Military Women Are Not the Cure, They Are the Disease

For about twenty years now, I have been warning whoever would and would not listen about the dangers of feminizing the military. Now, in my own country, the chicks—no pun intended—are coming home to roost. As readers will know, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are the only ones in history to have made women wear uniform even against their will. However, from the end of the War of Independence (1948) to the late 1970s they only did so in a variety of auxiliary Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) that had little impact on the fighting “teeth.” At that point a shortage of manpower generated by the forces’ expansion following the 1973 Arab-Israeli War on one hand and feminist pressures on the other caused the situation to change. Female officers and enlisted personnel increased in both numbers and importance until the IDF was blessed with three small “combat” battalions made up mostly of women. Albeit that they are deployed along the borders with Egypt and Jordan, where hardly a shot has been fired for decades past.

Fast-move forward. For about a month now I have noticed, in Israel’s most important paper Yediot Ahronot, a series of articles about various combat IDF units. How little the public knew about them. How wonderful they were. How important the missions they carried out, and how daring their feats. Which towns provided them with proportionally the largest number of recruits. And so on. Briefly. the kind of stuff you would expect from a military that has difficulties attracting manpower.

Last week, the reasons behind the various publications came out of the bag. What I had suspected all along has now been announced with great fanfare. Year by year, fewer recruits are interested in joining the combat arms. From 2015 to 2016 alone, the figure went down by two percentage points, from 71.91 to 69.8. The decline is less pronounced among women, more among men. Coming on top of the fact that more and more men do not serve in the first place, the IDF has good reason to worry about its ability to fill combat slots as they should be.

Throwing in money apart, several solutions have been proposed. One is to cut down on the training of cadets and fresh recruits so as to free them for tasks such as holding down the Occupied Territories. Another is to dramatically lower physical standards. Should this come to pass, then soldiers previously classified as fit only for desk-bound tasks and disaster relief either in the Territories or in Israel itself will be able to serve in “combat” MOS. For example, by controlling passports and looking for contraband at the various checkpoints leading from Israel to the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Jordan.

The most radical idea of all is to have women serve in the armored corps. But don’t let the slim figure, narrow shoulders, slender arms, and manicured nails of the good-looking girl in the picture mislead you. Over half of a tank’s weight consist of armor, and each of the road wheels shown weighs about as much as she does. As you would expect from such a machine, operating and maintaining it—as by loading ammunition, or swabbing the barrel of the gun, or changing a link in the tracks—is very heavy, and often very dirty, work only a handful of women can do. Should a woman be included in a tank crew, then the outcome will be to increase the burden on her male comrades. Perhaps even more problematic, in the confined space of an armored vehicle privacy is not minimal—it simply does not exist.

Such a system, in other words, can only lead to one of two things or, perhaps, to both. First, there will be another increase in the number of injured, in some cases even crippled, women hobbling about. And of course in claims for compensation of the kind which, even now, amounts to fully four percent of Israel’s entire defense budget. Second, there is going to be a big rise in “sexual harassment” claims; a problem which, as I pointed out in my recent book Pussycats, is currently wrecking not only Israel’s armed forces but those of all other Western ones as well.

More women in the forces are not the cure. They are the disease, or at least part of it. Feminization will inevitably lead, by all signs has already led, to the creation of a vicious cycle. By definition, the more women enter any professional field, institution, or branch of service the fewer men will remain in it. The fewer men remain, the more its prestige and the economic rewards it can command will be compromised. The more its prestige and economic rewards it can command are compromised, the fewer men it will be attract.

This process has been documented many, many times. Often by female researchers who worry, with good reason, about the impact their own growing presence may have on the rewards they can expect in their chosen fields. The best-known cases are those of secretaries (once upon a time, practically all secretaries were male), bank-tellers, pharmacists, book-editors, bakers, psychologists, and “wealth managers.” The ongoing decline in the ability of the humanities to attract students also seems to be linked with the fact that the percentage of female faculty members is them is exceptionally high.

And which IDF combat units do not suffer from a shortage of men? You guessed it: The two elite, entirely male, infantry brigades, Golani and the paratroopers.

