Permissible Arms

Back to Reality

Posted in afghanistan, iraq, united states, us defense, us military by Karaka on 9 August 2010

Adam Weinsten has some good thought on Brad Manning over at Attackerman today. Also at ZIA, some of the data culled from the leak is graphically represented. I still think it’s a grey area, whether to utilize the information or not, but still interesting to see.

As I blogged at Attackerman this morning, Secretary Gates announced today some big cutbacks in the defense department budget–including the closing of JFCOM, which General Odierno was recently nominated to head. According to the Secdef, Odierno knew and was supportive of the decision (of course, he would have to be so publicly) but I wonder where he–and the many defense contractors who will be made redundant very soon–will eventually go.

Matt Gallagher at Kerplunk opined as to why the US needs to return to the draft.

Which brings me back to the Draft. I’ve become more and more convinced that a healthy republic needs conscription to keep it healthy and honest. The gulf discussed isn’t anyone’s fault, an unforeseen byproduct of the all-volunteer force – but this gulf must be filled, unless we’re intent on recreating Legions loyal to their commanders over country. (An extreme example. We’re nowhere near there. Yet.) The Draft would be controversial, debated, and very likely protested. All good things in a properly functioning people’s government. Meanwhile, the benefits of such would be twofold:

1) The citizenry would actually hold their political leaders accountable, as they’re supposed to. Apathy being a republic/democracy’s worst enemy is not a new understanding, but it remains a poignant one…

2) Wars would become a collective undertaking by the nation as a whole, rather than an isolated segment of the population. This would prove beneficial to both society and to the military. The number of sons and daughters involved would greatly increase, thus increasing personal connections and a sense of engagement, thus increasing product output.

I shrunk this down a little, to avoid reproducing his post, but I will note that I’ve had a discussion about a draft with a friend of mine several times, and we were both a little surprised to discover that the both of us–liberal Portlanders that we are–support the draft. And not solely a military draft, but a civilian draft as well. The idea being that you gave a year, two years, in service to your country either in defense or administration. We never fully worked out the weedy parts of it, but I still find it an interesting idea, analogous to Americorps or the Peace Corps or Teach for America. Worth reading, even if (especially if) you disagree. You can also catch Matt on CSPAN Books here.

I wish I’d caught this live, but the New America Foundation hosted a roundtable on civilian casualties in Afghanistan last week.

Using recently declassified data from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Jacob Shapiro and a team of academic researchers have produced the first detailed analysis of the link between civilian casualties and violence directed against ISAF troops.

I’m about halfway through, and hopefully I’ll be able to watch the rest this week if work is even slightly more placid than it has been.

MoI’s post on organized crime in Iraq struck some real chords. The U.S. invasion in 2003 removed all restrictions upon Iraq’s gangs. First, before the U.S. attack Saddam released 30,000-100,000 criminals in October 2002. Second, the Americans invaded without enough troops to secure the country. Then the government collapsed, followed by the economy falling apart. Finally the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi military. All of those factors together emboldened gangs, and the anarchic situation that Iraq found itself in created powerful incentives towards lawlessness to make a living.

Josh Keating and Mike Few ask What’s the Difference Between Combat and Noncombat Troops? in the FP Explainer; see Mike’s extended thoughts at SW Council. (That totally looks like Star Wars Council, doesn’t it?) I’m working on a brain dump, but life as I know is has still not fully returned to peaceable normal. But I have high hopes for tomorrow.

DoD is ruining education!

Posted in afghanistan, iraq, us congress, us defense by Abbie on 5 August 2010

Thanks to Karaka for letting me guest post again!

I usually keep quiet when those with experience start debating military and foreign policy issues on blogs and elsewhere online. These issues interest me terribly, but I don’t suffer from any illusions that I know half as much as the people I choose to follow on Twitter on these matters. But on the issue of guns vs. butter–or more specifically in this post, guns vs. schoolbooks–I have an informed opinion that goes something like this: Please stop blaming war spending for diminishing the federal investment in education spending. Recent efforts to secure much-needed aid for educator job retention has reignited a long-suffering debate about funding priorities that has me banging my head against the wall.

