The new Nazi army: How the U.S. military is allowing the far-right to join its ranks.
September 6, 2008 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Nazis in the military is dedicated to the investigative project undertaken by journalist Matthew Kennard while studying for a MS in Investigative Journalism at Columbia University in New York. It was completed over six months and explores the increasingly liberal attitude of the U.S. military to neo-Nazis and white supremacists serving in the armed forces. via

He also wrote about GOP teens at the convention, Chomsky approves. Chuck Mertz in depth interview(mp3) third hour
posted by hortense (81 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think it might be against the law for the Army to ask questions about stuff like that. Likely it's the same law that makes it illegal to ask if recruits are gay.
posted by Class Goat at 11:14 PM on September 6, 2008


Explores the increasingly liberal attitude at the Dept of Justice...
posted by hortense at 11:14 PM on September 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Man, that's some bad writing.
posted by orthogonality at 11:20 PM on September 6, 2008


I think it might be against the law for the Army to ask questions about stuff like that. Likely it's the same law that makes it illegal to ask if recruits are gay.

Probably not the same law; as far as I know, Don't Ask Don't Tell is a very specific law, narrow in its focus.

However.. not asking about Neo-Nazi tendencies is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's good because in theory people should be in the armed forces to serve their country and nothing more. On the more pragmatic hand, given the history of white supremacist groups, it's probably a bad idea to be giving them military knowledge and training.

Not sure how to resolve that.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:24 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


This post bothers me, because of what it implies.

It is legal in this country to be a neo-Nazi. The government isn't supposed to discriminate against people on the basis of their political beliefs. Why is it that the OP seems to think that the government should be able to, and should be, preventing neo-Nazis to join the Army, or any of the military services?

Just because you despise what they think (as do I) that doesn't mean we can use the power of law against them, or legally discriminate against them. This is a pluralistic society, and the First Amendment applies just as much to neo-Nazis as it does to liberal Democrats. As long as they don't commit any crimes, their despicable ideology is legally protected.

It is their constitutional right to be assholes. We have to tolerate that, because if we start discriminating against them, what is to prevent someone else from discriminating against us for our own constitutionally-protected political beliefs?

Your dedication to pluralism and belief in freedom is tested, and proved or disproved, by how you deal with those whose beliefs you emphatically disagree with.
posted by Class Goat at 11:25 PM on September 6, 2008 [20 favorites]


Why do people continue to think blatantly editorial headlines are acceptable? Do you need to be physically slapped to stop doing this shit? It's counterproductive to whatever cause you may have, and just plain wrong to boot.
posted by Epenthesis at 11:27 PM on September 6, 2008


You know who else had a Nazi army?
posted by autodidact at 11:34 PM on September 6, 2008 [21 favorites]


The Southern Poverty Law Center?
posted by hortense at 11:40 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmm.

I'm not sure I mind, really. Letting them join the Armed Forces seems like a pretty good way of getting rid of them.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:56 PM on September 6, 2008


Why do people continue to think blatantly editorial headlines are acceptable? Do you need to be physically slapped to stop doing this shit?

The headline in this case is expressing clearly the content and theme of the post. How would you re-write it to make it nuetral? And from where exactly are you getting the idea that it isn't acceptable to post with a bias for or against something? You are not, as far as I know, a moderator of this forum. The actual mods don't physically slap people here anyway, they do it metaphorically. (Any physical slapping they do in their offline activities is of course their own business.)
posted by longsleeves at 12:07 AM on September 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Then again, neo-Nazis with guns + colleagues and innocent civilians of not-so-alabaster complexion = probably not good.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:07 AM on September 7, 2008


And from where exactly are you getting the idea that it isn't acceptable to post with a bias for or against something?

There's a long string of posts which have been deleted because they were too axe-grindy, usually with dismissal reasons along the line of "Post this to your own blog".

I half expect this one to go for that reason, too.
posted by Class Goat at 12:11 AM on September 7, 2008


Letting them join the Armed Forces seems like a pretty good way of getting rid of them.

Getting rid of them, giving them extensive training with small arms and explosives, allowing them to represent American humanitarian interventionism in non-white countries, and then bringing them home again with their murder training intact and a now-extensive network of contacts within the military. What could possibly go wrong?

Why is it that the OP seems to think that the government should be able to, and should be, preventing neo-Nazis to join the Army, or any of the military services?

Because the military services are allowed to kill people, and if you want to murder your race-enemies and get away with it, you probably can once you're stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Stop thinking about the right of fascists to join the army for a minute, and start thinking about the Iraqis and Afghans who are having their exciting new democratic states constructed and policed by heavily armed Nazi gangsters.
posted by stammer at 12:14 AM on September 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


The government isn't supposed to discriminate against people on the basis of their political beliefs.

Why is it that the OP seems to think that the government should be able to, and should be, preventing neo-Nazis to join the Army, or any of the military services?


I still have a picture of my little 11 year-old self, neatly dressed with my beret and red scarf, in front of a banner welcoming the Young Pioneers to a big meeting. (The Young Pioneers were a Communist youth organization common to many Communist countries, and most kids were a part of it regardless of their feelings about Communism - if they had any at all at a young age.)

It's a funny photo, but the image of it in my head filled me with fear when I was working to become an American citizen and was asked if I was or had ever been a member of the Communist Party. Did being a Young Pioneer make me one? I didn't think so, so I said no. But I was struck that this question - in a country where one can legally be a Communist, was even asked. They also asked if I'd been a member of or affiliated with the Nazi Party. I'm not about to argue that Communism and Nazism should be a part of mainstream America, but this too seems against the spirit of the Constitution to me. So does the "quota" system that will let into American a huge number of immigrants from, say, Sweden, but maybe two per year from Togo. These quota systems are built on racist beliefs and are extraordinarily discriminatory.

The fact is, America has always been willing to ignore the Constitution in many matters - even in the military. The military "prevents" all sorts of people from joining - people who could file discrimination suits were it any other kind of job:

1) You can be refused if you're over 42.
2) You can be refused if you're openly homosexual.
3) You can be refused on the basis of physical impairment.
4) You can be refused many duties / assignments if you're a woman.

There are a lot of other things which might disqualify you in addition to those above. But essentially, the military is allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual preference, age and handicaps.

The military's excuse is that one requires a certain fitness to serve. This addresses most these, but not the rule against women in combat or the restriction against open homosexuality. These restrictions are wrong, but many in the military support them by saying that the "mingling" of homosexual or female soldiers with heterosexual male soldiers would undermine morale, sow disharmony and so on.

Obviously, this puts the onus on the "innocent" person - the woman and/or homosexual who simply wants to serve his or her country. People who can't accept people born as they are should not enlist. In fact, they should be actively discouraged from enlisting. The military's policy on this is about 100% backwards.

