In the comments to “The President of MIT emailed me“, Natalia suggested the book Pussycats: Why The Rest Keeps Beating The West, And What Can Be Done About It. The author, Martin van Creveld, is a 71-year-old Dutch-Israeli military historian.
This review is mostly a response to Natalia (and thanks for being a loyal reader!), but perhaps others will be interested. Note that nearly all of the excerpts below contain references to journal articles supporting the author’s assertions. I’ve removed these for brevity/clarity. But keep in mind that when he says “Americans are likely to do X” it is something for which he has cited a social psychology paper or military report.
My thoughts after reading 10 percent: So far he has anecdotally come to the same conclusion as the academic psychologist who wrote iGen: young Westerners are taking much longer to grow up than previous generations did. Thus an American, European, or Israeli 18-year-old today is like a 14-year-old back when I was a kid (i.e., before cities were electrified, etc.). This is bad news for Western militaries because they are essentially sending 14-year-olds into battle where they lose to grown-ups who are barely armed and equipped.
The author is good at describing the military problem:
The outcome [of the West’s feebleness] was the Vietnam War. Judging by the amount of ordnance expended or dropped, and the number of people killed, no colonial war in the whole of history had ever been waged with greater ferocity. All to subdue an opponent whose leader looked like a poor relation of Santa Klaus, wore black pajamas and sandals made of old tires, subsisted on the proverbial handful of rice, and operated an electric grid so small that even destroying eighty-seven percent of it made no difference. A quarter-century later the Americans, encouraged by the aforementioned victory over Saddam (as well as the much smaller one over poor little Serbia in Kosovo), compounded their error by invading first Afghanistan and then Iraq. Neither country was in any condition to fight back. The former, indeed, hardly deserved to be called a country at all. Both were overrun quickly and at very low cost. Yet the wars in question, far from producing quick and easy victories as President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and their advisers had confidently expected, became protracted. Before they were over they produced tens of thousands of casualties, and while most Western troops have been withdrawn an end may not be in sight. The financial cost, including that of looking after wounded veterans and replenishing the depleted forces, is said to have been anything between 4 to 6 trillion dollars. So heavy is the burden that it is most unlikely ever to be fully paid. All for no gains anyone could discover.
The roots of the “lifelong childhood” problem?
Never in the whole of history has the age in which such people started counting as adults been as high as it is today. The origins of the change are to be found during the 1820s. According to that invaluable research tool, Google Ngram, this was the time when writers suddenly started using the term “childhood” much more often than before. Sixty years later, the term “adolescence,” which two anthropologists define as a period during which young people are “kept in the natal home under the authority of parents, attending school, and bedeviled by a bewildering array of occupational choices,” followed suit.
[Note that Lifelong Kindergarten is now a goal!]
Why did we do this?
After centuries and centuries during which their main function had been to levy taxes, bureaucrats were flexing their muscles in quest for greater power. Doing so, they found childhood and education fertile fields in and on which to operate. This was carried to the point where, in all modern countries, child welfare and education have been turned into some of the largest and costliest fields of state activity. Others represented organized labor trying to keep wages as high as they could. Or else they spoke for large corporations seeking to force smaller, often family-based, competitors—who were better able to employ youngsters for low wages—out of business. In time, almost everybody got involved in the act. Government passed all kinds of legal restrictions, and set up special agencies to ensure they were observed.
Next came business, which in the US alone makes hundreds of billions a year by helping create and perpetuate a separate “youth culture.” They were joined by international organizations, both state-run and others, many of which seem to consider any kind of work children may do harmful and exploitative. … Regardless of what their motives were, all these people and organizations developed a vested interest in controlling young people. The latter had to be made to spend as large a part of their lives as possible in a state where they would be unable to work, take responsibility, and look after themselves.
[Interesting but not relevant to the main theme is that keeping kids from working may be the root of their problems:
The same applies to the Amish people. As long as most of them were still engaged in agriculture, they made their children work. Children who helped with the family finances felt needed. Feeling needed, they suffered from few of the problems afflicting other American youngsters, such as delinquency, drugs, and teenage pregnancy[ 36]—so much so that a Google Scholar search combining “Amish” with “youth delinquency” yielded hardly any hits. To this day there is no proof whatsoever that children in “developing” countries, many of whom do work, are less happy than those in “developed” ones where the law prohibits them from doing so. Judging by the percentage who are referred to psychological treatment or filled with drugs, the opposite may well be the case.
