Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Yes, it's bad behavior. Immoral, and criminal. But at what point is it nature?

And if so, should that be considered in some fashion?

 Marine Corps poster from 1915 emphasizing that the Marines fight, but placing, very oddly, an attractive young woman on the poster.  One of two such Department of the Navy posters featuring women, who couldn't join the Armed Forces at the time, in male uniforms to, oddly enough, emphasize the manliness of the service.

First of all let me be frank, I don't approve the conduct I'm going to note here.  I regard it as immoral.  But that may be somewhat besides the point, or even if not, it might be part of the point.

This past week it's been revealed that nude photos of female Marines have been circulating to members of a Facebook group, Marines United.  One blogger bravely broke the story, and he's now been getting death threats. 

Of note, while his breaking the story apparently immediately resulted in the link to them on the Facebook page being pulled, they apparently almost instantly showed up on another similar site.

All of which says something, but maybe the something it says is something that the modern American just doesn't want to hear.

By all accounts, these photos include ones that were taken without permission and they also include derogatory comments about the subjects of the photos.  At least one of the subjects of the photos has spoken out (featured smiling, in uniform, holding her baby) and said that her photo has circulated for some time and that the experience "ruined the Marine Corps" for her.  Lest we pick solely on the Marines, a Navy officer was charged with taking such photos of female sailors on board his ship recently and if this conduct is limited to the Department of the Navy I'd be stunned (and, I'd note, that at least in one confessed instance the photos weren't taken involuntarily and while some undoubtedly were, I'd also be stunned if a lot of those photos out there weren't taken in the nature of "sexting" and then later had the stupidity compounded by unauthorized "sharing").

All that is horrid, and probably criminal.

It's certainly immoral, and of a very high degree of immorality.

But is it also nature?

And if so, are we blinding ourselves to nature in a way that's derogatory, insulting, and dangerous?

In the history of warfare there are nearly no examples of female soldiers of any kind serving with men in combat units.  Virtually none.  You can find, like people like to cite to, examples of female soldiers in other armies, but they are almost never combat troops and in the extremely rare instances in which they are, they're even less likely to be serving with male soldiers but in units that were, rather, all female.  I know that you can find odd counter examples, but they are truly odd.  So odd that rather than burden this thread, I'll post one somewhere else on the topic, as it's become relevant in the huge social experiment that we're running right now.

Female Red Army snipers, one of the most misunderstood examples of women in combat during World War Two.  These two are in a partisan formation, which means that their future was likely not bright even if they survived combat with the Germans.

Indeed, if a person takes a very broad definition of the word soldier, you would find that most historic armies if they were in the field for a long time (but not a short time) would tend to have a significant contingent of female camp followers that actually performed a vital role for the army in the field which later came to be filled by soldiers but which weren't regarded as soldierly roles at the time, which is significant in other ways.  This is noteworthy as that's something that tended to disappear from modern armies in relatively recent times and to some degree those camp followers were replaced, at first, by male soldiers with non combat roles, supplemented later by female soldiers, and then often by contractors.  It's sort of an odd circular example of something, but what its relevant to overall is that women have long had a support role in the service while not normally having combat roles, and certainly not while serving alongside men in combat units. 

Unless this is a freakish fact that just busts out everywhere in all societies, that means something. And one of the things it likely means is that men are more suited to the physical fighting of actual war than women. That doesn't speak loudly in our favor.  I suppose it doesn't speak completely against us either.  But war is bad and the worse behavior imaginable becomes common in warfare.  For that matter, a lot of bad behavior is simply common amongst younger soldiers and a lot of that bad behavior is specific to their gender.

Before I go to the topic at hand, let me note that this bad behavior isn't limited to women by any means, although women have long featured in it.  To give an example that I've heard personally recounted, we hear from time to time in our current wars of some combat troops desecrating bodies.  This has always been regarded in Western armies as immoral and wrong, and indeed it's regarded as sinful by any of the main Christian denominations.  But the trophy acquiring aspect of male behavior has long tolerated it anyhow.  We all know about the scalping of victims of wars on the frontier, which was done by Indians and European Americans both.  Taking of digits, like fingers, was fairly common as well, and that sort of thing has come along with us.  A Navy veteran of World War Two I knew recounted walking up to a group of Marines on board his ship, on way to one of the big island landings of World War Two, to find that they were comparing their collection of Japanese ears they had taken off dead corpses in prior fights.  I've heard of behavior of that type as late as the Vietnam War.  I'm not saying its common, nor right, and indeed its against American military regulation and has been forever, but it's pretty common male combat behavior.

Killing getting out of hand is as well.  Everyone has been made aware, in recent years, of the difficulty prisoners of any army have surrendering, so probably nothing more needs to be said about that. But just outright killing gets pretty tolerated.  A reader of Band of Brothers would know that one of the officers of the unit that book focuses on was almost certainly responsible for the killing of a group of prisoners for no sanctionable reason.  A reader of the same author's book The Wild Blue would read of a bomber dropping its munitions on a German farmhouse simply because somebody on the crew chose to do it, to the horror of another crew.  I once personally heard a second hand story by a World War Two pilot, told to him by another local World War Two pilot, of that second pilot strafing a farmer in a field simply because the Italian farmers would "have sons and he'd have to fight him too".  That's murder.  But that's also war.  It doesn't make it right.

Amongst the horrors of war, of course, is male treatment of females.  Morality breaks down in war in ways that are truly corrosive.  The longer the war, the more likely that deep moral changes occur in a society.  You can't acculturate an entire society to violence and then expect everything to be as before, even though we seem to think we can. But the opposite is quite true.  Prostitution is always a common vice wherever soldiers are and during wartime it becomes really problematic. But so does rape.