Ditto the neo-Nazis. Neo-Nazism is an ideology which does not square with the ideology under which the American military operates. If you believe that a fellow soldier is part of a subhuman race which should be wiped off the planet for no more reason than that person happened to be born black or Jewish or whatever, then you cannot truly meet the requirements of the military, and you will undermine morale and cause mistrust, not because of the biases of your fellow soldiers, but because of your own.

The military has never been and will never be an equal opportunity employer. The primary tragedy in that is that they've often discriminated against great people in order to appease the haters, which is wrong and should be changed. (In terms of some factors, such as race, the policies have changed, with no apparent problems. But change is slow in the military.) A sense of unity and harmony is necessary to maintain an effective military force; individuals whose ideologies undermine this unity and harmony because of their discriminatory and hateful nature should not be allowed.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:19 AM on September 7, 2008 [59 favorites]


I think it might be against the law for the Army to ask questions about stuff like that. Likely it's the same law that makes it illegal to ask if recruits are gay.

You can't be serious.

The government isn't supposed to discriminate against people on the basis of their political beliefs.

Why not?

Look, in the U.S. antidescrimination laws work on the basis of protected classes. Under federal law, you're not allowed to discriminate against people due to race, color, religion, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, and veteran status. Recently genetic details were added and in some states you're not allowed to discriminate against gays. But if it's not on the list, you can discriminate away. You're free to discriminate against unattractive (or overly attractive) people against fat people, people you think are too skinny, people without ivy league degrees, people who drive japanese cars, people who read FARK, AOLers, whatever.

Obviously for federal positions there are extra rules. You can't choose not to hire someone because they are a democrat, however I don't think that applies to extreme viewpoints at all.
posted by delmoi at 12:33 AM on September 7, 2008


(In terms of some factors, such as race, the policies have changed, with no apparent problems. But change is slow in the military.)

As far as race is concerned the military was way ahead of the rest of society, the military was desegregated in 1948, by executive order.
posted by delmoi at 12:39 AM on September 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Gang-Related Activity in the US Armed Forces
posted by PenDevil at 12:48 AM on September 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'm going to skip over the glaring misconceptions that have already been addressed and just share my personal experience.

My contract with the Marines is almost up, and in the 3+ years active duty I've served thus far, I can count the number of outspoken racists I have met on one or two hands. Neo-nazis? Not even close. Zero.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 12:49 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish I could favourite Dee Xtrovert's comment roughly a bazillion times.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:56 AM on September 7, 2008


As far as race is concerned the military was way ahead of the rest of society, the military was desegregated in 1948, by executive order.

Desegregated yes, but there were race riots in the US Navy as recently as 1972.

I don't have the time right now to explain to the Class Goat about how membership in an organization that advocates the violent overthrow of the US Government disqualifies you from joining the military. Hopefully someone will be along shortly to clear that up for you.
posted by mlis at 1:05 AM on September 7, 2008


And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I
wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and
guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill,
KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and
he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down
yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me,
sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."

posted by louche mustachio at 1:11 AM on September 7, 2008


I just think it's heartwarming that, however extreme the neo-Nazis may be, at least we can find common ground on the principle that those who think Wrong Thoughts should have their rights curtailed.
posted by Makoto at 1:13 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bringing the war back home, full employment.
posted by hortense at 1:14 AM on September 7, 2008


I just think it's heartwarming that, however extreme the neo-Nazis may be, at least we can find common ground on the principle that those who think Wrong Thoughts should have their rights curtailed.

What right is at stake here?
posted by stammer at 1:20 AM on September 7, 2008


I just think it's heartwarming that, however extreme the neo-Nazis may be, at least we can find common ground on the principle that those who think Wrong Thoughts should have their rights curtailed.

That's a nice--and typically American--strawman, but I don't think that's what's being discussed here. I think what's being covered is the idea that giving people who have severely antisocial tendencies access to military training, knowledge, and weaponry might not be a good idea.

Would you have given Ted Bundy, knowing his proclivities, that training? That's what people are concerned about.

People have the right to be assholes; they don't have the right to inflict certain well-defined types of assholery on others. Military training increases the degree to which those types of assholery can cause serious damage.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:25 AM on September 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


Wow, good thing non-Nazi street gangs aren't in in the military.

The military is always going to be a cross-section of the less well to do classes of society. How do I know? Because I was in the military.

Yes there will be some white racist Nazi fuckheads in the military but outnumbering them will there be other gangbanging fuckheads of all races.

Eh- on preview: what PenDevil said.
posted by Hiding From Goro at 1:40 AM on September 7, 2008


Wow there were some serious typo/grammar errors in that post I neglected to fix... I could have sworn I hit preview instead of post.

That will sure learn me.
posted by Hiding From Goro at 1:42 AM on September 7, 2008


I just think it's heartwarming that, however extreme the neo-Nazis may be, at least we can find common ground on the principle that those who think Wrong Thoughts should have their rights curtailed.

The very instant you call for the mass-murder of lesser races and anybody who isn't sufficiently fascist, I'm happy to pretty much ignore any rights claims you're making. I'm certainly not hostile to the notion of revolutionary change, but neo-Nazis don't want a revolution to make this a better world for everyone- they want to kill you and everyone who isn't them.

White liberals, ugh! So "open-minded" that your brains are going to fall out. So "tolerant" that you'll tolerate people who are planning to kill you. Look at Nazi Germany. Look at Fascist Italy. Look at any authoritarian nation. You think they'll tolerate you? You think all your tolerance and respect for their rights is going to save you from them? You think your non-violence is going to win against their guns? Maybe you're counting on your race to save you. Whatever you're thinking, know that at this very moment, they work toward a day when you'll be marched to the gas chambers along with the blacks, the Jews, the queers, and all the other undesirables. Don't understand that which has no understanding. Don't tolerate what has no tolerance. Give them all the rights you want, they still won't give you yours.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:53 AM on September 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree this thread would have been well-served by including other skewing elements that are changing the integrity and potential impact of our military, which is what some of the complainers are on about, I think. Neo-nazis and other gangs are allowed in AND to "express" themselves; rapists don't have to leave if they can keep things quiet; felons...

...it's not weird to want one's military to contain balanced individuals not known for enjoying violence. It would be nice, in fact, if we had a military that didn't allow its own members to do evil things, regardless of justification. Since we can't have that, standards of employ that require a clear and unbiased mind in order to serve one's country without shaming it don't seem to be too much to ask.

Sadly, throwing cursorily trained, under protected, over leveraged troops at infinite problems like terrorism means we've wasted many more lives than the currently underwhelming and dishonest military recruitment machine can make up.