At War for Aleppo

For those of you who have forgotten, Syria’s civil war, which broke out in May 2011, reached Aleppo in July 2012. That was when the rebels, comprising a loose coalition of militias (at last count there were several dozens of them, some religious, others secular) entered Syria’s largest the city, estimated population three million, from the northeast. This caused it to be divided into two: an eastern part under rebel control and a western one held by government troops. That is how things remain down to the present, albeit that the militias have lost some ground and the government has gained some.

In the autumn of 2015 Russia, which up until then had been providing the Syrian Army with weapons and logistic support, joined in the fighting. Since then its combat aircraft and cruise missiles, including some of the world’s most sophisticated, have been hitting Aleppo (and other targets, but those do not concern us here) almost non-stop. In doing so they were joined by Syrian helicopters dropping their notorious barrel bombs. The total number of strikes of both kinds has been in the many hundreds, perhaps in the thousands.

helicopter-carrying-barrel-bombsThroughout the period in question, and indeed right from the beginning of the conflict, the rebels on their part did not possess a single weapon or weapon system capable of contesting their enemies’ near total command of the air. Even their anti-aircraft defenses, the kind that back in Afghanistan during the 1980s were said to have played a critical role in forcing the Soviets to concede defeat, were practically non-existent. Or else surely Assad would have had to withdraw his helicopters, which as weapons go are in many ways exceptionally vulnerable, months it not years ago. Just look at the above image!

Not only were the rebels almost totally exposed to air attack, but at no time during the five-plus years that the conflict has lasted were they united under a single command capable of formulating a coherent strategy and carrying it out. Indeed one reason why the government has been able to survive at all is because, in addition to periodically butchering each other, they also had ISIS, coming at them from across the Iraqi border, to cope with. Not to mention Syria’s Kurds many of whom saw the war as an opportunity to rid the provinces in which they live from Damascus’ rule and set up their own militias. Facing the government forces and their Russian allies, basically all the rebels in Aleppo can do is take cover and hold out.

Whenever Western armed forces lose a war in the “developing” world, as they have regularly done for the last six decades or so, there is no lack of excuses and explanations. Here I want to focus on the kind of excuse that attributes the defeats to “Western values,” or “humanitarianism,” or “democracy,” or the “media.” Briefly the factors that allegedly made the troops fight “with one (or two) hands tied behind their back” and prevented them from “kicking ass.” See the American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Vietnam. And see so many others, specifically including the Israeli ones in Lebanon in 1982 and, to a lesser extent in 2006, as to make one lose count.

Yet none of these factors apply in Syria. Neither President Assad nor his patron Putin are Western, humanitarian, or democratic. Neither allows the media to operate freely in their respective countries so as to influence public opinion against the war, let alone interfere with military operations. Neither gives a hoot about the death and destruction their forces are inflicting on civilians; which is one reason why the latest estimates speak of half a million dead, more or less.

So why are Putin and Assad unable to recapture Aleppo, let alone the rest of the country, and how were the militias able to hold on? To use the terminology I first developed in The Transformation of War (1991), the war in Syria is a classical “nontrinitarian” one. That means that, on one side (the rebels) “government,” armed forces are not separate but thoroughly mixed so that distinguishing between them is often all but impossible. In this respect it resembles plenty of others. One characteristic that all these wars, without a single exception, had in common was that the “forces of order,” or “counterinsurgents,” or whatever they were called, had control of the air. Albeit that it was not always as absolute as it seems to be in Syria. Yet in not one of these wars did airpower on its own decide the issue, and in many cases it was unable to prevent dire defeat.

Bombing defenseless civilians in Aleppo is easy. But hitting the fighters who conceal themselves among them is very hard. To repeat, the Russian Air Force in Syria is using some of its most advanced weapons, specifically including the latest “precision-guided” munitions in its arsenal. Yet in the end those weapons too are unable to distinguish between civilians and the combatants with whom they share the same neighborhoods, the same streets, and often, the same buildings. That explains why, by some estimates, out of every hundred people killed by Russian and Syrian government forces in Aleppo only one is a militiaman.