I represent educators before Congress. Yes, I’m a lobbyist. My colleagues and I enjoy advocating on one of the few “nonpartisan” issues in Congress, if such a thing exists. We have our fair share of dramatic debates, but when it gets down to brass tacks legislators generally agree that education is a good thing. This is similar, I believe, to the widely held post-Vietnam idea in Congress that we must support the troops, regardless of personal feelings about war or defense policy.

Tough times call for tough measures and all federal agencies are preparing for Congress to allot them smaller budgets to complete their work. This includes the Department of Education. But nothing demonstrates the state of our poor economy to many Americans more than this: Even the (discretionary) federal funding juggernaut more commonly known as the Department of Defense is cutting back.

Secretary Gates has gone to great lengths to implore Congress to do away with spending of programs he calls “excess” or “poorly performing” in an effort to streamline DoD. He’s even gone so far as to call for the President’s veto of any appropriations bills that include funding for six projects he opposes (see page one of his June testimony here). He’s also called on his staff to shrink the department’s annual budget by more than $100 billion over five years. (To learn more about why, read the recent CBO report detailing DoD’s ballooning expenses, or the excellent report by Robert Haddick at Foreign Policy.)

Despite these and other efforts, my education colleagues—who I respect and work passionately along side in our efforts to expand the federal investment in education—continue to make the baseless argument that DoD is to blame for shrinking funds for federal education programs. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve suffered through one of my colleagues’ angry diatribes against spending on “the wars” or “DoD” or “the military” I probably wouldn’t be sweating my student loans payment this month. The argument simply doesn’t stand up.

To suggest that funding for any non-DoD program hangs on the funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is naive and shows extreme ignorance of the federal appropriations process. Anyone ever heard of mandatory spending programs like Social Security and Medicare? Let me assure you that these programs are having an impact on available monies legislators have to play with.

Please, let’s have reasoned debate about the benefits of war, the implications of war, even the morality of war. I find myself questioning our efforts “over there” at times, too. But let’s not suggest funding these wars is depriving states of federal education aid. Legislators choose whether or not to appropriate funds. They make choices. Legislators choose to prioritize funding and programs.

Congress has the responsibility to fund defense and education fairly and appropriately. It’s not an either/or debate. The federal government needs to do both better. Let’s face it, they need to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars, generally.

I’m hardly the first to point out the deterioration of reasoned debate and policy development in America. When Congress is involved, there is always plenty of finger pointing to go around. But on this issue, surely we can rise above and realize one priority (national defense) does not undercut the other priority (educating the nation’s youth).

Happy Independence Day, America

Posted in isaf, united states, us military by Abbie on 4 July 2010

It may be pessimistic, but July 4th always marks the beginning of the end of summer for me. Then again, I prefer cold weather, so perhaps I’m trying to will fall and winter to get here sooner. Regardless, this does not diminish the importance of this day.

So, Happy Independence Day, America!  And a special thanks to the troops serving near and far, today.

Here are a few links to get us in the spirit:

  • Independence Day 2010 (SWJ)

Links to two organization’s I hope you consider supporting today and throughout the year:

  1. The USO
  2. Adopt a U.S. Soldier

And finally, because I’m incapable of being serious for this long, here’s some etymology of the song, Yankee Doodle.  And to accompany this, one so-bad-it’s-awesome patriotic rendition of Yankee Doodle performed by Suzanne Somers circa 1978, care of Pour Me Coffee.

Happy Fourth of July!

Cutting defense spending, for reals? (Updated)

Posted in us congress, us defense, us military, us politics by Abbie on 1 July 2010

Hi all. Karaka has graciously invited me to post links and observations while she enjoys some time off. I promise not to rant too much since she called me “delightful.” Well played, KP.