Since we've been making this mistake for a pretty long time and the stories of poorly treated, confused, mentally ill, and under utilised military folks coming home and continuing where they left off in the war zone just grow and grow, it does surprise me that so many would respond in a knee-jerk fashion to increasing the number of ex-military with axes to grind and new skills with which to do just that, particularly when even the more adjusted individuals are having integration and coping issues that the system is incapable of handling right now.

I don't find it nearly as surprising as seeing some folks not getting why we wouldn't want separatists and hate-mongers in our military, though. Just the toll on a group with a normal mix of colours and viewpoints alone when trying to also deal with the stress of being deployed in a high-danger situation seems like an incredibly ill-advised scenario to flirt with.
posted by batmonkey at 2:09 AM on September 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


don't/doesn't; to be

danged typing at 4am...

posted by batmonkey at 2:10 AM on September 7, 2008


This article might have been more interesting had it shunned the white rabbit of Nazism and attempted a wider perspective on gang culture among the military rank and file, or even ventured comparison with US prisons. There's something more to this than the particulars of the flags and watchwords certain groups use to unite and divide.

Our prison system is, as a model, possibly the closest we ever come to total state control; yet the ground floor of this institution is something bizarrely close to seething anarchism, a violent fracturing along the most basic lines - race, skin, sexual identity.

Not to overreach, but I do see parallels here. The military as an environment is defined by extremes of abstract control and violent chaos. It is a place where homosexuality is at once a barely suppressible subtext and a cardinal sin. And it is a place where societies resort to casting out undesirable males, the violent and disenfranchised, our excess, to be straightened-out or used up. To seize on a single thought:

Letting them join the Armed Forces seems like a pretty good way of getting rid of them.

If gang culture flourishes within prisons for any of the reasons above, we should only expect it to take root in the military.

It is their constitutional right to be assholes. We have to tolerate that, because if we start discriminating against them, what is to prevent someone else from discriminating against us for our own constitutionally-protected political beliefs?

As much as I agree with this from a philosophical standpoint, I'd hasten to point out the difference between some Myspace jock with an Odalist rune tattoo and Stormfront account, and a dyed-in-the-skin member of a criminal syndicate. Their differences are substantive, but their imagery and even professed values do intersect.

Most closed brotherhoods and subcultures, with their alien and outlaw imagery, look vaguely alike. It's a tiny subset that, insignias laid aside, follow the universal logic (silence, blood-in, blood-out) of mafia organizations. But there's still an (conscious) overlap between mafia imagery and counterculture imagery, and such constant flux and appropriation between the parties, that it's easy to see the wildest lone percentile behind one hundred percent of the imagery. Who takes the time to sift between Motorcycle Club insignias? Snap judgment.

So does skinhead mean Agnostic Front, or communism, or labor, or (White) nationalism, or gay sex?
posted by kid ichorous at 2:12 AM on September 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


It is their constitutional right to be assholes. We have to tolerate that, because if we start discriminating against them, what is to prevent someone else from discriminating against us for our own constitutionally-protected political beliefs?

First they came for the Nazis...
posted by atrazine at 2:48 AM on September 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


My contract with the Marines is almost up, and in the 3+ years active duty I've served thus far, I can count the number of outspoken racists I have met on one or two hands. Neo-nazis? Not even close. Zero.

I totally agree. I've lived almost my entire life inside the world of military culture, from my birth in an Army hospital to a career officer, to my marriage to a career Infantry officer, and my 25 year career as an employee of one service or another. I'm not going to say there aren't any Nazis in the military. But I have to take everything posted on that website with a huge grain of salt.

For someone who is supposedly working towards a Masters in Investigative Journalism, that was some of the shittiest reporting I have seen in a long time. There was no real effort to verify any of what I suspect were great big, fat, porky, self-aggrandizing lies told by the some of the main "sources." Let's take, for example, this paragraph:
“He [Command Sgt. Maj. Dunn] used to say to me, ‘The only reason I like you is you’re racist!’” says Fogarty. Even Colonel Todd Wood, the highest authority at [Fort Stewart], doted on him, according to Fogarty. Was it because they wanted to retain good fighters? “Yes exactly,” says Fogarty. “Colonel Wood didn’t know [about his racism], but they didn’t want me to get out, they were taking me to dinner, taking me and my wife out.” Col Wood was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in October 2005.
Ft. Stewart is an Infantry Division garrison. The highest ranking officer would NOT be a mere Colonel, but a Major General (2 star). Even so, I'd be surprised if an O-6 even knew that Fogarty existed - he certainly wouldn't be taking him and his wife out for dinner. There is just no scenario in which a Colonel would be taking a junior enlisted man and his wife out to dinner socially. Conveniently, COL Wood is dead and the story can't be verified.

Kennard doesn't even get the little stuff right. Fort Richardson isn't in Arkansas. It's in Alaska. Isn't basic factchecking something that a Masters candidate should have learned in undergrad journalism courses?

Every article I've ever read about white supremacists overflows with the same self-glorifying bullshit stories about the extreme activities that these cretins claim to have engaged in. I call bullshit on 95% of it. I don't doubt that there are extremists in the military. It reflects American society - always has, always will, and that's the way it's meant to be. I do call bullshit on most of the statements made by these self-identified military skinheads.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 3:34 AM on September 7, 2008 [14 favorites]


blatantly editorial headlines are acceptable?

What are you talking about? The headline contains no editorializing whatsoever. It's the title of the article linked in the first word.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:46 AM on September 7, 2008


I have often read about the hard right religious types who try to convert, spread their religious word and convictions and are heartily approved by many officers in the military, but then we don't want atheists in foxholes.
posted by Postroad at 4:08 AM on September 7, 2008


Do you need to be physically slapped to stop doing this shit?

If we can't do anything at all about Nazis in the military, what defense do we have against thread nazis?
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:31 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


kid ichorous: Our prison system is, as a model, possibly the closest we ever come to total state control; yet the ground floor of this institution is something bizarrely close to seething anarchism, a violent fracturing along the most basic lines - race, skin, sexual identity.

That's a fascinating insight. It made me think immediately of the Soviet Gulag system, riven with ethnic and political gangs while being utterly despotic (e.g. Anne Applebaum's "Gulag: A history.")
posted by alasdair at 5:48 AM on September 7, 2008


Some of those that work forces
are the same that burn crosses.
posted by kcds at 5:50 AM on September 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


To those arguing that neo-Nazis should be allowed in the military:

Would you make the same arguments to allow Islamic fundamentalists (e.g. supporters of al-Qaeda) in the military?

If not, why not?
posted by plep at 6:03 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Aren't the crips and bloods sending some of their members into the military for "training"?
posted by sandking at 6:04 AM on September 7, 2008


what in the world is "seething anarchism"?
posted by jammy at 6:09 AM on September 7, 2008


Our prison system is, as a model, possibly the closest we ever come to total state control; yet the ground floor of this institution is something bizarrely close to seething anarchism, a violent fracturing along the most basic lines - race, skin, sexual identity.