Conversely, to prevent young people from engaging in [work] is cruel and can be dangerous. Insofar as it excludes them from what is normally the most important adult activity of all, it also goes a long way to prevent them from growing up. Nor are the restrictions limited to child work only. In all “advanced” countries, probably not a day passes without some new law or regulation specifically aimed at the young being enacted. Ostensibly the goal is to help the people in question. In fact, they often hamper them in all kinds of ways. Anything to prevent them from doing as their elders do as a matter of course. And anything to prevent them from competing with those elders and, by doing so, taking over some of the latter’s resources and increasing their own independence. No wonder that, apart from gangs, they seldom organize and engage in activities of their own.
The same can be said of adults. Folks who don’t have full-time jobs seem to be the ones most likely to consume psychotherapy, get diagnosed, and take pills. Imagine how many people would love to be mentally ill, but are too busy making widgets or dealing with customers!]
The Baby Boomer author is not impressed with today’s brats:
Coming together, the two kinds of pressure produce the kind of child who, at the age of ten, is convinced of his self-importance and genius and will suffer a mental crisis each time he is criticized, but who still cannot wash himself and depends on his parents to give him a bath. They are like hot-air balloons that need to be constantly re-inflated. Yet they do not succeed in taking off. And how can they? Superficially the two parenting styles—the one concerned with overprotecting children, and the other with smoothing over any problems and pushing them forward at almost any cost—appear contradictory. In fact, they go hand in hand. Both originate in the idea that, whatever “it” may mean, young people cannot handle “it.” That in turn obliges parents to put in almost superhuman effort, foresight, supervision, and moralizing. In the US, the same role is later played by the colleges. They act, and are expected to act, in loco parentis. The objective is to make the world that young people inhabit predictable, safe, and secure against sadness, pain and, perhaps most important of all, failure.
Young snowflakes who are upset by the above will need to chill out with their legal recreational marijuana and/or medical marijuana and wait for this old guy to die!
The author, presumably fluent in at least three languages, loves to look how people use words and what that says about them:
From 1840 to 1920 males enrolled in institutes of higher learning were known as “college men.” The interwar period saw the emergence of “college kids,” a term which refers to people of both sexes. Rising steeply, by 2000 it had overtaken “college men” and “college women,” both of which seem to be heading towards obsolescence. There even is something called “college child.” … “trauma,” from the Greek “wound,” used to mean a physical injury. Only after 1945 did it extend into the field of psychology as well. There was a time when “oppression” used to mean “unjust or cruel exercise of authority of power” and was almost always backed up by violence. But now we also have verbal oppression, emotional oppression, psychological oppression, and cultural oppression.
Conversely, anybody who is “offended” and is “upset” immediately becomes a “victim.” The implication is that he, and even more so she, is helpless in front or either bad luck or bad people and cannot defend himself or herself. That in turn has given to three new terms, “victimization,” “victimology” and “victimhood.” The first two took off during the 1960s; the third followed in the 1980s. Since then, it has embarked on an even more spectacular career than its older relatives did. Other words that have moved in the same direction are “abuse” and “survivor.” Combining the two, there is even a book about “verbal abuse survivors” who dare to speak out.
He’s particularly sad about how “courage” has been stretched to cover conduct that entails no physical risk and that is engaged in to benefit oneself.
Stepping back from this, consider that Black Elk was 13 years old when he killed (and scalped) at least one U.S. Army soldier at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. He later described how good he felt about this accomplishment, not about suffering PTSD (he was later greatly saddened by his tribe’s defeats, though). Compare to today when parents of teenage boys sue school districts for millions of dollars in cash compensation, claiming that their sons have been irreparably damaged by having sex with a teacher in her 20s or 30s (somewhat lurid example; a more conventional example).
Pussycats was published in mid-2016 and therefore presumably written at least two years ago. Nonetheless, as Natalia noted, it is in sync with the Zeitgeist:
As of 2014 the US military was said to have had more sexual assault response coordinators (SARCs) than it had recruiters. … between 2005 and 2013, almost one third of all officers fired lost their jobs because of sex-related offenses such as adultery and “improper” relationships. … many servicemen are more afraid of being falsely accused of harassment than of the enemy. And with good reason; the number of cases reported each year is incomparably larger than that of troops killed in action.
