Kathleen Parker, in her reaction to the Marine nude-pictures scandal, takes an iconoclastic approach, as she tends to do in her best work.
Of course she condemns the actions of the Marines, as anyone should, and links it to our tawdry, “narcissistic, show-and-tell-all culture,” to which neither male nor female Marines are immune.
But she also brings to bear a couple of themes of her past work, such as her dim view of sending women into combat, and our society’s recent failure to value males qua males.
You won’t see many leading columnists make such points, especially the male ones; they wouldn’t dare:
Must men be treated as women? That is, should they be trained to be more “sensitive”? If so, can you simultaneously create sensitivity in the desensitizing, killing culture that breaks down an 18-year-old’s humanity and instills in him an instinct for extreme brutality?
Put another way, how stupid are we?
There’s a reason we say in times of great peril, “Send in the Marines,” and it’s not because of the few brave, committed women among them. But try to find someone in today’s military willing to say so….
Then at the end, she quotes a retired Methodist minister who counsels veterans navigating post-traumatic stress disorder:
“Marines embrace the warrior archetype more than other branches. The shadow of this is patriarchy, misogyny and brutality. We are trained to be killing machines, deadening all emotion except anger. We’re told we don’t have the luxury of sensitivity, so we objectify everything, including women.”
Still, he’s optimistic, saying that we need to return to “the embodiment of the hero archetype in the medieval knight. Aggressiveness can be coupled with honor, nobility and compassion.”
Maybe so. But knights typically didn’t joust with women, which may be the most salient inference. That said, chivalry has a place here. An apology to the women who exposed themselves to the few, not the proud, would be appropriate — both as gesture and punishment.
” We are trained to be killing machines, deadening all emotion except anger. ”
Yeah, that’s not something we should consider admirable. Training killers means you have to keep them occupied with killing. Wrapping it up in patriotism doesn’t make it any less abhorrent.
Yes, we know you feel that way about the military and its mission, Doug.
It’s obvious – when you have a bunch of trained killing machines, you then will spend time trying to find places to deploy them (ref: Vietnam) Same theory as why churches have missionaries. Not much use if the killing machines are just sitting around. It’s almost as if there is a large number of corporations who depend on that happening. No, couldn’t be. It’s all about truth, justice, and the American way.
Yes, it actually is. Especially for the Marines.
And you have it exactly backwards. When there’s a place where they’re needed, the Marines are ready. They’re the readiest force we have…
Well, that plus sexism and homophobia. You’d think some general would order them to not engage in that behavior. Because that’s all they do is follow orders, right? Right, Colonel Jessup?
Eye status: Rolled.
You can’t handle the truth!
“Lighten up Francis”.
What we need is to retrain these guys to where they can get their mission accomplished with a stern talking to to the enemy.
And what happens when these emotionless killing machines retire, or are otherwise discharged from the army? They are, after all, killing machines; what do they kill then?
I use my warrior skills to fight social injustice, much of it in various roles in child protection. Speak with my wife and she’ll assure you the warrior mentality can be switched on and off. She knows my “warrior face” but she also knows I would never hurt her, only protect her.
Then it’s not emotionless, and it is controllable.
My friends in the USMC are officers, so I can’t speak for the enlisted guys – but I can speak for the guys I know.
They’re family-men who love their children and wives, and would do anything to protect them – and are willing to do the same to protect the country. They have a “warrior” mentality, but it could also be looked at as a “guardian” mentality. In my estimation, they certainly live up to the quote of “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy”.
They’re the sheep dogs, as opposed to the wolves or the sheep…
“And what happens when these emotionless killing machines retire, or are otherwise discharged from the army? They are, after all, killing machines; what do they kill then?”
Nothing. Nobody. Most veterans are well-adjusted people.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some who have trouble dealing with the killing later in life.
I have long believed that the greatest sacrifice we ask of our Marines and others in the military is not that they lay down their own lives, but that they are expected to kill others. One reason why I so often cite that book, On Killing by Dave Grossman, is that it explores in depth the price they pay for doing their jobs.
Here’s the “turning them into killing machines” part… Studies conducted during and after WWII determined that not only did most men in combat not fire their weapons during the battle, but many of them who DID fire did so over the heads of the enemy. This had been true through the history of firearms (Grossman includes some fascinating stats about all the unfired rifles picked up after the battle of Gettysburg), but had not been studied so closely until WWII.