This could also be a form of 'divide and rule' - the authorities using, or at least being passive to, prison gangs as they help regulate the prison population. Division on racial and other lines prevents the prisoners from ever uniting and becoming a serious threat.
posted by plep at 6:21 AM on September 7, 2008


(In terms of some factors, such as race, the policies have changed, with no apparent problems. But change is slow in the military.)

Not in the US. The armed forces are easily the most integrated part of American society, and the most strongly devoted to racial integration. There's not really anywhere else in the US where it's completely boringly normal for a black man to be barking orders at a collection of 25 outright crackers.

Why is it that the OP seems to think that the government should be able to, and should be, preventing neo-Nazis to join the Army, or any of the military services?

The OP really doesn't like neonazis.

In any case, AFAIK neo-nazis, believing communists (but not necessarily party members), and Cthulhu-worshipers are allowed to join the military.

What neo-nazis aren't allowed to do is cause problems by acting racist, because that causes problems with unit cohesion and morale in an integrated military.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:46 AM on September 7, 2008


The government isn't supposed to discriminate against people on the basis of their political beliefs.

On the other hand, it regularly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, which for some reason doesn't resonate with the right-wing element as something to protect as much as political beliefs, which are certainly personal choices.

Your dedication to pluralism and belief in freedom is tested, and proved or disproved, by how you deal with those whose beliefs you emphatically disagree with.

You know what? Let's see that spirit of pluralism and belief in personal freedoms applied across the board — for example, with how the Army very recently disrespected pagan soldiers and about how some higher-ups in the military support integrating fundamentalist Christianity with training — and then we can have an adult talk about respecting the rights of asshole Nazis.

I half expect this one to go for that reason, too.

Because you're upset at some political questions in AskMe doesn't give you the right to poop in this thread. Flag it or take it to Metatalk if you don't like the subject matter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:07 AM on September 7, 2008


So does the "quota" system that will let into American a huge number of immigrants from, say, Sweden, but maybe two per year from Togo. These quota systems are built on racist beliefs and are extraordinarily discriminatory.

They would be if the US used them, but it doesn't, at least not in the sense that you mean.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:32 AM on September 7, 2008


Islamic fundamentalists (e.g. supporters of al-Qaeda) in the military?
posted by hortense at 9:39 AM on September 7, 2008


How is it even a "right" to join the military? If I owned a store, and I didn't want to hire neo-nazis to staff it, that would be completely legal. Nazism is not a protected class.
posted by delmoi at 9:43 AM on September 7, 2008


My dad served in the Marine Corp during the Korean conflict with several Nazis - the original article - straight from Germany post WWII. I've found many of the comments in this thread interesting and a bit disturbing - the US has always had far too much tolerance for Nazism, from our support of eugenics to our continuing preference for white Europeans in immigration. I'm not surprised to hear that there are active Nazis in the military, nor am I surprised to hear members of the military deny it. There is so much background radiation of racism in this country that unless a Nazi where to get up and wave a flag, many people wouldn't even recognize them.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:49 AM on September 7, 2008


My contract with the Marines is almost up, and in the 3+ years active duty I've served thus far, I can count the number of outspoken racists I have met on one or two hands. Neo-nazis? Not even close. Zero.

Crunch (or any other military types), did you see gang activity, signs, connections? I read about that much more.


Look at any authoritarian nation. You think they'll tolerate you? You think all your tolerance and respect for their rights is going to save you from them?

Yep, it's prudent to remember that in most fascist/communist/etc. revolutions in the 20th century, artists and intellectuals were slaughtered en masse pretty early on.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:53 AM on September 7, 2008


(oops, second quote supposed to be all italics above)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:54 AM on September 7, 2008


So, if you want to keep neo-Nazis out of the military, how exactly would you do that? Would you look for membership in specific groups? Presumably, there might be all kinds of groups that you'd want to filter out in that case, not just Nazis. How would you confirm that these people are actually members of the banned group? It's not like they keep roll call or anything.

If you can't effectively block people because of their membership in specific groups, how else would you do it? Any other method would strike me as punishing thought crime, which isn't a road we want to go down, is it?

Anyway, I think that neo-Nazis should be forced to join the military, because it's the one place where they're most likely to have those beliefs beaten out of them. When I was in the Army, there were plenty of Southern crackers who didn't like black people, but they learned very quickly not to express that openly, because they'd have to live and work with black people. You don't just get to hang out with the people you like in the military, you're forced to be in close quarters with all sorts of people.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:43 AM on September 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


White liberals, ugh! So "open-minded" that your brains are going to fall out. So "tolerant" that you'll tolerate people who are planning to kill you. Look at Nazi Germany. Look at Fascist Italy. Look at any authoritarian nation. You think they'll tolerate you? You think all your tolerance and respect for their rights is going to save you from them? You think your non-violence is going to win against their guns? Maybe you're counting on your race to save you. Whatever you're thinking, know that at this very moment, they work toward a day when you'll be marched to the gas chambers along with the blacks, the Jews, the queers, and all the other undesirables. Don't understand that which has no understanding. Don't tolerate what has no tolerance. Give them all the rights you want, they still won't give you yours.

Funny. That's pretty much the speech I would use if I were a Nazi.
posted by srboisvert at 1:20 PM on September 7, 2008


It seems that a lot of people are confused about some basic facts. One, the article is, as mentioned,is poorly fact-checked and researched, but fortunately, this is isn't the only evidence of gang activity in the military, so were not left to discuss a crappy article.

In any event, the military has rules about admission and conduct, and no, they don't allow professed Nazis Party or Communist Party members, because, as MLIS said, you can't join the military if you're involved with a group who advocates the violent overthrow of the government. In addition, the military has Equal Opportunity rules regarding prohibition of unlawful discrimination, namely, race, sex religion, national origin, and also includes sexual harassment policy. This includes things as simple as a "White Pride" tattoo being a barrier to military service. This is not to say that assholes don't get into the military, and some even manage to perhaps find some support in violation of EO. The military is a big place, and people have been getting in regardless of regulations for a long time.
posted by Snyder at 1:24 PM on September 7, 2008


I'm going to have to agree with crunch buttsteak. In my time in the service I only met one person with with supremacist tattoos (he was discharged for medical reasons) and no people who claimed current membership in any white power type organization. Of course there were people who were blatantly racist and a couple who claimed past affiliation with skinhead/Klan type groups. Far more common were people who had what I recognized as street gang tattoos (primarily Folks).
posted by MikeMc at 1:26 PM on September 7, 2008


White liberals, ugh! So "open-minded" that your brains are going to fall out. So "tolerant" that you'll tolerate people who are planning to kill you. Look at Nazi Germany. Look at Fascist Italy. Look at any authoritarian nation. You think they'll tolerate you? You think all your tolerance and respect for their rights is going to save you from them? You think your non-violence is going to win against their guns? Maybe you're counting on your race to save you. Whatever you're thinking, know that at this very moment, they work toward a day when you'll be marched to the gas chambers along with the blacks, the Jews, the queers, and all the other undesirables. Don't understand that which has no understanding. Don't tolerate what has no tolerance. Give them all the rights you want, they still won't give you yours.