Cmd Salamander has an interesting thread going on a proposal from U.S. Representative Barney Frank and others about a “Strategy of Restraint” for federal defense spending (h/t Starbuck). Federal budgets and appropriations are my thing–it’s part of my day job–and I’ve learned over the years to take proposals like this one with a grain of salt. I doubt this proposal, like so many that have come before it, will come to fruition.

But, for the first time since I began working in DC, I’m hearing serious discussion on Capitol Hill–and perhaps more importantly, from DoD–about making real cuts to federal defense funding in the FY11 budget and beyond. To save face, I’m blatantly ignoring the Emergency Supplemental currently being debated on the Hill that would provide funding for Afghanistan, among other things. For those who don’t obsess over the ridiculousness of the federal budget and appropriations process like I do, “emergency” funds fall outside the confines of the congressional budget. (That is to say, when Congress has passed a budget, unlike this year.)

Here’s my point: Is it simply a reaction to the economy that is allowing Congress to willingly gut-check the American purse on defense spending during a midterm election year…while we’re at war? Of course not. But what does it mean for DoD, State, etc. and their efforts domestically and internationally in the coming years?

It’s fair to note that DoD is by no means a solitary target. In fact, President Obama’s FY11 budget request calls for a spending freeze in all non-security discretionary spending. It was Secretary Gates who insisted his Department find considerable savings over the next five years.

Gates said he wants contracts scrutinized more closely for inefficiencies and unneeded overhead. He said the savings could be shifted to support U.S. troops around the globe. Pentagon officials said they’re looking for annual savings in the $400 billion spent on goods and services.

I believe all federal agencies can and should do a better job of using taxpayer dollars responsibly. But this shift in congressional rhetoric on defense spending from both sides of the aisle–albeit stronger on the left–strikes me as telling. Election outcomes aside, where should DoD focus their spending and where should they cut?

As always, Small Wars Journal has some fascinating debate about defense spending and politics generally in their threads. Check it out! (And, as this blog’s host has suggested, send them some money while you’re at it. They’re good people!)

Update: Robert Haddick has authored an excellent article entitled “The Pentagon’s entitlement spending problem” that touches much more saliently than I could ever hope to on some of the issues DoD’s budget is facing now and will continue to face in the future. Well worth the read.

Friday Miscellany

Posted in afghanistan, united states, us defense, us military by Karaka on 25 June 2010

Two bits from the Guardian. First, records from soliders in the Boer War have been put online at Ancestry.co.uk, which allows for a database search for information on specific individuals. I don’t know how useful this might be to anyone not looking for specific individuals, but I still think it’s neat. I’ve been reading on and off about the Boer war for a couple of months now, and it’s a fascinating conflict.

The Guardian also reports on US Military women in combat:

If you are one of the more than 235,000 women who have been on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade, then the idea that you are being shielded from the brutality of direct warfare may sound to you like a pretty sick joke. As Laura Browder, an academic at the University of Richmond in Virginia, puts it: “When women are serving as handlers of explosive-sniffing dogs, kicking down doors, doing searches, conducting IED sweeps, then yes, they are very much in combat.”

Until the 1970s, there was a quota on the proportion of women in the military of 2%. Since that was ended their presence has grown steadily, and now it stands at 14%.

As the numbers grew, so did the remit. The 1991 Gulf war created huge extra demand for personnel, and that in turn led to the lifting of bans on women flying combat missions and serving on combat ships. The Clinton presidency opened up more than 90% of tasks across the services to women.

In the latest reform, the secretary of defence Robert Gates announced in February that he would allow women to serve on nuclear submarines. Pending congressional approval, the first women are expected on submarine crews by early next year.

Which just leaves the final taboo: the full exposure of women to bloody frontline warfare. There is clearly a debate to be had about the desirability or otherwise of ending the 1994 proscription, except that what is happening on the ground is an answer in itself.

