by William Boyd
Winning wars be damned.
What follows is a compendium of my own personal observations as a Marine Corps officer, as well as an exploration of official policies that reveal the Leftist corruption of our military institutions.
Liberal ideology holds the American military in a vice grip, squeezing the very lifeblood of warlike virtue from its veins.
Like academe and the mainstream media, the American military bows before the altar of political correctness, offering up sacrifices of its very being and purpose in order to satisfy this jealous god. The indoctrination into the sacred rites begins early in a marine’s career. For me, it started at The Basic School (TBS), the 6-month initial training for newly commissioned Marine Lieutenants. Throughout the course, the new officers attend a variety of social mixers with senior Captains and Majors in different occupational fields in order to discern which job they wish to be selected for at the end of the training.
The staff of TBS and the Infantry Officer Course (IOC) set aside one of these mixers for women and minorities only, so they could plead with these groups to join the combat arms—artillery, infantry, and tanks. While the staff fêted the “oppressed,” the white males returned to barracks to clean.
After the mixer, the Commanding Officer of IOC made an appeal to our class as a whole to join the infantry, while reiterating the need for women and non-whites as platoon commanders for the grunts. In his words, “Without diverse leadership that looks like America, future marines would not respect their officers.”
This kind of favoritism for “marginalized peoples” was manifest throughout my entire instruction. The treatment of women was especially egregious. Female marines rarely carried squad or platoon gear such as radios, machine guns, or batteries. They were more likely to fall out of hikes. Their injury rate was higher overall. During one hike, I witnessed a male Lieutenant, one of the largest in our platoon, carry not only his pack but that of a diminutive female officer who had been injured in the course of the march. While she limped along in tears, he plodded with her gear on top of his own in order to prevent her from falling out.
At one point, I witnessed a fellow officer holding the hand of one of his female peers during a hike in order to keep her with the platoon on a steep hill. On another occasion, two male officers physically stopped a female from falling out so that she would not fail the event. The Marine Corps is, quite literally, pushing women through some of its toughest physical training in order to ensure the “correct” level of diversity.
Basic School instructors, mine included, liked to say that in the Marine Corps “there is only one standard, the Marine Corps standard.” This is a lie. There are two standards: one for men and one for women. Thus, on the annual Physical Fitness Test, required of all marines, a perfect score for a 21-year-old male is 23 pull-ups, 110 crunches, and a 3-mile time of 18 minutes. For a female of the same age a perfect score is 9 pull-ups, 105 crunches, and a 3-mile time of 21 minutes.
Women also receive special benefits for family life. After giving birth, female marines receive 42 days of non-chargeable leave and can take an additional 12 weeks of maternity convalescent leave. “Secondary caregivers”—that is, fathers—only get 14 days. Female marines can take the 12 weeks of leave at any time in the year after giving birth. Although their duties are interrupted by taking leave, that cannot be used as a factor in determining whether women shall be promoted.
I am not unsympathetic to the needs of new mothers. The plain truth, however, is that women are utterly out of place in the military. Heather Mac Donald, in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, notes that
In September 2015 the Marine Corps released a study comparing the performance of gender-integrated and male-only infantry units in simulated combat. The all-male teams greatly outperformed the integrated teams, whether on shooting, surmounting obstacles or evacuating casualties. Female Marines were injured at more than six times the rate of men during preliminary training—unsurprising, since men’s higher testosterone levels produce stronger bones and muscles. Even the fittest women (which the study participants were) must work at maximal physical capacity when carrying a 100-pound pack or repeatedly loading heavy shells into a cannon.
Our tasks are demanding, and debasing the standards we must meet, including providing special treatment, is not in the national interest—rather the contrary. Further, though Mac Donald makes a strong case, the problems wrought by “gender equality” are even worse than she describes. For what passes for “gender equality” is frequently the opposite. One marine told me that he knew of a female counterpart who got promoted before he did even though he deployed repeatedly into combat in the Middle East, while the female never left her desk job back in the States. Female marines have their own grooming and uniform regulations. They can wear earrings, make-up, and nail polish in uniform. They are not required to cut their hair in the military style. Official policy allows them special uniforms, including those for pregnancy.
Not only does the Marine Corps bend over backwards to accommodate women in the ranks; it requires annual training on Equal Opportunity to ensure that all male marines develop the appropriate sensitivity toward their female counterparts. Battalions are required annually to fill out climate surveys that ask anonymously whether any marines have heard language deemed degrading or offensive to women and minorities.