The Nazi menace is everywhere! Even your own neighbor may be Nazi! Be ever vigilant! Watch out for Nazi hordes that could be on your street right now!
posted by Snyder at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2008


Look at any authoritarian nation. You think they'll tolerate you? You think all your tolerance and respect for their rights is going to save you from them?

No. I think my tolerance and respect for our rights will keep us from becoming them.

This is not about "authoritarian nations", this is about minority political belief in America. Even this article (which is ridiculously and blatantly trumped-up, as ereshkigal45 points out) only comes up with 1,400 members of extremist White Power groups in the US Armed Forces -- sorry, but that's nowhere close to anything that anyone needs to "save me from", thank you very much, and it's also nowhere close to being serious enough to justify (an authoritarian) Red Scare Part II sort of response. The Armed Forces already have rules against active participation in extremist groups; the real problem here is the across-the-board relaxation of regulations in general, not a handful of neo-Nazis who happened to take advantage of it.

I've had some personal troubles with Nazi types before, but the simple truth is that persecution and censorship gives these groups much of their power. It plays directly into the mythos they've built up. As long as we're not willing to talk honestly and openly about racist/fascist/radical traditionalist issues in this country -- and by honestly, I do not mean sensationalist scare-tactic crap like this article -- then all we're doing is driving more people into the ranks of hate groups, because there's no place where one can talk about these things in a reasonable manner. The traditional double-knee-jerk one encounters on both sides of this issue is a big part of the problem, not the solution.

So, by all means, push the members of these groups (and, by extension, everyone else who dares to hold these kinds of opinions) out of the integrated Armed Forces, and thus even further into their own self-reinforcing, all-racist peer groups. That'll teach them not to be racist!
posted by vorfeed at 1:50 PM on September 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


explores the increasingly liberal attitude of the U.S. military to neo-Nazis and white supremacists serving in the armed forces.

I thought that was the OPs mangled text, but turns out it's plucked directly from the author's website.

While not technically incorrect, referring to this trend, behavior, or whatever you'd like to call it as a "liberal attitude" is clumsy at best, misleading to the casual reader at worss.

Oh yeah, those nutty liberals have infiltrated our beloved apolitical military and now the skinheads are beating down the door to the barracks.

I suppose a MS investigative journalism is more concentrated on dumpster diving than ... you know, writing in plain and effective English...
posted by wfrgms at 1:58 PM on September 7, 2008


Would you make the same arguments to allow Islamic fundamentalists (e.g. supporters of al-Qaeda) in the military?

It is not the case that all Islamic fundamentalists are supporters of al Qaeda.

It is legal in this country to be a neo-Nazi, and I think they should be permitted in the military.

It is legal in this country to be an Islamic fundamentalist, and I think they should be permitted in the military. (With the big caveat that they understand and accept, when they enlist, that military discipline may require them to forgo praying five times per day in some situations, and may require them to forgo other requirements of their normal religious practice e.g. fasting during Ramadan. If they are not willing to give up those things, they don't belong in the military.)

It is illegal in this country to be a member of al Qaeda. It is an officially designated terrorist group with which we are at war. Members of organizations with whom we are fighting a war do not belong in our military.
posted by Class Goat at 3:38 PM on September 7, 2008


It is illegal in this country to be a member of al Qaeda. It is an officially designated terrorist group with which we are at war. Members of organizations with whom we are fighting a war do not belong in our military.

Thanks for your reply.

However, what about people who may not be card-carrying members, but those who belong to organisations which might have some similar goals? (for example, al-Muhajiroun is not illegal in the United States as far as I'm aware - correct me if I'm wrong).

As another poster has pointed out, the US military is one of more racially integrated areas of US society. Active neo-Nazis in the military would certainly be a problem for morale. Especially as Nazism is an ideology which by its very nature advocates violence against members of other groups, i.e. fellow soldiers.

As other posters have pointed out, this may be part of a broader phenomenon of street gang infiltration ( http://usmilitary.about.com/od/justicelawlegislation/a/gangs.htm ). You wouldn't want the Crips or the Mexican Mafia to receive military training; the same thing applies to white supremacists (supporters of whose ideology committed the second-world terrorist atrocity on US social only a few years ago).
posted by plep at 4:19 PM on September 7, 2008


social=soil
posted by plep at 4:20 PM on September 7, 2008


and world=worst. Oops!
posted by plep at 4:21 PM on September 7, 2008


military:neonazis::rice:white
posted by telstar at 4:29 PM on September 7, 2008


Good job ereshkigal45 on finding those errors in the article. I also spent some time in the Army, but my unit actually had a neo-nazi in it. He was a terrible soldier, could not meet physical standards, smelled bad, etc. His room was searched (part of a random thing) and behind a wall-locker he had a nazi flag hung up and apparently he had some other items as well. I can't remember if he was in the process of being kicked out when they did the search, but either way, the nazi stuff or his performance would have gotten him kicked out. There was absolutely NO tolerance or sympathy from ANYONE and he was universally despised.

On the other hand, we had another kid, a good soldier, who got into the gang scene and was also dealt with very severely (he's probably still in a military prison now). Gangs are a greater threat, but honestly if someone's in a gang and causing trouble then the military's not going to make them that much more dangerous. I think this has more to do with the nature of the gang problem here than anything else. Take Mexico for example, former military-trained narco-gangsters are a serious threat, but they make their connections after their service (AFAIK). The military does a good job of breaking people of their gang ties. I can't think of anything else in society that currently does a better job at that.

Ultimately I suppose it's possible that there are neo-nazi's who are good soldiers that just keep their mouths shut and discreetly recruit, but in terms of serious societal problems this isn't one. The military vigorously checks its members and continually educates them; I don't think more than that can be done.

Problems aside, the military was the only place I've ever been where race really could not matter. We had racist individuals, but ultimately if you were going to succeed you had to rely on others and in turn be reliable yourself. That had everything to do with what you did and not what you believed or looked like.
posted by Horatius at 5:21 PM on September 7, 2008


Wow there were some serious typo/grammar errors in that post I neglected to fix.

There was also a link to freerepublic. Dude, don't you proofread at all?!
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:38 PM on September 7, 2008


this has been happening since the nazis came in and lost power in germany during ww2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Paperclip
posted by godseyeview at 5:38 PM on September 7, 2008


increasingly liberal attitude of the U.S. military to neo-Nazis and white supremacists serving in the armed forces.