Grossman attributes this to the natural, deep-seated aversion that most men have to killing other men.
Obviously, a soldier who doesn’t fire his weapon isn’t doing the job that the country has spent so much time and money preparing him to do.
So in the years after 1945, the United States changed its training. Soldiers became conditioned to quickly acquire a target, assess it and fire accurately, without time taken to deal with it on an emotional level.
But since most men (except for a tiny minority of 2 to 4 percent) have that strong aversion to killing, what happens is that they deal with the horror and the guilt LATER, long after the combat.
Which is the source of lot of PTSD…
Don’t know whether a “warrior culture” is really all that necessary. Somehow all those men firing over the enemy’s head still managed to win WWII.
“Don’t know whether a “warrior culture” is really all that necessary.”
You’re right in that it’s not necessary for our society at large to be a warrior culture like, say the Spartans of Ancient Greece. Our society has never been that way, though. A vast majority of the population (myself included) are civilians. However, for the men and women of our armed services, it’s necessary to have a different mentality.
I guarantee you that the Allies didn’t win WWII by firing over the German’s heads. The Allies won the war by breaking the industry and infrastructure of Germany and Japan, in addition to destroying their armed forces and killing their men. It was very brutal and horrible – but inescapably necessary.
“It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” -Robert E. Lee
Whether it’s called a military “warrior culture” or “warrior mentality,” it’s probably even less valuable today than it ever was. Several years ago, SecDef Gates said that anybody who suggested sending a large land force into South Asia should have his head examined. Some misinterpreted the comment as a criticism of the war in Afghanistan. But what he was actually pointing to was that fighting modern wars no longer calls for large numbers of troops on the ground. Relatedly, modern war fighting also no longer involves that much cultivation of a killer instinct. Instead, it calls for the cultivation of lots of smarts — both owing of the complexity of weapons systems and, more importantly, to the complexity of modern war itself, which, if it is to be conducted effectively, calls for more politics and diplomacy than actual fighting, even on the battlefield.
I don’t disagree with Gates on the idea that sending a large land force into South Asia is a very bad idea. Historically, invasions of Asia from outside don’t go very well. (See, Napoleon) (See also, Nazi Germany) (See also Soviet Russia in Afghanistan) (See also, the United States in Afghanistan) (See also, the United States in Vietnam).
However, I would strongly disagree with your assertion that “modern war fighting also no longer involves that much cultivation of a killer instinct. Instead, it calls for the cultivation of lots of smarts — both owing of the complexity of weapons systems and, more importantly, to the complexity of modern war itself”
Yes, our weapons systems are more advanced that the Romans. The F-35 strike fighter and the nuclear submarine are more complicated than a legion of men with short swords. However, the fundamental concept of war remains relatively unchanged. Go ask the Marines who fought in Fallujah if they think the warrior mentality was helpful or not in that fight.
I’ll put it another way. If the nature of war as so fundamentally changed, why are a relatively low-tech armed cohort of men (without air power or any high tech weapons) able to hold so much territory in the deserts of Syria and Iraq? How are the men of ISIS able to hold out against our air-power and high tech weapon systems? Are we not trying to fight them? Why does ISIS remain in existence?
I think if Alexander the Great were confronted with the situation in the middle east right now, it would not be wholly foreign to him. Sure we’d have to bring him up to speed on the tech side of things, but at a fundamental level, what we all refer to as so “complicated”…I think he would be able to see it for what it is.
Since Vietnam, the generally asymmetric nature of the conflicts we’ve been involved in and the tactics applied in particular to winning those wars (e.g. clear-hold-build) means that classic war-fighting abilities are much less important than they once were. Within “clear-hold-build,” only the “clear” part involves those old-fashioned hard skills — and even then they are greatly aided by “softer” skills needed to securely hold and then build on the success achieved. Without them, clearing can easily be reversed by a tenacious (and, more importantly, native) resistance. Which is of course why those parts of Syria and Iraq are able to hold out — despite being hit hard by our techologically advanced war-fighting machine. Like that apocryphal Confederate soldier said: “We’re fighin ’cause y’all is down here.” In short, spirit, the willingness to fight and die, is not the same as a “warrior mentality.”
