Re: The Intergrated Military (was Re: Transgender Marriage)

From: Tom Cowper (
Date: Thu Jan 17 2002 - 11:11:51 MST

On 17 Jan 2002, at 7:12, Brian D Williams wrote:

> Thanks for the interesting post.

Thanks Brian. And thanks for the great forum to post it.
> There are many situations where men and women working together
> learn to deal effectively with "sexual tension" and I see no reason
> why the military should be any different.

First let me say that I am a firm advocate of equality and integration for
women and gays and everyone else that have been traditionally excluded
from various white-male-only jobs or professions, including the military.
My concerns are for frontline infantry and combat arms units like tanks
and artillery. Yes, in our everyday peacetime lives we all learn to deal
effectively (success levels vary of course) with inevitable sexual
tension. The reason the frontline military is different is that foxholes,
trenches, jungles, and deserts, in a war, are completely different from
any other human arena. Frontline combat is a life and death struggle.
Emotions are high, continuously, days and weeks on end. Life is extremely
difficult, both emotionally and physically. The spectre of death is all
around, always in your face. Thoughts of death constantly present. Add
to that a preponderance of very young adults at the pinnacle of their
physical sexuality and the base of their emotional maturity and sexual

Winning on the battlefield is a function of mind as much as physical power
or strength. Keeping those young minds focused, motivated, inspired, and
under control is a very very difficult leadership challenge. Breakdowns in
mental and emotional discipline hinder combat effectiveness.
Historically, the army that does the best job of keeping its personnel
focused on winning is usually the army that wins. As I said before, the
issue is not can women endure or fight just as well as men. The issue is
how much combat effectiveness are we willing to sacrifice to include women
in frontline combat units, interjecting a very significant mental and
emotional detractor into an arena where life and death are the prize for
winning and losing?

> The military has it's own double standards about sex (male officers
> may date female enlisteds but not vice versa) and is highly
> resistant to change.

That's not my exactly my experience Brian, though I agree that double
standards exist all over the place, right along with good-ol-boy networks
and glass ceilings. In most places that I served fraternization either
way was taboo. But certainly abuses and double standards still exist.
> But the fact is many (including myself) see it as morally wrong to
> exclude homosexuals from service to their country. As a former
> Marine (1975-1979) I know I wasn't too fond of the concept when I
> served, but I was also young and had a lot to learn. I learned to
> deal with it at the YMCA and I'm sure others could. Those who can't
> or won't, should be the ones excluded.

First, "service" does not necessarily have to include integrated frontline
combat units. Second, as noted above frontline combat is a completely
different world from anyplace else, including law enforcement, including
the least I hope so. :) You don't get to go home at night.
There is no place to go for privacy. No time to set up separate bathrooms
or sleeping arrangements. No beds, no time outs, no showers, little
sleep. Physical relationships and emotional bonds extremely close. Throw
sex into that mix, and ok, no doubt some can handle it well. Others, a
significant number of people both male and female will not, and the
resulting turmoil will seriously impact combat effectiveness. IMO.
Lastly, I was a Marine from 1978-1983 (Went through OCS at Quantico in
1975). 2ndMarDiv Camp Lejeune, 1st Battalion 8th Marines. Where were you
> The only fair solution I've seen was a fully integrated unit as
> portrayed in "Starship Troopers." "Starship Troopers" was the book
> that convinced me to join the USMC and I was delighted to learn
> it's now on the boot camp recommended reading list.

Yup, read it twice. However, it's been quite a while since my last
reading, before the movie came out. My recollection (admittedly flawed on
occasion) is the book didn't deal with sexual integration at all. No
shower scenes that I can remember. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the fully
integrated showers was a Paul Verhoeven creation.

As far as fair is concerned, there may be ways to achieve combat equality
without putting males and females together in frontline units.
> Change can be difficult, and so is progress, but essential.

Agreed. Completely. But human evolutionary biology doesn't change
overnight. Adapting to technology is one thing. Changing attitudes about
race and sexual orientation, a matter of education and tolerance. Sex is
biology. The emotions associated with it very hard to change in the short
run. No doubt that over time, given the significant changes we will see
in the human species in the coming decades, the sex part will change as
well. And I will grant you that we COULD integrate tomorrow. My caution
is that undoubtedly our combat effectiveness will suffer from doing it.
And in a world still filled with Osamas and Sadamms we may pay a very dear
price for that particular approach to equality.

Semper fi,

Tom Cowper

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