I don't have a military background, but I am a civilian contractor with a Department of Defense agency. I remember when we heard about Aryan Nations graffiti found in Baghdad. There were definitely some higher-ups in my office who were very very unhappy with that. One incident of neo-Nazi graffiti in a war zone is too much, but I have no idea if it's widespread or not. I suspect that it's not more widespread than it is in the larger society, but when you're talking about the military, both military and civilian leaders have the right to hold the military to a higher standard.

I think the guy from the blog Democratic Veteran had a good take on the original SPLC report from 2006 on racism/neo-Nazism in the military:

Bottom-line: are recruiters actively seeking these folks out? No, I don't think so. They are being pressured to "make goal", and their alternative to not "making goal" is probably being ripped from their current stateside tour and being sent back overseas, whether to Iraq or not, they'll be sent away from the Army version of "shore duty", and if you just got back it's a no-brainer that any warm body that keeps those PCS orders from arriving in your in-box is a good warm body.

In other words, if there is an increase in neo-Nazis sneaking into the military, it's mainly due to the huge strains on our military, because we're fighting counterinsurgency wars in two different countries at the same time, without the option of relying on a military draft. It's not due to misguided tolerance or liberality on the part of the recruiters. The need to make quota is forcing recruiters to cut corners in bringing new enlistees into the military. Inevitably, some things will be overlooked. It's a situation any recruit with an agenda contrary to the mission of the U.S. military could conceivably exploit, not just neo-Nazis.
posted by jonp72 at 6:55 PM on September 7, 2008


Wow, good thing non-Nazi street gangs aren't in in the military.

The military is always going to be a cross-section of the less well to do classes of society. How do I know? Because I was in the military.


I actually think this a good way to look at it. The neo-Nazis are not some political debating society, but a gang like the Bloods or the Crips. Either way, these gangs are not the type of people you want to be learning the techniques of urban warfare.
posted by jonp72 at 6:59 PM on September 7, 2008


Hope this isn't redundant, didn't get a chance to read all the comments, but I believe the prohibitions on the allowing of white supremacists in the US military has nothing to do with racial belief - it is the same concern that blocks any "gang member" - an attempt to avoid potentially disruptive violent internal conflict in our forces. With the long history of military forces demonizing their opponents with racially focused epithets (in our case "krauts," "japs," and "ragheads" come to mind) to emphasize the "otherness" of the enemy, I hardly think this one could think that prohibitions on welcoming Nazis has to due with a colorblind outlook!
posted by Durruti at 6:59 PM on September 7, 2008


It is legal in this country to be a neo-Nazi, and I think they should be permitted in the military.

Is it illegal to be gay? Because if not, your argument doesn't wash.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:22 PM on September 7, 2008


Is it illegal to be gay? Because if not, your argument doesn't wash.

It is legal to be gay, and I think that gays should be permitted in the military. What "doesn't wash" about that?
posted by Class Goat at 7:39 PM on September 7, 2008


Sorry the title was inflammatory, the post is about military policy toward these fellows with their tattoos, symbols, ideology, extremist/criminal traditionally have been denied (heritage applicants excepted) service in the military. Standards have been relaxed )liberalized( and uncle now accepts sociopaths in the ranks! anyone got a problem with that? and what are all those pesky graphs about besides fluffing up his thesis. btw the interview is the second hour
CG how many comments did you post before you looked at the links?
posted by hortense at 9:09 PM on September 7, 2008


What "doesn't wash" about that?

What doesn't wash is that gays aren't allowed in the military, but neo-Nazis are. And may be promoted into significant positions of leadership, depending on the Nazi's religious beliefs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:03 PM on September 7, 2008


> However, what about people who may not be card-carrying members, but those who belong to organisations which might have some similar goals? (for example, al-Muhajiroun is not illegal in the United States as far as I'm aware - correct me if I'm wrong).

IIRC, you cannot join the military if you are or have been affiliated with a group that "advocates, abets, advises, or teaches" the violent overthrow of the United States Government. The dogma of the group doesn't really come into play with that test, it's really about their means. There are extremist groups at pretty much all corners of the political map that would fail, and slightly-less-extreme ones that would be okay.

There's a fine but very important distinction between someone who just has crazy views on what the optimal government for the U.S. (or the world) looks like, and someone who has crazy views and is willing to advance them with violence. The first is something worth protecting even though we might disagree with it, the latter is nascent terrorism and certainly should not be tolerated.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:15 PM on September 7, 2008


Blazecock Pileon: Is it illegal to be gay?

Before 2003, you might say that it was.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:30 PM on September 7, 2008


What doesn't wash is that gays aren't allowed in the military, but neo-Nazis are.

You asked me what I thought, not what the current policy was. What made you think I was defending the status quo regarding gays in the military? What is it about my opinion that "doesn't wash"?
posted by Class Goat at 10:56 PM on September 7, 2008


“The military's excuse is that one requires a certain fitness to serve. This addresses most these, but not the rule against women in combat or the restriction against open homosexuality.”

Actually, there are some women who do serve in forward areas (in combat), typically they’re sharpshooters, etc. not grunts. Women do not, for the most part, make good mainline combat troops. There are physiological reasons for this. In much the same way - there are physiological reasons for the informal composition of squads. For example - most of your long range reconnaissance is done by smaller men (typically under 5’10) in part because smaller males have a better power to weight ratio and have better operational endurance. Smaller guys eat less, drink less water, etc etc. By the same token the guy hauling your main squad weapon is likely to be a big dude since he can carry more. There are roles for women in combat, but they’re tough to put into squads because they don’t fit tongue in groove with men.

The homosexual thing is just stupid. Change some boarding rules (that is - where/how you sleep) and it’s fixed. Nazi-types (unfixed) are more of a morale problem than homosexuals.
On the other hand - many folks who come into the service with certain ideas get those stripped from them pretty damned fast.
So it’s a bit easier to weed out silly ideas than it is to square away where one likes to insert one’s penis. That latter bit as an operational matter, not as an opinion on a matter of policy (I’ve made that clear above).

“If you believe that a fellow soldier is part of a subhuman race which should be wiped off the planet for no more reason than that person happened to be born black or Jewish or whatever, then you cannot truly meet the requirements of the military...”

If that’s truly the case you wouldn’t take the oath to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States with your life.

But all this seems predicated on the idea that a neo-nazi might not LIE to get into the service.
If they do, then at the very least they are in breach of their oath and can be kicked out. They can be prosecuted for operating in a criminal syndicate. If it’s bad enough - and if it’s during war time or in a combat zone they can be executed. If the danger is immediate enough - they can be executed on the spot by a superior officer (it’s why officers carry sidearms).

“Give them all the rights you want, they still won't give you yours.”

