Permissible Arms

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.

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