Thursday, May 19, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | US rejects ban on women in combat

Urgh...wanted to do a fluffy human interest post today. *Mr Fluffy takes the opportunity to repeatly stomp on the author's head for taking fluffyness in vain*

But I figured that it's not inconceivable that the manner in which my luck is going, I'm going to get a debate on this motion. This effectively combines two of my most hated topics, the Military and Gender Issues.

Background: Women are already banned from frontline duty anyway. but the problem is that in areas like Iraq (particularly Iraq and possibly places like Afghanistan), what the military is facing, is not the frontline but an 'insurgency'. Hence women are not barred from serving in such insurgent hit areas.

Not doubt, the better informed reader (which should be most of my regular readers =P) would be aware that the US lost less lives in the actual war than the hot peace that followed. So it might seem logical that if the original aim was not to put women in the line of danger, then they ought not have to serve as combat service support.

Now I think that's a whole lot of bunk. If you signed up to serve the nation (actually, for anyone who watched A Few Good Men, nation in the Marines comes after God and Corp), and are willing to voluntarily risk your life, why should you then be hampered by a flat ban on where you can and cannot serve.

Now, it would be foolish of me to deny that the fact they do not need to serve in the frontline is a valid consideration in the minds of the ladies who originally sign on. However, there are a number of very insidious effects that occur if women are not allow to serve in frontline duties (or insurgent duties as it may).

1. It is a form of discrimination. To both genders really. Given that you have voluntarily assumed the risk of death and danger, why ought women be 'privileged' in such a fashion. If men have to risk their lives, why not the women? Danger pay only goes for far in compensating people for the risk that is assumed. I seriously doubt it compensates them for their lack of choice in this matter as well.

2. Note the quotation marks on the word privilege because keeping them from frontline duties is a very effective way of discriminating and hindering the progress of women in the armed forces. Let's face it, without a frontline presence or being bloodied in some form of war, your chances of progressing and being promoted diminishes. Lest we forget, the ancient saying does go, "Here's to bloody wars and plagues". Don't knock field commissions, it's a very effective way of getting promoted. Besides, a Silver Heart or a Purple Heart is going to look very very good on your resume when your docket comes up for review. So without frontline duties or even hot zones, your chances take an automatic knock as it is.

Further perpetuating this inequitability is that fact that the likelihood of women being pushed into combat support roles or instructional roles goes up. Following the logic above, this diminishes them. But at the same time, it's a terribly inefficient system of allocating manpower. Because your first consideration will not be ability but gender. Considering that the army has once again missed it's recruitment levels, this discrepency will take on a more serious tone as the years go by.

On the flip side however, there is a huge question of whether women at the frontline at more of a help than a hindrence. Military research has shown that a soldier is a number of times more ready to stop and aid a wounded comrade of the opposite gender. While this is all well and good in a training scenario, in war, breaking up the charge is a bad bad thing to do.

Similarly, the problem of female P.O.Ws are an extra worry on top of the usual ones facing P.O.Ws. So as not to offend the more delicate sensibilities of my readers, we shall not go into the exact details of what could happen.

And even granting that this has become more of a technologically driven and push button warfare than in the history of humankind, it nevertheless is true that the drift of war towards that of asymetrical warfare (where one side is stronger than the other hence necesitating the use of guerilla tactics). What this means, particular in certain frontlines and cleanup operations is that you mean people on the ground to go into hostile terriroty to hunt down the oppostion. In mountainous regions and in built-up areas, alot of technological advantages that one may have had in a more conventional war ceases to exist. So unless you want to utterly wreck the city and kill indiscriminately, you really can't simply demolish a building. Signals break up, disrupting communication and GPS capabilities (of course these are being actively overcomed as we speak).

What this means is that biological difference do play a role. And it is a FACT that the average male is fitter, stronger, faster and has more stamina than the average women (just look at ANY sport that is played by both genders). Admittedly, women do have increased tenacity and a pain tolerance that is 7 times higher than males. But regardless, the fact that carrying 20kg packs with weapons and operating in hostile regions is probably on balance more suitable for males.

Of course, conversely, the presence of women can be a VERY calming effect in a peacekeeping region. After all, it's hard for a guy to tell a Muslim woman to unveil herself or take her burkha off.

*Mr Fluffy also adds that whoever doubts the capabilities of women in combat only has to say that to an Israeli female who would be more than capable of handing your ass to you on a platter. Mr Fluffy thinks that a cheaper alternative would be to repeated run your head into the wall. Mr Fluffy also assures the readers that watching a whole bunch of women charge at you with Sten Machine-guns is a terrifying sight, readily rivaling the umpteenth repeat of horrid local dramas.*



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