Mostly this just serves to put in circulation an already known idea, one that I believe the Department of Defense is moving closer and closer towards. Women on subs is a long-delayed step in that direction, but I appreciate the thrust of the article that anyone who thinks women haven’t been serving in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan exist in bizarro-world.

DoDBuzz has Gates talking about Petraeus and Afghanistan, Foreign Policy interviews Peter Mansoor on Petraeus, and this speech by Eikenberry to the Command and General Staff College Graduation Ceremony at Leavenworth on June 11th takes on some new resonance given the events of this week.

Now, our civ-mil partnership isn’t perfect, but it is the only path to success. As Secretary of State Clinton said in December: “The task we face is as complex as any national security challenge in our lifetimes. We will not succeed if people view this effort as the responsibility of a single party, a single agency withfin our government, or a single country.” I can tell you that the civ-mil partnership has definitely improved since 2007 when I was last in Afghanistan. Our closer collaboration is already having an impact, and I look for even greater results in the months ahead. Like the military, we are experiencing a tremendous civilian surge. By January 2011 we will have tripled the number of civilians we had on the ground as recently as August 2009. These civilians work at Embassy Kabul to improve critical ministries and institutions at the national level, and in the field to help the government deliver essential health, education, justice and agricultural services in areas with the greatest insecurity.

Definitely read the whole thing–I would have liked to hear it spoken–but I wonder how effective civilian and military relations are going to be after all this. Especially when the civilian presence is still vastly underpopulated in Afghanistan, even if it is supposed to further increase over the rest of the year.

The World, Viewed from a Hotel Basement

I’m hoping to write more on CNAS’s fourth annual conference tomorrow, when my entire day doesn’t get devoted to live-tweeting the event! To read through the day, check out the #CNAS2010 tag on Twitter. But here’s a couple of my particular notes from the day.

Karaka Pend karakapend

Tellis: Mutual suspicions between Pak & Ind over Afgh continue unabated. #CNAS2010 The existential battleground is emplaced in Afgh today.

Karaka Pend karakapend

Okay, Richard Fontaine wins points for addressing Madam President. #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

Fontaine “…Accepting that a US presence in South Asia has become the new normal.” #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

India is unwilling to push Iran to the point where they might lose a potential ally; but India doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons. #CNAS2010

Karaka Pendkarakapend

Flournoy: We are still trying to face 21st century challenges with Cold War systems and projects. #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

Flournoy: “We cannot keep spending more and more to get less and less.” #CNAS2010 as with everything, money talks.

Karaka Pend karakapend

Fick: Rule #4 for future questions: No quoting TS Eliot! #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

Flournoy: “We have never resourced State to build an expeditionary civilian capacity.” #CNAS2010 There is not enough “word” in the world.

Karaka Pend karakapend

Sanger: You tend to view the engagement strategy through the most challenging country…it’s only interesting if it’s difficult. #CNAS2010

Karaka Pend karakapend

Cronin: We have a growing mismatch between our means and needs. #CNAS2010

There’s more at the hashtag, but that gives you a good idea of how the day went. I think overall it was a very strong series of panels, asking difficult questions and providing something of a roadmap towards answering them. We’re still left with a lot of uncertainty in a many different directions–how do we build up a civilian reconstruction program that we’ve never funded or incentivized, how do you balance talking to repressive regimes with the less accessible citizens of repressive nations, what will our conflict environment look like in the next several decades and how should we incorporate lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan–but I think it lived up to its playbill slogan of “Shaping the Agenda.”

More tomorrow.

“Belief and seeing are often both wrong.”

Posted in american media, united states, us military by Karaka on 24 May 2010

So, I went with “Permissible Arms.” You don’t have to change your links or anything if you don’t want to–it’ll all point back to the same place–but, you know. Title of the blog and all.