Rape is a problem that armies have always had, and they have confronted in various ways.  In antiquity most armies simply tolerated it, or even encouraged it.  The mass rape of a civilian female population was an expected consequence of being defeated in battle and was one of the reasons a defending side always hesitated to surrender even if things were very desperate.  As part of that, the simple taking of female prisoners as sex slaves was very common.

Indeed, this is so much a part of the basic nature of things, that it has been specifically noted in antiquity, with modern audiences failing to note this or, if they do, failing to understand it.   Consider, for example, the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, which provides:
When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.  If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.
This may be regarded by a modern audience as odd, but that's because a modern audience fails to grasp that this was a specific instruction to the Isrealites to temper the natural conduct.  The fighting units weren't male/female, they were male. And they were taking female prisoners. The norm at that time, and for millennia thereafter, was that some of these women would be reduced to slaves, and basically sex slaves at that.  The rest were usually just killed.  Here, the Israelites are instructed not to behave that way.  The captured female in this example was allowed to become a spouse, a huge restraint on what normally would occur.

Consider the same example form Islam, with the opposite result.  Muhammad's married soldiers, troubled by being so far away from home, and having taken sex slaves, consulted him on whether they should abstain from completing the act so as to avoid children with their involuntary mistresses.  He told them know, go ahead, it was their right.  Keep in mind that the children of slave women were still slaves and the norm was not to free them, at the time.  So Muhammad not only licensed the existing practice (he didn't create it), but he wasn't worried about that creating slave offspring, which would seem to be deeply inhuman.

Indeed sex slaves became one of the main focuses on Islamic slavery, it was so common, as Islam sanctions fairly unrestricted sex with female slaves (it doesn't work the other way around).   Often missed in the story of Islamic polygamy, a man may be restricted in the number of wives he can have, and those wives have few rights, but he's not restricted on concubines in bondage, and they have even fewer rights.

Now that's a culture, of course, that's a long ways away and in a time long past (but not as far away as we'd like to imagine, or a past that's as distant as we'd commonly believe), right? We'll neither is as true as we might suppose.

An American example, I suppose, may be provided by the 7th Cavalry following the Battle of Washita, maybe.  If stories surrounding Custer are true, at least he may have taken a Cheyenne girl as a temporary mistress, with any such mistress taken in that fashion being  victim of what we'd regard as rape by coercion today.  The Cheyennes have long asserted that this union produced a child.

The most spectacular example, of course, would be that of the Red Army late in World War Two.  By the time it entered Eastern Europe the advance had taken on the character of something out of the Barbarian Invasions.  Huge percentages of women who survived the arrival of the Red Army were raped. The numbers run into the millions.  The conduct was widely known in Russia itself and created years of domestic discord as a result, the Soviet women who stayed at home not being accepting of the conduct.

Closer to home, it is already well known that sexual abuse of women in the service is common, at least its common amongst those who care to look.  It's not going away. Frankly, with the introduction of women to combat units, anyone who believes that it will not increase, and that the worse behavior by males towards women will not increase, is simply fooling themselves in the extreme.  It will increase.  Rape will increase. Sexual harassment will increase.  It will.

And behavior like this, which is not the first example of this even this past year, will increase.

The expansion of women into combat service was part of the Obama Administration's late experiments with pretending that humans have no genders, or if they do, its multiple genders, and all gender behavior is benign.  The history, including the natural history, of our species proves otherwise.  We now oddly live in a world where we accept that physical differences are so natural that we have an all male National Football League and an all male professional baseball, but women must be placed nearly by force into heavily physical roles that they've never held in the history of mankind.

I've written here and there (and have some in the hopper) about re-incorporating a sense of the natural into our politics.  Neither party has done a good job of this in recent years.  Reconsidering women in combat and the role of the women in the military would be a good start.  They have a place in the military, but the military's place is to kill people and break things.  Some of the things it breaks are also people.  Some of those people are women.  Setting things up as if we don't have a natural history and pretending it won't happen is foolish.

None of this excuses this behavior. But at some point we have to accept that male psychology is different than female. We've been treated in recent years to photos of breast feeding female soldiers. Well, soldiers don't do that. They're supposed to kill.  That's not the better gender role, but its realistic.

The Marine Corps is the most combat oriented of any of our services by far.  And it'll have the group of men in it who are most acclimated to that role.  Nothing about that acclimation is going to turn them into choir boys. Some will be choir boys.  But its a rough dirty job that they're expected to do right in the traditional way.  Mixing sex into the picture isn't doing anyone a favor, but that's exactly what's being done.

Some of the reaction to that is truly juvenile and petulant.  But some of it is male behavior in an era which has totally lost a sense of right and wrong in regards to sexual conduct.  We might have expected more, perhaps, in eras when sex outside of marriage was accepted as immoral, even where accepted.  Now shows like Friends and The Big Bank Theory promote promiscuity as the norm.  In an era like that, do we expect a bunch of young men trained to suspend the deepest human restraint, to not kill, to abstain from photographing nude women when they can?  If that's what we expect, we're naive in the extreme.

No, we don't want them to do to that. But perhaps we should recall that a pleas of The Lord's Prayers is "lead us not into temptation".  Our society leads lots of people there all the time, and then we're amazed when the yield occurs.  Perhaps not leading is the better approach.  And perhaps we should acknowledge that we really have two genders and act accordingly.  Women haven't really been integrated into Marine Corps or Army combat units yet. They shouldn't be.

Marine Corps sniper, photograph by Cpl. April Price.

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