No Girls in the Tree House

The Marine Corps University hosted, “Counterinsurgency: Leadership in Afghanistan Iraq and Beyond,” Wednesday atop the National Press Club. Better digs one could not find.

The Washington, D.C., venue was packed with a mix of military (mostly Marine) and civilian (probably former Marines, academics, and media). Discussion topics remained true to the theme. The day’s highlight was an informative and animated 90 minutes with U.S. Central Command’s chief Army Gen. “King David” Petraeus.
As one listened to the mostly male presenters, it became clear: girls need not apply. Sadly females cannot engage in the world of counterinsurgency except from a minor supporting role or academic perspective. The law (and dare we say culture) bars women from serving in the ground combat specialties denying them the skills and career experience necessary to contribute to this important dialogue, influence policy, and most importantly, move this mission forward.

No we are not naïve and have not just figured this out, but never has it been more obvious and never has simultaneous desperation and foolishness been more apparent. Women fly in combat. They command combatant ships. But when it comes to ground operations, they are trucked in like day laborers to assist male-exclusive ground maneuver elements with the female half of the Muslim population. Does this make sense?

Two generations are growing, learning, discovering … and dying. They are divided by gender, and their experiences are vastly different. Females lack the necessary ground combat counterinsurgency experience and thus have little to add. Keeping women out of ground combat units relegates them to fourth class status on a good day. Without lead actresses, at best, females contribute as an “actress in a supporting role.”

What’s the point? One can delude one’s self that, “It’s enough being a Marine.” Well, maybe it’s not.

Current policies may adversely impact the mission of U.S. forces. Much is made of the local populace piece of counterinsurgency operations. We are reasonably sure the Afghan population is half female. It is no secret the culture is hostile to outside males interacting with local women. U.S. women can provide a much-needed advantage. One would think laws, policies, and practices would shift out of necessity and women would be integrated into ground units at the lower echelons for this crucial advantage alone. The current arrangement seems counterproductive for a mission this nation would like to successfully complete. One would think decision makers would see the foolishness and short-sightedness of current policies. And those homefront concerns? Our guess is the American people are more concerned with progress abroad than how the girls and boys play in the sandbox.

Women on the team: Play ‘em or trade ‘em.

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