The week was a little hectic (and full of reading), and I never really sat down and wrote about “The Fog of War,” a 2003 documentary of a conversation and oral history with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

Vietnam was my dad’s war, and there’s a fair amount of distance between his perception of it and mine. Any reputable academic will say that knowledge starts with what you don’t know, and there’s a lot about Vietnam I will probably never understand. That being said, it seems safe to say that McNamara was a controversial guy. The escalation of the Vietnam War probably couldn’t have happened to the degree that it did without his direct involvement.

“The Fog of War” relies both on McNamara’s recollection of events and archival material that both contrasts and supports his recollection. McNamara, at this point in his life, comes across mostly as a man who has somehow managed to live with the choices of his life and still maintain his humour; he seems like a grandfatherly man, one of those men who takes great delight in his descendants and what they end up doing. And yet he’s talking about one of the great American clashes of the 20th century.

McNamara’s focus on statistical analysis, data analysis, during World War II and subsequently in both his business endeavors with Ford and his work as the Secretary of Defense, seems pretty widely influential; but the filmmaker, Errol Morris, managed to make that objective analysis seem remarkably sinister. The contrast of bombing statistics in Japan with footage of Japan burning is one of the strongest indications of directorial license in the entire film.

The viewer is meant to walk away with eleven lessons McNamara grasped from his life, taken from the oral history Morris is conducting.

1. Empathize with your enemy
2. Rationality will not save us
3. There’s something beyond one’s self
4. Maximize efficiency
5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war
6. Get the data
7. Belief and seeing are often both wrong
8. Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning
9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
10. Never say never
11. You can’t change human nature

They seem like broadly acceptable lessons, but it seems to be that they truly have meaning within the context of McNamara’s account of his life, and Morris’ editing of that account. You walk away from the film without particularly thinking of McNamara as bad or good (at least, you do if you were born after the Vietnam War), rather as a man faced with hard choices, a man whose president died and was left with a lame duck successor right out of the gate. If Johnson was ever more convinced that more should be done in Vietnam, what could McNamara rightfully do to contradict him? Leave his position, I suppose, but I think it must have been hard to consider leaving a position that JFK requested you take.

It was, if not a film I would immediately recommend everyone see, certainly worth watching. Mostly, it means that I’ve added another dozen or so books about the Vietnam to my never-ending book queue.

Also, I watched “Good Morning Vietnam” shortly after “The Fog of War,” which is a weird mental pairing, let me tell you. “Good Morning Vietnam” was funnier than I recalled it being (I’m sure I understand a lot more of the humor now than I did when I first saw it) but it really contrasts the view from the ground versus the view from Washington.

Just turn off your phone. It’s not that hard.

I don’t care if the Army said it was nifty keen, I can’t get this stupid Lady Gaga song OUT OF MY HEAD and I’m blaming it on paratroopers.

Of note: Stephen McInerney’s article on budget & appropriations for the Middle East in 2011. His analysis notes the increases in funding for Yemen, the withdrawal of support to Iraq in line with the withdrawal of assets and personnel, and the continued increase in funding to Afghanistan/Pakistan. The URL itself is actually a nice brief on Obama’s budget submission, but there’s a longer PDF as well. Shadi Hamid at Democracy Arsenal responds, noting the Problem of Egypt.

USAID has released a couple of reports of note, including a report on internally displaced persons in Iraq, and human resources and logistical support in Afghanistan (both PDF). The GAO has also released Operation Iraqi Freedom: Actions Needed to Facilitate the Efficient Drawdown of U.S. Forces and Equipment from Iraq, which is sure to be a scintillating read, and a report on the problems of aid and contracting in Iraq and Afganistan (both PDF, more at Diplopundit).

Break the Kandahar Mafia:

It’s even worse than that, according to an in-depth poll of Kandahar residents completed last month for the U.S. and ISAF command. Conducted by U.S. Army human terrain teams, the poll found that corruption is viewed as “a widespread problem,” and that “most people have sympathy for the reasons AGEs (anti-government elements, i.e., the Taliban) take up arms against the government.”