The problem with fighting folks from the East is that they don’t know when they’re beaten.
Westerners are Clausewitzian — we’re about facing an enemy squarely on a battlefield, and if you win the battle, he surrenders.
Easterners are Sun Tzu. I’ve never read Sun Tzu (or Clausewitz; I’ve only read ABOUT them), but it seems I’ve heard that he’s about avoiding decisive battle with a superior force and continuing to bite the enemy’s ankles, on and on and on…
Of course, that’s a gross oversimplification. Western commanders, too, will back away from a superior force and live to fight another day. (Until, if you’re Lee, you just decide it’s time to throw the dice — hence Pickett’s Charge.)…
Better read than either: The War of the Flea, Robert Taber’s classic study of guerilla warfare — which, just incidentally, happens to be the kind of wars we’ve been involved in for quite some time.
Yes and no.
The need for the traditional role of the Army, in the sense of a million men and their armor and artillery striving against each other on hundreds of kilometers of front, as at the Bulge, is greatly reduced.
There will always be low-intensity situations in which there is no substitute for well-trained light infantry. At the tip of that spear, on the smallest scale, you have units like the SEAL teams.
But when you need to do something a little larger — retake Fallujah, strive with the Taliban for control of Helmand — the Marines are often just what you need….
“The need for the traditional role of the Army, in the sense of a million men and their armor and artillery striving against each other on hundreds of kilometers of front, as at the Bulge, is greatly reduced.”
And that’s a GOOD thing.
I’m not surprised that some (likely a few) marines would do what’s quite widely done by men in today’s society. Bragging (and often lying) about sex isn’t anything new. The technology do take it to sensational and very hurtful levels has coupled with our highly sexualized culture to show how insensitive and dismissive of the personhood of females many males have become. The tendency to blame any kind of bad behavior, on the presence of women is as over-worn and self-serving as always. “Boys will be boys when girls are around” justifies nothing, but explains our sexist standards and thinking. I think that most marines can compartmentalize killing and other violence that’s part of their job as well as most of us can. Some cannot, but that’s a matter to be separately dealt with in my view. I’ll state again as earlier that I think testosterone may be Satan’s best chemical weapon – useful in destroying lives, marriages, and relationships as well as driving tribes and nations to war. As difficult as I think it may be to be a woman in a male-dominated society, being a woman in a military culture must present other challenges. My wish is that all who choose that path are suited and equipped.
“I think that most marines can compartmentalize killing and other violence that’s part of their job as well as most of us can. Some cannot, but that’s a matter to be separately dealt with in my view.”
Thank you Harry!
You apparently aren’t familiar with a military barrack’s “Hog Board”. A Hog Board is a bulletin board where soldiers/sailors/Marines got points for posting a picture of their naked girlfriend, wife, sister, and for extra-bonus points… mother. This isn’t anything new but because more popular with the Polaroid camera. The Facebook page is just the next generation of the Hog Board.
Yes, Bob Amundson alluded to the Hog Board earlier…
So basically denigrate your family and those you have sworn to protect. That’s nice; nothing more than a clear sign of institutional moral rot.
I agree, but I was probably never Marine material…
Hog Boards weren’t just a military thing. During college I was in frat houses that had similar boards… some pictures had been up for years.
Yeah, I was never frat material, either.
But at least I wanted to be a Marine when I was a kid. I still don’t see the point in fraternities, though….
A Navy brat wanting to be a Marine??? My dad (Navy man) told me there were only two things I couldn’t do when I grew up… one of them was joining the Marines. Were you trying to give your dad a stroke?
Actually, it was a little bit his fault. In between tours of duty at sea, he was stationed for a time here in Columbia at the recruiting station downtown. He took me to work with him — I was 3 or 4 at the time — and I saw the recruiting posters. The ones for the Marines were the ones that impressed me. That gave me the idea.
By the time I grew up, I’d changed my mind. In my late 20s, when I was at the paper in Jackson, TN, I looked into going for a commission in the Navy. I went down to Memphis and took the officer’s test and everything. I did really well on it. The recruiter called me about it to tell me how well I’d done, but by that time my Dad had told me to forget it — they didn’t take people with chronic asthma.
