15 February 2014

It Has Nothing To Do With The War. Really.

According to data obtained by the Associated Press, the number of officers forced out of the Army due to misconduct has more than tripled in the past three years.  In the meantime, the number of enlistees who left the Army under similar circumstances has nearly doubled.

Increases in both categories, though not quite as dramatic, were also reported in the Navy and Air Force.  

I am writing about this issue because some of those officers and enlisted personnel resigned, whether on their own accord or under duress, after being charged with sexual assualt.

General Ray Odierno, the Army's top officer, admitted that his branch of the Armed Forces sometimes "overlooked character issues" as it struggled to recruit as many men and women as it needed to fight twelve years of war on two different fronts.  Because of those difficulties, many soldiers and officers were repeatedly re-deployed, which may have pushed some whose stability and sanity were already questionable over the edge.

While General Odierno couched his criticisms in bureaucratic language, as people in positions like his are wont to do, he was at least more forthright than Army General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He insisted, "It is not the war that caused this". 

Oh, really?

So you mean to tell us that war doesn't hype up a military culture based on male domination enforced by violence?  Or that the promotions many female enlistees and officers have earned couldn't have stirred up the resentment of male recruits with borderline personalities?

I also can't help but to feel that in our invasion of Iraq, and our attempt to do the same in Afghanistan, our "enemies"--which is to say, anyone who is or seems as if he or she could be from those countries or any that surround them--have been demonized and even dehumanized in ways that our foes in previous wars never were.  Some of that had to do with the events of 11 September 2011, to be sure. But I think there's also some pure-and-simple bigotry at play:  Germans, Russians and even Japanese never seemed to evoke the visceral hatred too many of my compatriots express at the mere thought of someone who's Middle Eastern or Muslim.

And, of course, when you look closely at racism--or, for that matter, any other form of bigotry--the object of one's hatred is always seen as someone to be sexually subjugated. That is the reason why racism and other kinds of hatred are so intertwined with sexism, homophobia and transphobia.  It's also the reason why there are women--particularly in the ranks of officers--who have behaved just as badly as men:  They know that to survive in such an atmosphere of male domination and repression, the have to behave like such men. 

In brief, as long as there is war--especially if the same people are deployed over and over again to fight it--some of those people will turn on each other.  And, in an atmosphere of brutality and domination, sex will be one of the weapons.