Nor will even more bombing necessarily do the trick. As experience from Stalingrad, Monte Casino, and many other places proves, cities and buildings provide those who know how to fight in them with the best cover imaginable. Should they, the cities and the buildings, be thoroughly destroyed, then the only result will be to make them provide better cover still.

And when will America’s campaign in Afghanistan, started fourteen years ago and now conducted almost exclusively from the air against an enemy who is all but defenseless in that medium, finally end in victory?

Guest Article: Obama after Eight Years

by

Jonathan Lewy

I was in Washington DC eight years ago when Barack Obama was elected. The atmosphere was intoxicating as people went out on the streets in celebrations, drunk with a sense of victory, chanting ‘Yes, we can.’ The whole world celebrated as a new kindle of hope was supposed to enter the White House. Perhaps that is why Obama received a Nobel Prize for doing nothing, or rather, for not being George W. Bush. But, were people right to celebrate? In retrospect, how did Obama fare in his two terms?

According to Politifact, Obama made no less than 500 promises while campaigning. By the end of his term, he delivered 45 percent of them. Lest you think this is a low figure, consider that the Republican leadership in Congress delivered only 35 percent of their promises. For a politician, to succeed in keeping almost half of his promises, it is probably as high as any supporter could hope for. His success in pushing his agenda is particularly impressive considering the stubborn Congress he had to deal with for the last six years. Perhaps that is why his approval rating is flattering for the first time in his presidency.

A politician is not only judged by delivering on his promises, but also by what he leaves behind. The United States economy is now stable. The $787 billion stimulus seems to have worked. When Obama was forced to bailout the American automobile industry, he did so successfully. Moreover, his terms were far better for the public purse than Bush’s plan with the banks a few years earlier. Unemployment is on the decline, but the national debt is on the rise. America, it seems, keeps on mortgaging its future for living the good life in the present.

One cannot blame Obama for the mounting debt the country has incurred. He has not done anything any of his immediate predecessors had not done; on the other hand, he certainly did not try to curb the beast, or mitigate the huge gamble the United States is wagering against its own future. After all, someone will have to pay this debt eventually, especially if the economy does not expand. If this generation will not live within its own means, future generations will probably have to deal with the problem in the years to come.

An American historian once said that great presidents are rare. Most are mediocre at best, and are remembered for one or two things they have done. This is why the public remembers George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and FDR; but few can name the other presidents such as Martin van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce and the rest of the lot. So, is Obama great?

Domestically he was a good caretaker. He may even be remembered for Obamacare (if it survives the next presidency), even though the plan has suffered in recent months with price hikes, and fewer health insurance companies willing to participate in it. Gas prices are not terribly high, and the dollar is still a global currency. Immigrants are still knocking on America’s doorstep, as they would not have done had they thought the country had no future.

On the international level, the United States has lost ground. In the Middle East, the American footprint has faded. American troops are no longer in Iraq in large numbers, but the region is not stable to say the least. Gone are the days when secretaries of states came to the region and the ground trembled wherever they treaded. Recently, Obama expressed that his swan song will be promoting peace in the Middle East. The chances for that happening in the next three months are next to nil. Hell will probably freeze over before that happens.

Obama did not cope well with the Arab spring. American foreign policy stuttered, as the commander in chief was torn between a desire to see democracy spread on the one hand, and to support old and new allies on the other. Take Libya as an example. Muammar Gaddafi finally succumbed to US pressure, and paid his dues for the Lockerbie bombing. He tried to be a good boy with the West, albeit he remained a dictator at home. But when the going became tough, Obama turned his back on him and left him hanging by an angry mob, bombing some of his cities from the air to boot. Now, the rest of the world will know that even if you follow American dictates, it will not back you in time of need.

Even in South America, the United States lost ground. One of the hallmarks of American foreign policy is the ‘War on Drugs,’ and the international drug control regime it has sponsored since The Hague International Opium Convention of 1912. And yet, a puny country like Uruguay dared to legalize marijuana in 2013 in direct conflict with the official American policy. This would have been inconceivable a decade ago.