This is consistent with my experience visiting a local Air Force base at least weekly (our flight school helicopters live in a hangar on the military side of Hanscom Field). Every building has at least a few posters about sexual assault, but I’ve never seen a poster advocating for aggression against the enemy (or even for any kind of success against an enemy).
Why can’t Americans work together or have sex without needing to lawyer up and sue?
As political scientist Francis Fukuyama pointed out, the breakdown of trust is one of the outstanding characteristics of many if not most modern societies. As so often, the US heads the list. Many causes contribute to the phenomenon. First, there is the kind of suburbanization that has vastly increased the average distance between houses.
Coming next, there is geographical mobility. About one in six Americans move home each year. That is two times the British figure, four times the German one, and almost five times the Chinese one. What is more, the average distance to which they move is increasing, causing whatever social ties existed to be cut. Turnover at work is also much higher. People are constantly coming and going without bonding or even trying to do so. Such is the breakdown of trust that a would-be Good Samaritan is much more likely to be sued for providing the wrong kind of assistance than to be rewarded for his or her efforts.
Where trust is in short supply, lawyers are needed. At the turn of the millennium the number of lawyers in America was estimated at 750,000. That works out to one for every 373 members of the population,
The military has become even more litigious than the rest of the U.S.:
In Afghanistan and other places, surely shooters are in greater demand than pen-pushers. Nevertheless, back in 1998 the US Army had 4,438 active-duty lawyers. During the same year the number of men and women wearing the green uniform stood at 440,000. Even when we subtract the one quarter of the general population who are under eighteen and presumably not in need of legal assistance, proportionally the Army had almost three times as many lawyers per person as civilian society does.
The author charts with dismay the rise of women in the military:
As manpower shortages developed during World War I, first the British and then the Americans allowed women to volunteer for the forces. To prevent what, at that time, was known as “moral corruption” and is now known as “sexual harassment,” they served in their own separate corps. They could neither be sent abroad against their will nor serve in combat.
The situation in World War II was broadly similar. In both Britain and the US, the range of MOS (military occupation specialties) open to women grew.
Up to the late 1960s women only formed 1.2 percent of the Forces. … What started changing the situation was the War in Vietnam. Hard-pressed to fill their insatiable demand for manpower without mobilizing the reserves, in 1967 the Forces decided to turn to women as a partial solution to their problems. The two-percent cap was removed and the first female general officer got her star. Between 1973 and 1976 alone, women’s share in the Forces more than doubled from three to seven percent.
The second factor behind the process was the growth of feminism, especially the kind known as “liberal” or “equity” feminism, from the mid-1960s on; the third, the growing shift, all over the West, away from conscription toward all-volunteer forces.
In 1978 the position of commander, women’s corps, was abolished. Women were incorporated into the normal military chain of command … Women’s separate bases were also closed and women’s living quarters integrated with those of men. As a result, instead of being largely segregated, members of the two sexes now often occupied separate floors in the same building.
in both the US and Britain servicewomen seem to enjoy easier access to commissioned rank. … proportionally more of them are found in various rear-services, especially such as require an academic education, special training, or special skills. … The final outcome is that combat troops, aka “grunts,” do not form a privileged group as they deserve to be and as, in any military worth its salt, they have always been. To the contrary: They are discriminated against in favor of better-educated personnel, especially women.
Much of a military woman’s experience is the result of litigation:
Cushman v. Crawford (1976) enabled pregnant women to remain in the service and return to it after giving birth—a privilege, incidentally, neither required by American labor law nor by any means granted by all of America’s civilian employers. Next, Owens v. Brown (1978) forced the Navy to open additional ships to women.
Creveld states that women, on average, are not as big and strong as men (he would surely have been fired from Google for saying this! (which reminds me… what is the Google Heretic doing now? He has been pushed out of the news by the Hollywood Cleansing and that is kind of sad)):
women are less well adapted to war. Thinner skulls, lighter bone ridges, and weaker jawbones provide them with less protection against blows. Shorter arms make it harder for women to draw weapons from their scabbards, stab with them, and throw them. Women’s legs are shorter and set at a different angle from those of men. The outcome is to make them less suitable both for sprinting and for running long distances. … The only relevant physical advantages women possess is that they are apparently less subject to altitude sickness. Since they have proportionally more body fat, they also endure cold better.