A majority of the 1,994 people surveyed said a lack of security was their biggest problem, and that they felt danger mostly from Afghan army and police checkpoints and convoys.

The poll found “almost universal agreement that negotiation with the Taliban is preferable to continued fighting.”

At leas the Human Terrain Teams are working? I feel like my comparison of Ahmed Wali Karzai to Don Corleone is a little more on the nose now. From the Washington Post, the US is shoring up support the actual, technical governor of Kandahar:

In the hope of pushing power brokers such as Karzai to the sidelines, American officials are trying to infuse Wesa and his government with more clout and credibility. They see better governance as a central part of a U.S.-led effort that has brought thousands of troops to the region for a summer offensive against the Taliban.

But the government headed by Wesa has severe problems of its own. It remains understaffed, is viewed by many as corrupt and does not reflect the province’s tribal mix. Karzai and other allegedly corrupt political bosses who dominate Kandahar show no sign of giving way.

“Wesa is a weak governor,” said Rahmatullah Raufi, a former general and Kandahar governor. “If Ahmed Wali Karzai wants him to die, he will die. If he says, ‘Live,’ he’ll live.”

Isn’t that something. If it looks like a warlord, quacks like a warlord, it must be…

AP via Stars & Stripes covers the perils of contracting in Afghanistan:

Afghan companies often bid on projects that they don’t have the money or skills to complete, Wilson said. Quality inspectors end up teaching the basics of drainage or safe electrical wiring.

Small Afghan companies are also under more pressure to pay bribes to local authorities than large international firms, Wilson said. The military has received invoices for as much as $40,000 from Afghan contractors for bogus building permits, he said. International companies either have the power to say no or don’t even try to get their money back from the military.

On NATO bases, hours are also lost each day getting Afghan workers through security.

Despite the problems, Wilson says the “Afghan First” program is the right approach given the new focus on winning over the population. The problem is that this year, in the midst of a troop surge, there’s just too much to build.

Makes you wonder how much of the appropriations for Afghanistan in the budget above will actually be used for stated purposes.

Anthony Cordesman issued a pointed critique of the Obama administration’s communications efforts (or lack thereof) on Afghanistan et cetera via CSIS; some good notes, though I wonder what, if anything, Cordesman might have changed if this had been released after the Afghanistan report instead of before.

In addition to his whirlwind speaking schedule, Secdef Gates published an article in the May/June Foreign Affairs, Helping Others Defend Themselves (PDF). It effectively articulates what Gates (and presumably Clinton) would like to see change in the duration of their time with the Obama administration, perhaps in part from the conclusion of the QDR and QDDR.

The United States now recognizes that the security sectors of at-risk countries are really systems of systems tying together the military, the police, the justice system, and other governance and oversight mechanisms. As such, building a partner’s overall governance and security capacity is a shared responsibility across multiple agencies and departments of the U.S. national security apparatus — and one that requires flexible, responsive tools that provide incentives for cooperation. Operations against extremist groups in the Philippines and, more recently, Yemen have shown how well-integrated training and assistance efforts can achieve real success.

But for all the improvements of recent years, the United States’ interagency tool kit is still
a hodgepodge of jury-rigged arrangements constrained by a dated and complex patchwork of authorities, persistent shortfalls in resources, and unwieldy processes. The National Security Act that created most of the current interagency structure was passed in 1947, the last major legislation structuring how Washington dispenses foreign assistance was signed by President John F. Kennedy, and the law governing U.S. exports of military equipment was passed in 1976. All the while, other countries that do not suffer from such encumbrances have been more quickly funding projects, selling weapons, and building relationships.

Yemen, Yemen, Yemen. The Martha Brady of insurgency-riddled nations. Anyway, I’m curious to see what Gates says in his next speech–he seems to be on something of a campaign. Also, let me point out this rebuttal of Gates’ Navy League speech from Brian McGrath at Information Dissemination; it’s a point by point response, and really gets into the meat of what Gates is proposing.