So I gave up the idea…
When dinosaurs still ruled the world, I went through Naval Aviation Officers Candidate School (AOCS), which included the privilege of a Marine Staff Sargent Drill Instructor “teaching” me. Watch “An Officer and a Gentleman” and you’ll have an idea of how much fun I had (I loved both the Dilbert Dunker and the Helo Dunker). At the time, Drill Instructors would give “brownie points” if you could contribute to their “Hog Board.” This scandal is a modernized Hog Board.
Cultural “aircraft carriers” are hard to change; it takes time. I was an aviator before “Tailhook” changed the naval aviator culture (live hard, die young; see “The Right Stuff”). I remember thinking about what would happen if the Soviet Union attacked us on Friday nights, when many of us were at the “O Club” living hard. Or attacking on a Saturday morning when we were trying to recover from the night before.
I was disgusted by the Hog Board and I am disgusted by its new iteration; they are unnecessary distractions for true warriors. But I will be forever grateful for my military, leadership, warrior training received while serving. I am grateful for those that have served, are serving, will serve. We need warriors (and not everyone can or should be a warrior), and we need exceptional leadership to insure they are deployed correctly.
I fail to see why the warrior creed has to include misogyny. There is no reason for that, nothing that ties in with the way we as a society view our warriors. Or, frankly, how they ought to view themselves. The reason people include it is as a cop out to excuse the indefensible is that it is an easy ignore of what is really the institutionalization of boorish, juvenile behavior – behavior that should not be condoned in or out of the military.
The argument about whether women should serve in combat is a separate one. The two are in no legitimate way linked. You and Parker both seem to have missed that.
I don’t think I’ve missed anything…
Everything’s connected. Including the fact that we now have this new environment, the Web, for which we haven’t fully developed our senses of right and wrong.
An awful lot of people have trouble dealing with the power that the Web gives them to immediately publish something before the whole world — and even to do it anonymously. That’s true of the narcissists who post things about themselves that civilized people did not share before this era, but it’s a thousand times more true of those who attack and try to humiliate others — or simply fail to respect them, which is to a great extent what we have here….
Oh, and I don’t think “the warrior creed has to include misogyny.”
That quote referred to “patriarchy, misogyny and brutality” as the “shadow” of a hyper-masculine culture in testosterone is channeled for the purposes of war fighting.
Note that the same person said the answer lay the warrior code that we refer to as chivalry. A knight would never, ever have done what these guys did.
Of course, it has been strenuously impressed upon me that chivalry is not only dead but SHOULD be dead, because it’s sexist, patriarchal, condescending, yadda yadda.
But I think the decline of chivalry leads to all sorts of problems, including men thinking it’s OK to do what these guys did…
Watch now. Someone will say knights weren’t really so chivalrous in days of yore, so it’s a false ideal.
All ideals are “false” if you define legitimacy in terms of whether they are perfectly followed.
I’ve been reading a lot about REAL knights in working on my family tree. Some of them definitely engaged in behavior that would have been frowned upon by Arthur’s Round Table.
Here’s what happened to Margaret of Geneva in 1195:
Margaret was, if my tree is accurate, my 23rd-great grandmother. Her abductor, Thomas of Savoy, was of course my 23rd-great grandfather. I’m descended from one of their 19 children.
And judging by his picture, Thomas was a knight. So no, chivalry wasn’t what you’d call perfect.
But the ideal is the right idea…
That’s because chivalry was originally a two-way street. I know some people like to gripe about chivalry imposing all sorts of restrictions on women – it certainly did. Modern chivalry is now viewed as being deferential to women, but that’s not what it originally was.
Chivalry originally imposed huge restrictions on the warrior-men as well as defined a woman’s role. The root of the word is the French “chevaler” (meaning “knight”). An elite warrior of the time, who would otherwise be unrestrained from killing, raping, and taking what he wanted by force was constrained by the code of chivalry to protect others and be honorable in his actions. It imposed deference on him to women, kings, and the nobility who he could have overpowered by force of arms.
Chivalry was specifically put in place to curb and moderate the warrior ethos. It’s sort of devolved into much less, but still, the wholesale erasure of it does lead to problems. If women don’t like the virtue of chastity imposed on them under the norm of chivalry, why should men be constrained by notions of deference to women? You see the problem with trying to get rid of one side of the equation? The other side doesn’t remain static; it balances out.