I think everyone should have equal rights (weird idea, I know - American, go figure). You cannot discriminate against someone simply because they believe in something different than you - even if they believe in discrimination for beliefs.
Of course, once they try to deprive me of my rights, that’s when I kill them.


“Would you make the same arguments to allow Islamic fundamentalists (e.g. supporters of al-Qaeda) in the military?”

Certainly Islamic fundamentalists should be allowed in the military. No ones service should be eliminated on the basis of their religion.
Want to convince non-Muslims to convert to Islam or accept it as the political norm? No problem.
Supporting the Base is a whole other story - support how? Material support? Well, you’re a terrorist. Lie to get in and do it while you’re in the military and that’s treason and they execute you by firing squad (if it takes that long).

“how the Army very recently disrespected pagan soldiers and about how some higher-ups in the military support integrating fundamentalist Christianity with training”

Yep. That’s stupid too. And that’s how it happens sometimes, not how it should happen.

“I think my tolerance and respect for our rights will keep us from becoming them.”

Well said. That’s the real danger here. Once you start deciding who should and should not have certain rights in society based on anything other than criminal act you’re started down that road.
And indeed - the discrimination against homosexuals proves that.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:44 AM on September 8, 2008


There are roles for women in combat, but they’re tough to put into squads because they don’t fit tongue in groove with men.

I'm curious -- what do you think about the idea of segregated (women-only) squads?
posted by vorfeed at 1:49 PM on September 8, 2008


“what do you think about the idea of segregated (women-only) squads?”

It’s one solution. But...

I don’t think there’s any question women can fight. The Russian sniper squads in WWII settled that. The only real question then is societal - do we, as a society, want women fighting.
Well, same argument as above, I don’t think anyone’s decision to serve should be limited for any reason other than practical.

Oh, I don’t have to like it. And indeed, I dislike the idea of women in combat. But I’m a caveman when it comes to certain social behaviors and the treatment of women. For example, I refuse to sit if there is a woman standing. I will always stand and offer my place to a woman, an elderly person, etc. I hold doors open, offer to carry packages and lift heavy things and generally treat women (et.al) with deference in matters of custom and manner. To me it’s my honor and in some measures my duty to bear hardship in those ways.
I can generally get away with it as a large, very able bodied male.
And I just feel like it’s easier for me, so it’s overall less trouble and moves things in general along more smoothly.

I think Jesse Ventura put it well when he asked if you want men inured to the pain and suffering of women.
In some measures I suppose you have this overprotective idea, that women are the weaker or fairer sex, that type of invisible mysogyny.

On the other hand, you have people who empathize more (like myself) and think of mom, or sis, or your wife and how you would want a stranger to treat them.

There’s a big trade off there. I mean some societies women are practically pack mules.
Would having female warfighters change that?
I don’t know. That’s too big a question.

I suppose I’m saying here - it’s not my place to have an opinion. Particularly given the premise of my above argument.

I will say, most of the women I’ve encountered who are interested in such matters are generally far more valuable elsewhere. E.g. Mossad is a very female dominated organization. They’re excellent infiltrators. Many FBI investigators and interrogators are women and they tend to do a better job in the long run. And good snipers, as I’ve noted. The Brits used women in SF in operational roles against the IRA. Etc.

So as a practical matter, and very generally speaking - women seem to handle oblique methods better then more direct and uniform responses.

Purely speculatively - I’d think it’s because straight muscle is less of an option.
And of course, that works both ways. Got a big enough hammer, all problems look like nails.
(Which has on occasion been an issue with me)

And again - boarding is a problem. There’s still this sticky thing where you put them. Sex is always a big hangup because there’s jealousy, etc. etc. etc. which screws with unit cohesion.

But all-female units do seem like a more obvious solution.
Still - how does that affect supply lines? How does that break down in terms of mission? You’re introducing something that may need special consideration into an otherwise uniform standard.

Once it’s past the political b.s. I don’t think it’d be a problem in terms of that kind of consideration. But - are they a mech unit? What if they get stuck in the mud? Do they need extra equipment because they can’t muscle a humvee out of a pit? Are they air mobile? Can they rappel out with 80 lbs of gear on their ass?
And indeed - CQB and hand to hand - will they fight males?

And given they meet standards - mainline infantry is a different animal than just ‘women in combat’ (because there are, in fact, U.S. women in combat)

It’s not that women can’t hump 80 lbs of gear all day (some of them can) or carry a 200lb guy or fight some other 200lb guy - it’s that they do it differently.
Does that make them smarter? Yeah, probably. (My whole point about oblique thinking above).
But there are different considerations as well. Field longevity and endurance without supply - uniformity becomes a crucial issue. I’ve gone months without showering (oh, what fun), females run the risk of urinary tract infections (as one f’rinstance).

So in terms of tanks or artillery - sure. In fact pretty much everywhere except your main infantry in direct combat and/or where resupply and contact with support is an issue (long recon, say).

Still - it can be done. They can be accomodated, and practically, nearly everywhere. And in the modern military you’re usually not too far from support.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:33 PM on September 8, 2008


hmm, thanks for the thoughts, Smedleyman.

But - are they a mech unit? What if they get stuck in the mud? Do they need extra equipment because they can’t muscle a humvee out of a pit? Are they air mobile? Can they rappel out with 80 lbs of gear on their ass?

Obviously, some women are capable of these things... for those that aren't, perhaps numbers or equipment are the answer. I have no problem with the idea that women in infantry may need to do things differently; this seems rather obvious to me, though I suspect that the differences may not be as significant as they may seem from here. It's the idea that women can't (or shouldn't -- same difference, really) do it at all that rankles me.

And indeed - CQB and hand to hand - will they fight males?

With training, I believe they will. There are certainly plenty of examples, both historic and modern-day... and I believe we'd probably have a lot more of them in Iraq and Afghanistan, if it weren't for our insistence on keeping women out of these situations to begin with.

mainline infantry is a different animal than just ‘women in combat’ (because there are, in fact, U.S. women in combat)

IMHO, this is part of the problem. When women are "in combat" but still can't work in an infantry MOS, there's bound to be some resentment there. The first comment here pretty much sums up my feelings on the issue.

At any rate, I suspect this'll be a moot point in another twenty years -- like you said, the women are already there, and truly uniform standards seem to make more sense than an artificial double standard does. I suspect that this paper is ahead of its time, but maybe not by much.
posted by vorfeed at 6:43 PM on September 8, 2008


“It's the idea that women can't (or shouldn't -- same difference, really) do it at all that rankles me.”