And back home again, Obama may very well have been a good economic caretaker, but something is awfully wrong with the country. Racial tensions are high. The high hopes of reconciliation between blacks and whites under the leadership of a half-white president have deteriorated into riots, and the Black Lives Matter movement. The American public is obviously unhappy. So much so that it even considered, for a while, voting for a Socialist president. Who would have imagined this turn of events after the fall of the Berlin Wall? This is certainly not a sign of strength, or a strong belief in capitalism and the American dream.

Even worse, the public’s distaste for politically correctness has propelled a candidate who could be best described as a buffoon, whose only redeeming quality is that he says whatever is on his mind. At least he can. Most Americans I know feel they cannot, because they have to constantly ‘check their privileges.’ Though Obama may not be personally responsible for this phenomenon, during his term in office, freedom of speech is on the decline. A pity. It has always been my favorite right.

And finally, under Obama, the current election cycle took place; an unpopular Clinton against a scary Trump. If these are the only two options he left behind him, something is amiss. Neither candidate promised much as a legacy for his term in office, or perhaps the results on Tuesday will be so terrible that his legacy will shine brightly.

Guest Article: Biggest Mistakes You Make Decorating a Small Space

By Alex Omelchenko*

sofa

There’s nothing like space and natural light that speaks to elegance and ambiance. More so if the setting cascades into a panoramic view. However not all cities or budgets allows for the luxury of actual room or home space.

That being said, style was never lacking in seriously confined rooms on visits to Hong Kong for example. And that was not based on the fact that Asians are synonymous to luxury and style. Anyone can feel entitled to a beautiful space with the right creative direction and smart buys.

A room with a play of color techniques, fabric choices, decor finishes and made to measure furniture can dress any room remarkably void of obvious indications to space limitations. Mostly limitations are in thinking your chairs, lighting, flooring, rug or and decor piece needs to be conservative. The opposite can be seen or said of nations with space constrictions but who are however still on trend. 

The outlay of furniture need not outskirt your room defining its circumference and the actual space, while dark colored walls can be introduced through paint techniques and in cohesion with natural light to keep the space light but bright or bringing in color. Detailed mesh color techniques seen in wall papers or dashes of color like velvet touch paint effects for example are known to create a sense of luxury and decadence to space. 

A novel centerpiece in a room can speak to individual choices in light fittings or furniture that creates a signature definition on entering the room. While contemporary decor can date very quickly from ‘being on trend’ to ‘stale’, classic choices intertwined with the rooms  ‘naturalness’ can have a timeless and relaxed sense of luxury.

Never underestimate what a few good choices in scatter-cushions, a rug or a Lalique vase alone can do to a room bringing out a sense of refinement even to an uber small space.

It’s acceptable within the interior design fraternity to have a single bold piece of furniture in a small space though mostly its recommended to stick to made – to – fit furniture. A room finished with a higher-grade curtain choice is the ultimate luxury. With the right mix of natural light and fabric it’s often thought that a beautiful length of fabric for curtain is all the decor one needs!

When decorating a small space you don’t have to think ‘small’ but rather think ‘delicate’ in your furniture choices. Choose furniture whose design details enhance the room serving as functional art – that being stylish yet comfortable. Hong Kong is known to have all space utilized as innovatively as ever. A float bookshelf or CD case could line their ceiling while a ladder with paint technique is functional nouveau art, all while serving its purpose to get a book or Cd of the shelf.

The alternative to styling a small space is going totally minimalistic. That can be in the form of contemporary polished cement flooring for an urban retro feel. And if your neighbors aren’t in line of vision, keep your windows bare for a skyline view or to compliment the flooring. Infusing this feel with the decadent of an oversized crystal chandelier being the ultimate luxury statement.

In the case of a shoestring decor budget look at cheaper contemporary options like a varnished brick wall effect. Finished with a vintage mirror and that may be all you just about need to zest up a small space.

Your space can be anything you want it to feel like if you choose tastefully without preconceived ideas about size!

*Alex Omelchenko works for Apex Window Werks, a Chicagoland-based company that specializes in home window glass replacement, window defogging and all wooden window parts repair.