#18 OODAing (Not oogling!) Women In Combat Chap 3

I want to take a step back from the "Women in Combat" Posts because I think that this is one that can very easily get off track. My point in "Women in Combat #1" was to share my Orientation with others. By knowing where I come from generationally, and by Army conditioning, it helps frame the larger discussion. My point in "Women in Combat #2" was to point out that while this is a significant event, it will only have true merit when it is no longer an event at all.

To OODA this will take time but here's my shot:

OBSERVE: The manner in which the current war is being waged has placed more women into what has traditionally been termed "direct" combat. This method of warfare has brought the current tactical requirements into conflict with the Combat Exclusionary Laws as currently written.

ORIENT: This is the one that gets hard and happens at many levels at the same time. It will contain more assumptions than hard facts.

1. THE WAR: First, as stated earlier, this is a non-traditional method of warfare, one that the Army was not really manned, equipped, or trained to meet head on when it started. Up to 2001, the Army was designed to worked linearly and in depth. Every system we had was designed with that assumption as a start point. Units and equipment were designed to work in complimentary fashions across a front. It was also envisioned that wars would be between States/Nations with some form of nationally based political will to drive them. It is also reasonable to suggest that any war would be relatively short due to technological advances that allow immense amounts of violence over an extremely short period of time. Hence the idea of "Shock and Awe". That is not the current state of insurgent warfare. The current state suggests an amoebic, non-nation/state that is fighting an ideological war to be waged over long periods of time with no clearly defined "ultimate" winner or loser indicated by some formal surrender document. It is more likely a contest of moral and political will.

2. THE ARMY: Since the design was for a linear, in-depth Army, the separation of direct combatants from non-direct combatants was defined mostly by physical space and distance. It worked on a likelihood or probability model; and any adjustment related to the assignment policies of women was safely rooted in the notion of physical space, which provided a political 'comfort zone'. Policy adjustments made were more closely related to professional development / career enhancement reasons. Politically and socially, this probably began to occur in the mid-to late 70's and early '80's with the proliferation of women into the general workforce in more "white collar" jobs which ran along similar career progression paths. This implies that at the time when political and social change indicated an increased role for women in general, the Army found a similar way to increase professional opportunities by opening more and more career fields to them. But, still using the probability of a linear battlefield, this didn't present too much of a political risk - for either lawmakers, or the Army - because the likelihood of direct combat remained remote. A corollary to this is the move to the all volunteer force. Without the draft, the Army had to compete with the civilian workforce for Soldiers, and opening career fields to women was one way to enhance the Army's ability to attract talent. As a lawmaker, I can now support the inclusion of women into professional society - including the Armed Forces, while at the same time retaining my conditioned belief that they shouldn't be in direct combat. As long as the physical distance remains great enough, then all will be well.

3. WOMEN: There is an often used phrase called "the role of....something...in society". We have heard it many times as, "the role of women in the Army". The very word 'role' implies a defined set of norms, behaviors and expectations. I think the word 'role' actually does women in general a disservice because it is limiting by definition. This holds true for everyone, but has had an extremely adverse impact on the progress of women in society. For Millennials, the idea that women can do or be anything they want is no longer just some hopeful dream of school aged children. It is a truth. Women hold high positions throughout society in business, politics, education, the arts etc. You name the field, and it will be filled with talented women who are advancing their particular endeavor to new levels. But, that has not always been the case. In my lifetime, going back from the expected 'roles' of my grandmother, my mother, and my sister there has been a dramatic shift. That fact is evidenced best by articles such as the one about CSM King. We are still at a point where the first woman to do anything is considered a novelty. And the problem with novelties is that while some become the standard bearer for future generations, some remain nothing more than novelties. Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman on a major political ticket in the mid-80's, but her short-lived candidacy was a novelty. Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, Donna Shalala - to name a few- show the impact of women as standard bearers.
In all societies though, females play the singularly unique role of being able to give birth. Whatever other standard is applied, they are the ONLY way to guarantee the continuation of a species. That gives them the unique consideration of something that must be protected in order to guarantee survival. In plain terms, they are a natural resource - just like water and the other requirements to sustain life on the planet.
That understanding has led to behavior patterns in men and women that date back to beginning of history. Women as child-bearers and family leaders and men as providers. And war is a form of provision. If you see war as a way of providing or protecting a value system or political state of being, or the extension of a religious philosophy, then the idea that men provide those things by waging war is not that hard to grasp. The current state of women suggest an equality rarely seen in history which brings into question the behavioral norms for all of society.

4. DIRECT COMBAT: Combat is messy business. For those who have witnessed it, it has devastating effects. The more 'direct' it is, the more personalized the mess. Dropping a bomb from an aircraft can have a massive effect, but it will not have the same personalized effect of having to set gun sights on another human being and killing him/her. It takes 12lbs of finger pressure to pull the trigger on an M16 rifle. 12lbs of pressure and you can end a life. Hand-to-hand fighting is even more personalized. Men and women both are capable of exerting 12lbs of trigger pressure to equal effect. There is no other realistic physical requirement to be a combatant that gives men an advantage over women. The Army will let a 97 lb weakling join the infantry even though he lacks the endurance to carry the load, the strength to pick up a wounded comrade, or the physical stature to conduct hand-to-hand combat with a foe. Because he is male the Army will sign him up to be an infantryman if he so desires. No thought is ever given to his ability to carry out the messy business of direct combat. For women, this is not the case. Apparently, a vagina and breasts create some unknown form of physical limitation that does not exist in men. Any more fit person - larger, stronger, with greater endurance - will have an advantage in direct combat. There is no gender associated with that fact.

DECIDE: Looking solely at the current battlefield, the current law, the need for Soldiers and the demands placed upon them, as well as the societal evolution in expected norms and behaviors, it becomes apparent that the Exclusionary Laws as currently written have become out dated and require (a) abolition by willful choice, or (b) to be allowed to exist into antiquity until they are no longer relevant to the discussion. Currently, it appears that the Army has chosen plan B. By not facing the issue completely, the Army is accepting that the requirements of the war will simply render the current laws archaic and they will die out in time. That there is another option is not really being considered. Therefore, the Decide seems to be between (a) willful change and (b) the decline of relevancy over time.

ACT: Since the Army has not chosen to frame the argument with an A or B option to be studied or reviewed, the OODA loop cannot be fully formed. Since we are apparently working with only option B, then any new Observe can only be seen through that prism. The one thing that can absolutely stop the OODA cycle in it's track is a failure to allow the Act to create a new Observe.

Those are my initial thoughts on applying the OODA Loop to the Women in Combat question raised earlier. I encourage you to comment. When I wrote Chap 1, I intentionally included the "eat it, kill it, or fuck it" phrase to demonstrate the method or mindset that was ingrained in me as a young infantryman, and to admit it's relevance in the context of direct combat. It was not placed there to suggest that that mentality was the sole domain of men. Other arguments regarding physical differences between the sexes similarly are not the sole domain of one gender or the other. Ultimately, it is my belief that any Act taken with regard to Women in Combat is ultimately social in nature and as such is very much open to any change, positive or negative, in prevaling social norms.

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