said that the individual isn't important. Not that individuals are interchangeable.

For instance, take an engine. An individual part, in and of itself, is not important. Spark Plug S/N #27854 is not any different that Spark Plug S/N #98698. If to ensure that the spark plugs I'm making work I have to destroy 1% of them, that's OK. The individual spark plug does not matter.

But that does not mean that a spark plug for a weed eater is going to be interchangeable with a spark plug for a Ford F-250.

But that's not the fault of the individual spark plug. It's still a collective issue.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 23, 2010 02:09 PM

You don't make girls soldiers. That's just wrong.

You don't make boys soldiers either. Soldiers are adults.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 23, 2010 02:11 PM

I said that the individual isn't important. Not that individuals are interchangeable.

An individual is not easily separated out into representations of engine components.

Any individual part that allows the whole to function, is still very important. However, they can be replaced by manufactured spares more or less easily.

The same cannot be said of humans. You don't get to do a 100% replacement. Sometimes a spot gets replaced with somebody better, sometimes somebody worse. It is non-standardized.

Not to mention the critical point. Parts are made by a sort of quality consistency or assurance process. Human individuals progress based upon their own initiative and the effect of those around them.

Thus one can attempt to reproduce some sort of manpower spare part reserve, but you won't be able to make them fit into whatever peg is desired of them.

The worth of a single entity depends upon how rare it is and how needed it is. For military power, you can try to fight with robots or those lacking in initiative, but it won't be at the US's level.

The original idea behind placing Army commanders in charge of naval expeditions, which inevitably meant those armadas ran into weather problems because they didn't know even the basics of sailor lore, is that the military is a collective and that a war can be fought simply by replacing one part with another part of the same manufacture.

The obviously difficulty here is that you are relying upon human judgement to determine which peg fits which part. The individual is either important and thus the decision maker of which peg he or she should fit into, or the decision is made at the collective level, what you have described, where centralized agencies determine which part gets replaced with another "replacement" at the bottom.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 24, 2010 08:08 AM

The original idea behind placing Army commanders in charge of naval expeditions, which inevitably meant those armadas ran into weather problems because they didn't know even the basics of sailor lore, is that the military is a collective and that a war can be fought simply by replacing one part with another part of the same manufacture.

The problem is that they didn't replace one part with another part of the same manufacture. They tried replacing a spark plug with an engine belt. That's not an individual fault, but a collective one. It doesn't matter how good of an engine belt you choose. It still won't function as a spark plug.

Sometimes a spot gets replaced with somebody better, sometimes somebody worse.

And in the aggregate it all washes out. If by giving the flu shot to 100% of your recruits you lose 1% of them to an adverse reaction you ensure that 100% of your remaining population is protected while suffering no per-person loss of skills. You lose some highly skilled, you lose some lower skilled, but the average remains unchanged.

What you gain by not letting the individuals make up their own mind is that you know longer have to worry about the potential of losing, say, 10% of your personnel to flu in the field.

Which is more devestating? Guaranteed loss of 1% up front (where you can more easily replace and train) and 0% loss during a mission, or a 0% loss up-front and a potential 10% loss during a mission (where replacements and training are much more difficult to come by)?

Also notice how the decision does not in any manner hinge on the individual? It is a decision made solely at the group level.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 24, 2010 12:04 PM

"The problem is that they didn't replace one part with another part of the same manufacture. They tried replacing a spark plug with an engine belt."

This is the same dichotomy I described. In engine parts, you could indeed centralize a list of part and its numbers and then say "XYZ part" shouldn't be replaced by "ZYX" part.

When dealing with humans, however, they cannot be regulated in this fashion. Or rather, it would be inaccurate to attempt to do so. Not only are they something other than engine parts, but the way they must be treated and handled comes from an entirely different philosophy as well.

The individual matters in human affairs precisely because the collective does not have omniscience or omnipotence in dealing with human affairs. They need individuals, precisely because they are individuals with autonomous free will, not just parts manufactured to order.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 25, 2010 12:13 PM

"What you gain by not letting the individuals make up their own mind is that you know longer have to worry about the potential of losing, say, 10% of your personnel to flu in the field.

Which is more devestating? Guaranteed loss of 1% up front (where you can more easily replace and train) and 0% loss during a mission, or a 0% loss up-front and a potential 10% loss during a mission (where replacements and training are much more difficult to come by)? "

Your argument mirrors my description of the benefits and detriments of centralized security (Singapore best example of controlled and secure populations) vs de-centralized security (militia, neighborhood watch, 2nd Amendment).

This is a different argument than the dichotomy before. Instead of contesting the structure benefits of centralization, now you are focusing on the benefits or detriments of either path.

That is a different area of study and requires a slightly different focus.

This is also related to the recent issue of going hot or going cold on patrols in Afghanistan. The argument there is whether Central Command would rather risk friendly fire or accidental discharge incidents than risk the individual's reaction speed being decremented.

This issue is too complex to solve in one sitting as it involves more than two people.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 25, 2010 12:19 PM

The individual matters in human affairs precisely because the collective does not have omniscience or omnipotence in dealing with human affairs.

The problem is that the question of immunization in the military is that it isn't a matter of human affairs. It is about structural/systemic integrity. It is about the health of the whole.

Much the same way we don't think twice about taking drugs which kill individual cells within our body so long as they make us, as the collective of cells, better because the individual cell is not important. What's important is the health of the organism.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 25, 2010 01:53 PM

It is about structural/systemic integrity. It is about the health of the whole.

Only in respect to combat ability. But that is a human judgment, made by specific people in the organization.

It is not in any case, shape, or form, either always accurate nor predictably accurate in the future.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 25, 2010 03:59 PM

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