Falling back is furthest from your mind

Posted in afghanistan, us defense by Karaka on 28 April 2010

Just grabbed the unclassified 152 page report out of the Pentagon released today, figured I’d pass it on. Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan. From Armed Forces Press:

The report, which covers the situation on the ground from Oct. 1 to March 31, cites progress in President Barack Obama’s strategy aimed at disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it offers what a senior defense official speaking on background called a sobering assessment of the conditions on the ground, and a recognition of the importance of what happens within the next six months in determining the direction the operation ultimately will take.

Despite increased violence, the report notes that the downward trend in stability appears to have stemmed, along with Taliban momentum.

It’ll make for interesting reading. Time for that glass of wine.

Clamoring atop the wall

Posted in us military by Karaka on 10 November 2009

More on the subject of women–specifically American women serving in the US military–some recent pieces I’ve cobbled together.

First, Boston University has an interview posted with Marine Gunnery Sergeant Patricia Chapman, BU’s new ROTC instructor.

Are female soldiers finding themselves increasingly on the front lines?

In Iraq and Afghanistan, there is really no front line. Even on base, we weren’t safe, because we’d get incoming mortar rounds. Our motor pool took a couple of rounds when we were prepping for a convoy. The front lines are as soon as you step out the gate.

Women are still limited in what we can do as far as infantry roles. On my second tour, I spent time with an infantry unit that was posted at the entrance to a city known for an al-Qaeda cell and other terror groups. They would use females as smugglers. In Iraqi and Arab culture, no man’s allowed to touch a woman other than her husband, so we searched the women as they went through the checkpoints. Large amounts of cash were one of the biggest things we were looking for. We’d find thousands of dollars, and you knew it was probably going toward IED materials.

And, not unrelatedly, this piece from Reuters, Women Marines want a chance outside the Afghan wire:

But those are trivial considerations when it comes to their sincere desire to join the grunts on the frontline if the Pentagon suddenly changed its rules.

“If somebody came and said, ‘do you want to be a grunt today?’, hell yes, I’d jump at the chance to go,” Birker said.

Jones quickly agreed. “I’ll get my M-203, let’s go,” she said, referring to a grenade launcher which can be attached to a rifle.

From Attrition, Girls With Guns Get It Done:

Still, the casualty rate for women in Iraq is over ten times what it was in World War II, Vietnam and the 1991 Gulf War. A lot of the combat operations experienced by women in Iraq involves base security, or guard duty. Female troops have performed well in that. This is a job that requires alertness, attention to detail and ability to quickly use your weapons when needed. In convoy operations, women have also done well, especially when it comes to spotting, and dealing with, IEDs (roadside bombs and ambushes). Going into the 21st century, warfare is becoming more automated, and less dependent on muscle and testosterone. That gives women an edge, and they exploit it, just as they have done in so many other fields.

I think the most important thread in all these pieces is the notion that women are already experiencing combat, in wars where there are no front lines.

I quite liked this article from All Business, A Woman’s Place Is at the Pentagon:

But there is, too, the less discussed reality that the Pentagon is at heart an institution that is in the business of war, and women are not permitted to be on the front lines of combat. That raises the question of whether women can truly rise to the top echelons of the Department of Defense. “I think in some numbers, the answer is yes. As a class, it will not be until we recognize that women are able to do, by and large, all that their compatriots can do, as long as they are held to the same standard, that you will see a true shift,” Hicks says. “I think the appetite is there.”

Of note, Kate Hoit’s documentary, Women of the Military. Kate Hoit, a female soldier, comes home from Iraq, discovers that America has a distorted view of women in the military, and makes a documentary to tell the truth of what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s military.

Trailer:

I wish I could watch this movie. Second to last, a couple quick notes on female veterans:

And finally, I keep coming back to these images over and over again from Life magazine on women during WWII. Incredible.

A WAVE Takes Target Practice

A WAVE Takes Target Practice

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