At West Point during the early eighties, women suffered ten times as many stress fractures as did men. One study found that women were more than twice as likely to suffer leg injuries and nearly five times as likely to suffer fractures as men. Injury also caused women to sustain five times as many days of limited duty as did men. Women at the Air Force Academy visited doctors’ clinics four times as often as men did. They suffered nine times as many shin splints, five times as many stress fractures, and more than five times as many cases of tendonitis.
This is consistent with my personal knowledge. A friend who attended West Point was essentially forced to play softball at a near-professional level (every cadet has to do something intense with sports). She required shoulder surgery within a year or two.
But on the other hand… so what? If war is flying an Apache helicopter with two fingers, why can’t a woman do that just as well as any man? The Soviet “Night Witches” seem to have been as competent as male pilots. In modern times, see Patty Wagstaff, for example, for a female pilot whose stick-and-rudder skills far exceed 99 percent of male pilots. If the next war is flying a swarm of drones from a desk, why does a soldier need a thick skull?
On the other hand, the actual way that women are incorporated into Western militaries is not obviously consistent with the equality feminism that was popular back in my youth:
During World War II, in all countries that allowed women to volunteer for the military, those who became pregnant were discharged. Later, when women’s roles in the services started expanding during the 1970s, the authorities took a similar line without, apparently, spending too much thought on the matter. That, for example, was what the British Forces did between 1978 and 1990, only to discover that discharging pregnant personnel was against European Law. The upshot was that 4,100 women, some retired, some still serving, went to the courts and demanded compensation. Some 2,400 women got their way and received sums that ranged as high as $600,000.
During one six-year period when the Army was deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq some two hundred pregnant British servicewomen had to be evacuated.
In the US things were no different. Partly because they recognized the medical implications of pregnancy, partly because they found it impossible to stand up to feminist pressure, and partly because of the usual fear of liability, the Forces have granted pregnant servicewomen a whole series of privileges. … they may not be deployed overseas or aboard ship. They have the right to be separated from the Services … exemption from the physical readiness program both during pregnancy itself and for six months following delivery; … In some cases, it has been claimed, women got pregnant in order to be sent home. It is, indeed, quite possible that servicewomen’s wishes to avoid deployment to undesirable places such as Afghanistan and Iraq is at least partly responsible for the rise in the number of (allegedly) accidental pregnancies—notwithstanding the issue of free contraceptives, and notwithstanding that the women surveyed said that they were easy to obtain. As of 2008 the number of such pregnancies was proportionally twice as high as in the civilian world.
Even when women don’t bail out via pregnancy, Creveld says that they are mostly exempt from combat as a practical matter (sometimes women can volunteer for combat assignments). And if they break the rules they won’t be disciplined as harshly as a man would be.
As a practical matter, how does an American military woman get out of deployment via pregnancy? What if she isn’t married? Creveld explains that the U.S. has a Uniform Code of Military Justice, which categorizes a married service member having sex with someone other than his or her spouse as “adultery” and “inappropriate conduct”. However, an unmarried military woman who has sex with a local already-married dentist won’t be violating any rules (and, depending on the state, may harvest child support well in excess of any military pay!). As of 2013, the U.S. military had thus accumulated 156,000 “single parents” (“the great majority of whom are women”) and “Military women are much more likely to be divorced than civilian women.” Creveld suspects that the single parents are not actually willing or able to be deployed and therefore are very likely to become “unintentionally” pregnant, but that the military stopped collecting data on these phenomena in 2008 (too embarrassing!).
Creveld says that women in the U.S. military generate an epic quantity of litigation and administrative complaints:
As one female American pilot put it to me some years ago: “Sexual harassment is what I decide to report to my superiors.” In other words, any advance except those that are welcomed and taken up.
the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the first of their kind in which women were deployed in any numbers. Not accidentally, they also generated a hitherto unknown kind of casualty among the troops. Meet the newest disease: MST (military-sexual trauma). Spreading like wildfire, practically all the victims are female.