First Lieutenant Virginia Brodie, one of the first female artillery officers in the Corps, demonstrates this zeal for language policing in her article for Task and Purpose, “Hey! You Shouldn’t Address A Bunch of Marines As ‘Gentlemen’ When the Group Includes Female Marines.” Brodie slams her former Battalion Commanding Officer for addressing a group of marines as “gentlemen” when females were present. Of course, for a Lieutenant to make such a public denunciation of a Lieutenant Colonel, and her own CO to boot, would usually be a career disaster. And yet, in the current climate, it was the Battalion Commander who might well have feared for his career. Improper deference is a sign of heresy. The Marine Corps has no room for the heterodox. As Brodie explains, “He knew I was there, but it seemed as if my presence was being disregarded. A commanding officer is responsible for setting the tone of the entire unit and, without words, he made women feel unwelcome.” A mortal sin indeed.
Dedication to political correctness and equality, says Brodie, demands that the vast majority of marines change not only the way they speak but also the way they think: “This year marks 100 years of women in the Marine Corps. For the marines who served their entire career in units with only men, the habit of only saying ‘gentlemen’ must be broken. Words matter.” Brodie’s strident feminism show why women should not be in the Marine Corps in the first place. She says that she feels “vulnerable” correcting men for not using the right language, going on to explain that she relies on her Platoon Sergeant—a man—to correct other men when she feels “powerless” and “disregarded.”
To repeat, this female officer is of such a moral fiber that she feels helpless when called by the wrong greeting. Our enemies surely quake at the news.
If only the Marine Corps cared as much about winning wars as it does about policing language—then we might actually have something to show for the last two decades of blood and treasure spent in the Middle East!
The double standards and censorship wrought by the Left evidence the corruption their ideology inflicts in our ranks. The Marine Corps, like the rest of the American military, no longer places winning wars and defending the nation at the top of its priorities. If it did, how can we explain the insistence on special privileges for an entire class of physically and spiritually inferior “warriors?”
Consider the effort required to place female sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower in the 1990s. In his book Men, Women & War, Martin Van Creveld writes that on the first mixed gender cruise 39 women, 10% of the total amount, became pregnant. All of them had to be returned home via special flights. This trend continues today. Though the phenomena are rarely noted outside the military, those who have served at sea know only too well that both sex and pregnancy are common occurrences aboard naval vessels, as they are throughout the military. Sex and pregnancy, along with women’s greater healthcare needs in general, cost the military a good deal of money, with no gain in performance to justify it.
Such a state of affairs belies the supposed seriousness of our armed forces. As Van Creveld suggests in his book, the very presence of women throws into question the purpose of having such a large and expensive military at all. Since 1945, no two nuclear-armed powers have fought a conventional war. The possibility of annihilation makes such a conflict singularly undesirable. Thus, absent real necessity, America’s armed forces have become the playground of social justice. To argue America needs women to fill roles that men will not is patently absurd. This is not Germany in 1945, when 60-year-old men were forced into the Volksstrum to fight off ravaging hordes of Soviets. The attempt to shoehorn women into a naturally male profession is the result of ideological enthusiasm, not rational policymaking.
Despite the absence of conventional threats, the United States still faces the possibility of serious conflict. As our misbegotten adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated, we can be defeated. By forcing women into a male domain, the Left eviscerates the culture of war so necessary to success in battle. How is the military supposed to concentrate on inculcating the necessary hardness of soul required to face death in war if it is more worried about ensuring female Lieutenants always feel included by public greetings?
The advent of the nuclear age did not spell the end of war. Conflict did not go away; it merely changed forms. Today, our wars are abroad. We can afford defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 1st Taliban Camel Division is in no danger of seizing DC. But this relative peace shows signs of ending. The ongoing populist backlash in Western nations signals that the state itself faces a crisis of legitimacy.
This crisis, if not resolved, could lead to ruinous conflict. A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman’s excellent study of 14th century France after its defeat at the Battle of Poitiers, gives historical precedence for what such a breakdown of social order might look like. If anarchy comes to our nation, the armed forces will be needed, not for foolish wars of empire around the globe, but to preserve America itself. With its slavish appeasement of “marginalized peoples,” women especially, our military has shown that it is unable to think clearly and confront serious threats.
If we do not reject the ideological insanity brewing in our military institutions, we may lose more than our martial virtue; we may lose America itself.