The people who want to do away with chivalry because they don’t see the point of it commit the classic mistake of Chesterton’s Fence, I’ve referred to before which is:
Right, but those “shadows” are not just tolerated but promoted in our modern warrior creed. And that’s a problem. The shadow has become rot; it’s not benign…
I don’t know if that’s true.
Military commanders are very much expected to jump on something like this and put a stop to it. That’s the MODERN warrior creed, at least on the command level.
Earlier, not so much. Of course it was fiction, but I’m remembering a passage from early in Battle Cry, by Leon Uris. The battalion commander, Huxley, is talking to his noncoms about all these green kids who were going to be joining the Marines after Pearl Harbor. These sergeants had come up in a very closed little society in which everybody was an old salt like them. Huxley tells them these kids will be different, and they’re going to have to go to extra lengths to toughen them up. And among the things he mentions is that they should “show them what the inside of a whorehouse looks like.”
I read that when I was about 16, so I remembered it…
I don’t think it’s too surprising for the members of any organization to live below its ideals and creeds. A lot of the banter about this subject could substitute fraternity house for military branch. Degrading women is often the ugly cousin of subjugating them. The armed services has had to deal with sexual degradation and exploitation from “Tailhook” to West Point sexual assault and numerous “fraternization” incidents involving abuse of position or rank. Dehumanization as a means or excuse for exploitation is as old as ancient history and as current as Muslims raping “fallen” or infidel women as “punishment.” Religious crusading Spanish conquistadors sometimes demanded female sex-providers to accompany them after pillaging a Native American village. I do, though, have little doubt that the amount of abuse has increased given the current state of our hyper-sexualized culture. Far too often women are evaluated on their looks or sex appeal rather than their abilities, character, or accomplishments. I’d say that component of sexism dominates modern culture – from Hollywood to the workplace to the church pew. I wish more women were tired enough of it to raise heck, burn some bras, or most appropriately burn those horrible high heels.
I cannot believe that in 2017, in a time in which women are supposed to be so empowered and equal and all that, that so many women torture themselves tottering around on those kinky, sadomasochistic devices. It’s like the Marquis de Sade is dressing them in the morning, according to his tastes.
Not to mention the detriment to health (feet, knees, hips, back). I never thought of the de Sade aspect, but it rings a bell. I seriously want to see a revolt.
What ya’ll have said, and I tend to agree with, is that these warriors become loving family members who are fiercely protective of their loved ones. But then, they are obviously capable of emotions (hate and love are among the strongest), and they are capable of distinguishing friend from enemy and of controlling their sexual passion (or else we’d have a great deal more trouble with inappropriate sexual behavior). Therefore, if these guys can’t help targeting inappropriate women with equally inappropriate sexual behavior, and reducing women to sexual objects is certainly that, then I suggest that “these guys” who can’t are the very persons who should not be encouraged to be “emotionless” killing machines precisely because they’ve demonstrated their lack of control.
Let’s see what the response is to this situation. The character and values demonstrated here cannot be tolerated or treated with kid gloves. A man who would do this does not belong in the Marines, right? This goes to the core of the corps, right?
In related news, did you see that hundreds of ISIS fighters are in trouble for sharing pictures of uncovered women’s faces?
Kidding, kidding. Look people, if you can’t laugh about this on a certain level, you’re taking yourself too seriously.
I received this from Marine combat veteran and my new House representative Micah Caskey, which floored me:
He’s referring to the photo at the top of this post. Thanks for sharing that, Micah, and again — thanks for your service…
All this hyper obsession with the warrior mentality makes it all that more critical that we dramatically reduce our military footprint and military budget. It’s ridiculous that we still waste as much money as we do merely to create a sizable number of PTSD men and hostile middle easterners who’s way of life is threatened by our imperialism. Will we never learn the lesson of Vietnam ? How many more “mission accomplished” banners do we need to mock our foolishness before we finally get it? And that’s the real lesson we should take away from this marine corp misogyny, more warrior culture will only lead to more unexpected terrible outcomes. Perhaps that’s truth the neocons just can’t handle.
