Jim Webb's Piece on Women in Combat

The piece on USAF leadership reminds me to point you toward Jim Webb's long form piece from 1979, in case you didn't go back and read it while reading the commentary about the controversy it provoked. If you didn't read it because you were wanting to avoid a display of misogyny, you can stop worrying about that. The piece says little about women, most of it complimentary and supportive of equality except in combat roles -- he mentions, for example, his support for Thatcher and for a female President.

What the piece is really about is what it took to graduate from Annapolis and survive as a Marine Platoon Leader in Vietnam. It serves as a reminder of how much uglier war gets than what we have seen in the long years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were often ugly enough. Yet there is no guarantee that future wars will not look like the one he describes, for those who can stand to read the description.

That is coupled with a call for a much more punishing regime of training than the one we employ now, more punishing even than the one he observed in 1979. He is clear on how the brutality of the plebe year he experienced at Annapolis carried him through the worst parts of Vietnam. In addition to that, the brutality of that training doubtless kept many a young man who wouldn't have survived the strains of war out of the critical role of battlefield leadership. That's another hard matter, one that I do not see on the field of ideas today: I gather that the idea of psychologically brutal training is still considered acceptable for certain special operations roles, but otherwise is taken to be an abuse of the young Americans who volunteer for military service.

1 comment:

raven said...

A buddy told me he went 70+ days without a shower. At Khe Sanh. 2/1 Marines. Not a place for women.