So unable to look after themselves were many servicewomen in Afghanistan and Iraq that, according to one source, seventy-one percent were sexually assaulted, and thirty percent raped. At night they even had to be escorted to the toilets—by men
Creveld seems to want to go back to a time when war was a manly activity, soldiers were manly, and women had their own barracks. Part of the book implies that if only we could get women out of the military and therefore stop spending 80 percent of our military energy on adjudicating sexual assault allegations we would have a fierce fighting machine that would strike fear into the hearts of our enemies. Yet this is inconsistent with a long section on how a large percentage of men leaving the U.S. military are being diagnosed with PTSD. The men-children of modern day American are permanently damaged by even the slightest brush with war. He approvingly cites General James Mattis, now Secretary of Defense:
While victimhood in America is exalted I don’t think our veterans should join those ranks. There is also something called post traumatic growth where you come out of a situation like that and you actually feel kinder toward your fellow man and fellow woman. We are going to have to have young people in our country who are willing to go toe to toe with this because two irreconcilable wills exist. There is no room for military people, including our veterans, to see themselves as victims even if so many of our countrymen are prone to relish that role.
Statistically it seems that there actually is quite a bit of room for veterans without physical injuries to be considered victims. “Is PTSD Contagious?” (Mother Jones) discusses the extent to which spouses and children of PTSD-disabled veterans can themselves be considered disabled by PTSD (and get on the federal payroll).
As with most American journalists, Creveld isn’t careful with the economics of PTSD and disability and therefore sometimes compares statistics from years where different rules and payouts were used.
“More vets could get PTSD compensation under rule change” (Stripes, 2010):
Veterans could find an easier path to receiving disability payments for post-traumatic stress disorder under new rules expected to take effect as early as next week. … Under current rules, troops who served in combat roles and later suffered post-traumatic stress disorder were assumed to have a service-related illness. But those who didn’t serve on the front lines needed documentation and witness testimony to prove their illness was connected to their service. … Under the new rule, claims adjusters will be instructed to accept any valid PTSD diagnosis as combat related if the veteran can prove they served in a war zone and provide basic evidence of their role there. The change would also apply to past wars, meaning Vietnam veterans could benefit from the change. The VA has seen a dramatic rise in PTSD disability claims over the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; from fiscal 1999 to fiscal 2008, the number increased from 120,000 to 345,520.
VA officials have planned a press conference to detail the new rules on Monday, when the changes become official. They’ve also planned a public push to explain to veterans how to apply for the additional compensation.
“Triple-Dipping: Thousands of Veterans Receive More than $100,000 in Benefits Every Year” (Heritage Foundation, 2014):
Until 2003, military retirees were prohibited from collecting full Defense Department retirement and VA disability benefits simultaneously. … Policy changes in 2004 allowed Defense Department retirees to collect benefits from both programs simultaneously. … Since enactment of the concurrent-receipt policy, the share of military retirees who also receive VA disability benefits rose from 33 percent in 2005 to 47 percent in 2013. Eligible veterans who receive military retirement pay and VA disability compensation may further supplement their income with Social Security disability benefits.
Census data show that each generation of veterans is more disabled than the previous one (report), but given that the cash incentives for becoming disabled keep changing, I don’t think it makes sense to compare the generations as Creveld sometimes does. He’s right that an American soldier circa 2018 is more likely to become “disabled” by working at a desk at a supply base than was his counterpart in 1918 being shelled in a trench. But how can we be sure that this indicates a change in national character as Creveld implies? Maybe American men in 1918 would have delighted to cash disability checks then go home to play Xbox.
So… getting back to Natalia’s question. I’m a child of the Equality Feminism era. So it is tough to sell me on the idea that an organization can be improved by kicking out the women, as Creveld seems to suggest. Also, I don’t think it is fair to blame women for the fact that American military men are keen to join the “Check of the Month club” (what an Air Force officer told me was the main motivation for fighter pilots going to work every day; he is now commanding a squadron of F-15s) and perhaps to collect all three monthly checks that the government is willing to hand out for anyone who can qualify as a victim of PTSD.
Instead of telling Americans that at least some subset of them need to “man up” and/or that a government function will be “reformed,” I think it is more sensible to budget for the trends of the past 100 years continuing. Just assume that every person recruited into the military is going to quality for disability benefits (like 97 percent of Long Island Railroad workers). That’s the real cost of recruiting a soldier in 21st century America. Once we know the real cost we can decide how large a military we want to fund.