I agree. But we fully agree on matters of policy.
In terms of women in the infantry MOS - in terms of practicality, it’s a bit like the scene from ‘300’ where the Spartan king asks the giant/hunchback how high he can lift his spear.
In those same terms - if I got handed a bunch of 6’10 - 7 foot tall guys for an outfit I’m looking at the problems in logistics (bedding them down for example, uniform replacements, probaby have to be custom).
It’s not women per se, or the fact of their gender, but not everyone can go on all the same missions due to the reality of physiology. My 7 foot tall pig gunner isn’t going to be recon any time soon.
Same deal with (say) women being SEALs. I mean after G.I. Jane I caught all kinds of hell for saying it’d never happen (not without lowering the standards).
At the time, one argument I made was that women are more prone to the bends because of their menstrual cycle and higher body fat composition. It’s been argued those studies are inconclusive. I don’t know about the menstrual cycle, but the body fat thing? N2 loves fat, very soluble in it. And given fats different distribution in women - I can see the argument. You don’t want all your tadpoles getting bent up, so why take the risk.
Even barring that - there’s more reported panic behavior among women (that could be an aberration though since many women are new to diving, or were when studies were taken) - in terms of straight physiology though they have smaller lungs, not as much upper body strength (to haul crap + themselves out of water) and less aerobic capacity (tho on the plus side, they use less air and have some better tolerance to cramping in cold water).

But it’s simply a matter of standard. The worst guy to pass the standard is going to beat the best woman, simply because the candidate pool is large enough and the level of competition is high enough so the expected performance standard is very high. It’s why you don’t see women in the boxing ring with men professionaly. No one would think it was fair, and they’d be right.

Although my point about CQB - I’m looking at it in terms of training and (as I’ve harped) standardization, not whether a given woman can do the job. (Mossad and Shabak is all about Krav Maga, I dunno about the Aman, they do their own thing)
It’s going to cost me more (not just money, but time and personnel) to train one group differently than another. And I’ve trained women in HTH, different sets of priorities there (in terms of targets and what you can do) - it’s not like training a small guy. Different center of gravity (which is an advantage for women really), but a different style of fighting. And if I train to the woman’s standard, I’ve got beefy dudes doing moves way too economical for them or doing break-off and reengagements when they could be pressing an advantage and ending the encounter quickly.

And there again, your worrys are integration. Your elite units are close knit teams and the high level of understanding between teammates is developed through long term working relationships, common doctrine, shared experiance and slowly you have a natural, fluid unit cohesion that can’t be interchanged or developed in just a six month cycle.
And those skills are perishable, so you need training, evaluation, retraining, and so you have specializations even within the same community (assault, reconnaissance, etc) with secondary roles. There just isn’t time to develop proficiency in both areas and you’d wind up watering skills in both.
And then there’s the mission which requires hefty sums of cash, investment in time and nonstandard *cough* *slides something furtively under the desk* equipment (which actually would be a point in advantage for women)... Still - you need a unified budget program for a common doctrine which ensures interoperability and eliminates duplication effort and waste of resources. So in those terms, time is a luxury commodity.

But certainly some women can take some men. And those women should not be restricted from certain duties as a matter of policy. Which really, is the bottom line.

If everyone that came through the door for training was 5’10, 165, and had no genitalia I’d be happy as a clam.

But I think you’re right, the modern military, especially the U.S. military, has the resources to accomodate different body styles, types, etc, and so they should. We’re not limited to phalanxes anymore.

And really, it can only enhance operational capacity. Far as I know there are some studies (also as yet inconclusive) that women resist thermal load better than men, (that higher body fat content stores more water and energy under stress) so we could see all female desert units.

I will note that - concerning all female units - the IDF tried that both ways - they abolished women’s corps about 6 to 8 years ago predicated on the idea that it got in the way of women as regulars.

And yeah, all the focus on these prejudices obscures honest observation of the practical realities of where women can serve and be most useful. That’s far far more wasteful than the minor details I’m chewing over.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:57 AM on September 9, 2008


It’s not women per se, or the fact of their gender, but not everyone can go on all the same missions due to the reality of physiology.

But it IS women per se, and it IS the fact of their gender, because women are not even eligible to enter these MOS, full stop, even if they're She-Ra amazons. If it were simply a matter of women getting washed out due to individual failure to meet standards, I'd be fine with it. However, it's not -- women, as a group, are not eligible to even try. You yourself admitted that there are women who can pass infantry standards, so I don't buy the "innately not physically good enough" argument.

I'm a pretty small woman -- I'm strong for my size, but the fact is that I can't match hardly any man in a fight. That keeps me from doing some things, which is fair enough, but what's not fair is if I'm kept from doing things not because I'm too damn small, but because I'm female. There are tons of guys who don't cut it in the infantry; I don't see how it should be any different for women. If they can make it, they can make it, if not, too bad. Infantry standards are tough, but I don't buy the idea that they're that tough. And there are plenty of non-infantry combat MOS in which most military women would probably do fine (some of the artillery and armor jobs with Moderately-Heavy-or-lower physical demands ratings come to mind.)

But it’s simply a matter of standard. The worst guy to pass the standard is going to beat the best woman, simply because the candidate pool is large enough and the level of competition is high enough so the expected performance standard is very high. It’s why you don’t see women in the boxing ring with men professionaly. No one would think it was fair, and they’d be right.

If "the worst guy to pass the standard is going to beat the best woman", but they both pass the standard, go through the same training, and complete all the tests they're given, then I don't really see a reason to claim that the woman was not good enough to be a SEAL. I mean, by this logic, there should be exactly one Ubermensch in the SEALs, and we both know that's not how it works. "Best of the best", sure, but some are still a bit better than others, and life goes on. And the emphasis with the SEALs is on excellence as a team, anyway, not about being individually better than each other.

Besides, if you're right, then allowing women to try to make it to the SEALs won't matter much, because they'll all fail. At least that would be fair. I agree with you that there won't be many women that can make it, but I suspect that there are a few, and there might be more after we've had a few decades of women in combat roles.

And I’ve trained women in HTH, different sets of priorities there (in terms of targets and what you can do) - it’s not like training a small guy. Different center of gravity (which is an advantage for women really), but a different style of fighting. And if I train to the woman’s standard, I’ve got beefy dudes doing moves way too economical for them or doing break-off and reengagements when they could be pressing an advantage and ending the encounter quickly.

Well, you say it yourself -- "it’s not like training a small guy". Is training a small guy exactly like training a big guy? I'm not a trainer, but I assume that it's not, and that you teach the standard, but with allowances for size, speed, etc. I think it's probably possible to come up with a standard which allows you to do the same for women, without necessarily wrecking the training for men.

Personally, I agree with what you're saying -- there are definitely issues involved with female infantrymen, and problems which would need to be worked out, in order to accommodate women without wrecking the things which make the force strong. That said, I also agree that the issue does need to be worked out. Like you said, there's not much to lose in the modern military, and a lot to be gained.
posted by vorfeed at 5:01 PM on September 9, 2008


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