I dream about the military almost every other night, about Afghanistan more often than Iraq, sometimes about training. The dreams are usually tense, but not disturbing. I think my training prepared me for combat. Amazingly, the most troubling dream involves my returning to Ranger School. A bureaucratic error requires me to go again. It’s recurred more times than I can count.
Ranger School was effective because it was so God-damned hard — a 40% graduation rate when I attended. I’ve never stopped being proud of having earned the Ranger Tab, not when Ron Paul and Chuck Hagel convinced me our foreign policy was misguided, nor when the Constitution convinced me the state threatened my liberty far more than any external enemies. Even after Rothbard and Hoppe and the impossibility of a monopoly on violence, I remained proud.
The warrior ethic has likely been a virtue ever since primordial men banded together to bring down game too difficult or dangerous for lone hunters. Libertarians shouldn’t discard it because of its co-opting by the state.
Perhaps state stewardship of warrior culture makes it a lost cause and its scrutiny a moot point. Fair enough. If so, then chalk this up to sheer sentimentalism:
- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the other day that the combat arms are going co-ed for egalitarian reasons.
- Basic Training for new soldiers has be co-ed since 1994 when President Clinton re-instituted the short-lived Carter Administration policy.
- The results were bad. Co-ed environments resulted in less discipline and less unit cohesion.
- Men compete for women even when rationally, they have no conscious desire to pursue a relationship. Sensitivity training always looks ridiculous to men being trained to fear nothing. Soldiers have a very short time preference, especially in combat.
- For such a monstrous bureaucracy, I’ve always found the US Army surprisingly good at articulating its weaknesses. A more detailed account of the burdens of co-ed Basic Training is available in the Center for Military Readiness’s universally ignored “Summary of Relevant Findings and Recommendations – Army Gender-Integrated Basic Training (GIBT) – 1993-2002.“
- Combat units, like the infantry, performed some bureaucratic jiu jitsu to free themselves from the curse of co-ed Basic Training. They agitated, not for gender segregation (that would be politically incorrect), but for segregation by specialty. It just so happened that combat specialties were male-only.[While I do not have specific knowledge of the intent of the reform, this perspective expresses conventional wisdom among my fellow infantry officers.] One Station Unit Training was born.
Now imagine the burdens of a co-ed environment not in Basic Training, but in Ranger School where it’s common for students to be pushed to the point of hallucination. I was. I also went through in the winter. We huddled together for warmth every chance we had. Ranger School strips you to the bare minimums of combat effectiveness: water, a little food, clean weapons, ammunition, leadership. On patrol, Ranger students piss where they happen to be standing/kneeling/lying. When the patrol moves, they move.
Ranger students are starving, exhausted, hallucinating, often freezing, and worst of all, desperate. They function on instincts and barely so. Will these exhausted, starving, hallucinating, angry, desperate warriors be held responsible when a female form is pressed against them for warmth, or when a woman performs personal hygiene inside the perimeter? Of course not. No amount of sensitivity training would mitigate this. It will only pretend to do so while standards decline.
As is often the case in government enterprises, effectiveness is sacrificed for egalitarianism. Standards will be upheld more by bureaucratic norms (to assure fairness) and less by the judgement of Ranger instructors, who will weigh their careers against the obligation to tug and twist when they sense a weak link.
Notice, I’ve said nothing about women’s ability to complete the course. I’m sure there are a few who are willing and able. The question of their participation returns to the question of the military’s purpose.
Speaking from the old fashioned perspective that the military’s purpose is combat effectiveness, then admitting women into the most hallowed training grounds of warriors patently ridiculous. Co-ed Ranger School will not be Ranger School.
Sadly, the preponderance of the evidence seems to suggest a slew of priorities ahead of combat effectiveness. The military is primarily:
- a tool for propaganda
- a confirmation of masculinity for politicians and their neo-conservative cheer leaders
- a cash cow for military industries
- an expansive welfare system
and most relevantly,
- a playground for egalitarians and social engineers of all stripes
In America’s military and beyond it, I see a culture committed to its own destruction. Having recognized the true purpose of the military, I say — integrate away! Perhaps empathy bellies will help.