[Rosemary Mariner, guest-blogging, December 18, 2007 at 1:24am] Trackbacks
The Americanization of the Armed Forces-Overview:

My thanks to Eugene for the invitation to guest blog and to Prof. Browne for a copy of his book. Also, my thanks to all for considering a different perspective on gender integration in the military and the much larger issue of how to best provide for the common defense of the republic.

My central premise is that military effectiveness is enhanced by the inclusion of the best qualified individuals in a gender integrated force, including combat roles. Participation should be predicated on individual performance and not presumed group traits. Women are neither inferior nor superior to men; we are all individuals first and foremost, accountable for our actions.

Not only does this make for the best defense, it is consistent with the oath that all servicemembers take to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I emphasize the word republic (from the Latin res publica, or the people's thing) because the connection between citizenship and military service is as old as the concept of self-government; those who govern themselves protect themselves. Conversely, warrior aristocracies claiming a monopoly on the use of force based on their inherent superiority (birth into the nobility) are long viewed as antithetical to republicanism. This is in part because the reciprocal of protection is often obedience.

In the American example, the debate over the nature of the armed forces and who serves predates the republic. Issues of inclusion and exclusion are a constant thread in U.S. military history, both in (and between) the professional "regular" army and America's various citizen-armies. The same is true of the Navy. Military historian Alex Roland argues "that personnel is the most important topic...Who is going to fight, under what terms, and with what consequences? This is the fundamental question of American military experience."

Thus, the so-called "feminization" of the military over the last one hundred years is really part of what I call the Americanization of our armed forces.

In addition to teaching military history, the focus of my research is on the connection between military service and republican citizenship, --not gender issues. While I normally don't get into the "women in combat" debate for reasons that Mark Grimsley pointed out, I've decided to engage this time for several reasons.

First, the protracted limited war in Iraq will eventually force a new debate on the composition of the U.S. armed forces. The impact on readiness of current ground combat exclusion policies is but one facet of a much larger public discourse that needs to take place.

Some of the most contentious issues will include the use of armed mercenaries, integration of the Reserve Component, and conscription. While I am adamantly opposed to conscripted military service or labor (national service), there are advocates on the political right and left who are already pushing hard for both. Invariably, the proposals include some degree of female liability.

Secondly, there appears to be widespread misunderstanding about what constitutes military readiness and how it is measured by the armed forces. It is difficult to have a serious debate until such terms are understood in the context the military uses them.

Last, but not least, Prof. Browne's central justification for excluding women from combat seems to be the notion that women are inherently inferior to men, based on "new evidence" drawn from evolutionary psychology (EP). In other words, the individual doesn't matter. Yet, as Edward Hagen of the Institute for Theoretical Biology explains EP, "nothing in evolutionary theory privileges males over females, however, nor does evolutionary theory prescribe social roles for either sex."

This appeal to natural superiorty is reminiscent of Social Darwinism, where proponents of racial superiority misappropriated the work of Darwin to advance their social agendas. It was used to justify Eugenics and a lot worse. Arguments of supposed innate superiority (as opposed to demonstrated individual ability) have no place in prescribing the participation of adult citizens in America's public institutions.

Hopefully, in addition to addressing Prof. Browne's arguments, I can add some illumination on these and other larger issues central to providing for the common defense.

Finally, a few points of clarification on my background. On the issue of how to abbreviate my naval rank, it is well estabished that the Navy does not speak English. Having been retired and in the academic world for some time, Eugene's use of Capt. is fine with me.

The relevant point is that I am a practitioner who retired as an O6, not an O3. In addition to my aviation and shipboard experience, I have significant experience from while I was on the Joint Staff in how military readiness is evaluated on the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of warfare. My Joint Staff tour included various field assessments of Joint Task Forces which made it very clear that the Navy and Air Force have it much easier than the Army and Marine Corps.

That being said, there was nothing extraordinary about my career outside of the first female context. I was not a combat pilot nor do I claim to have any first hand knowledge of ground combat. My career spanned the years when Navy and Air Force women were prohibited by law from flying aircraft actually engaged in combat missions. We could get shot at, but not shoot back.

However, having lived through the "pink and blue" military force that Prof. Browne advocates a return to, I know why there is no going back. The risk rule and other paternalistic policies were as unfair to men as they were to women. They proved unworkable in the Gulf War. The issue now is whether we change (and if so, how) the ground combat exclusion policies.

There are many valid concerns about introducing women into direct ground combat forces. There are also many valid concerns that current exclusion policies are making it more difficult for commanders to get the job done while maintaining a legal fiction that women aren't in combat. It is time to review the current policies.

My next post will provide a brief historical overview of women in combat and address some of the current issues in Iraq and Afghanistan. I look forward to reading your comments.