Bryan, state your current eye status…
Rather than this sacrosanct, smug condescension why not actually address my comment? You see Brad you hold this warrior mentality more out of your upbringing and “intuition” that any facts or evidence. So go ahead, roll your eyes. Shrug. Or do whatever it is a war monger does when his preconceived perception of the “truth” is challenged. But just remember who was right about the damn “mission accomplished” banner. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t the neocons.
What’s there to say, Bud? We don’t speak the same language on this.
But from the world of fact, I will again point out what the “Mission Accomplished” banner was about:
If you want to blame Bush for something, blame him for using the ship as a backdrop, and for showboating by showing up in a flight suit. You’re off-base on the banner. It was there because the sailors were glad to be going home. When people have been away for 10 months, surely you don’t begrudge them a celebration on going home, do you?
Another thing… a lot of folks make remarks about how I have the attitudes I do because of my “upbringing.”
I suppose there’s something to that. But I don’t think being a military brat is necessarily a predictor of one’s political attitudes with regard to national security. Military kids rebel against their parents’ world just as often as other kids do.
The one thing is, though, we do so from a position of knowing and understanding the people in the military. The military isn’t some monstrous thing OUT THERE that we despise and fear. We generally don’t speak of it out of ignorance.
Fascinating, isn’t it, the way that juxtaposition of that banner and Bush’s speech have blown up in public memory, particularly among his detractors?
Basically, it was, as that Wikipedia article said, a PR foulup. Nobody stopped to think how that shot, with that in the background would look. Or if they did, it was a SUPER PR foulup, because that was not Bush’s message.
Now compare that to today, when the president of the United States is a guy who gets up early in the morning and watches Fox News and Tweets statement to the world based on his twitchy, uninformed reactions to what he sees. (Did y’all see the story the other day about the morning when, for 2 hours, his tweets perfectly matched what has happening on Fox? Can you IMAGINE another president using his time that way?)
We have a guy who — based on Fox and less reliable, fringe sources, accuses his predecessor of using the power of the state to persecute him. The man who can at any time summon the heads of all intelligence agencies, the FBI and anyone else and demand anything they have on the subject still thinks he’s the blowhard at the end of the bar pulling conspiracy theories out of his posterior.
It doesn’t occur to him that you don’t GET to speculate about stuff like that when you’re the guy in charge. You need to KNOW, and you have the power to find out.
Take any previous PR problem experienced by any previous president, from “Mission Accomplished” to LBJ pulling on his dog’s ears, and they are NOTHING compared to the utter disregard of truth or propriety this guy displays by the time most of us get up in the morning.
We are in SUCH a weird, dark place.
I was watching an episode of “Madam Secretary” the other night, and it was filled with “West Wing” tropes of serious, smart people agonizing over making exactly the right gesture, using the right words, in dealing with an international crisis… and I was struck by how completely anachronistic that is now that we live in “Idiocracy”…
Now it’s my turn to roll my eyes. Sheesh, no one really believes the blather that Bush had nothing to do with the banner. He absolutely understood the implication of it. But if you insist I’ll call him out on the stupid flight suit stunt. The entire spectacle was a national embarrassment that was worse than any Trump tweet storm.
Now you’ve just gone right off the edge of the aircraft carrier.
You really need to get over Bush, Bud. It’s blinding you to the evil in front of you…
No one is more concerned with the potential horror of the Trump presidency than bud. That’s because history shows what tragic consequences a bad POTUS can render. The W years illustrate that in spades.
Did you just refer to yourself in the third person?
Bob Dole certainly hopes not! That’s Bob Dole’s thing! Bob Dole didn’t give bud or anyone else permission to use Bob Dole’s thing. Bob Dole’s getting mad!…
Yes! I was so hoping that someone else would think of Bob Dole.
Thank you, Senator.
Bob Dole is happy to help! But Bob Dole forgot his picture the first time!
Bob Dole can’t get his picture to show up! Drat that Al Gore and his Interwebs!
Those Bob Dole comments only work if you read them as Norm McDonald.
I’m okay with military cuts, as long as it’s dollar for dollar with entitlement programs. We could get out of Germany and save billions.
And here we are, at the point where the opposite ends of the political spectrum go right around the world and meet…
So what you’re saying it’ll only work if one side gives up something and the other side doesn’t. Now you’re just in the same mindset as all those protestors.
No, what I’m saying that whether it’s the left or the right, if you go out far enough you find people who are happy to cut back on national security.