Iraq Study Group Report

You can find The Iraq Study Group Report here.

It has been called a report by foreign policy realists. It is not. It is a delusional report by people who, whatever they wrote in the classified version of this report, refuse to call our national policy in Iraq utterly bankrupt and itself delusional.

The report begins with an executive summary recommending the United States pursue an external and an internal approach, in that order. The external approach is described this way: “The United States should immediately launch a new diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region. This diplomatic effort should include every country that has an interest in avoiding a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq’s neighbors. [I.e., Iran and Syria.] Iraq’s neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a support group to reinforce security and national reconciliation within Iraq, neither of which Iraq can achieve on its own.”

And the internal approach? “The Iraqi government should accelerate assuming responsibility for Iraqi security by increasing the number and quality of Iraqi Army brigades. While this process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, embedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. As these actions proceed, U.S. combat forces could begin to move out of Iraq.”

Do what we tell you to, because we’re going to leave the area. (Although we will have US advisers—quite possibly meaning hostages—embedded in Iraqi Army units.)

Perhaps the most delusional sentence in the report is the one that introduces the “Internal Approach” section of the Executive Summary: “The most important questions about Iraq’s future are now the responsibility of Iraqis.” (This is even more delusional than noting that Iran, unmentioned by name, has been “undercutting stability” in Iraq.)

Those questions were always the responsibility of the Iraqis.

To a significant extent, the Iraqis have chosen the chaos their country is sliding into. Regardless of Iranian money, training, and infiltration, regardless of Syria and other countries (like Saudi Arabia) turning a blind eye to troublesome young men going off to Iraq to kill infidels (nice safety valve), regardless of the fact that the reports of initial (and I do stress initial) looting were exaggerated. Regardless of the fact that US and other Coalition troops did not shoot looters. (Which they should have.) “Taking down” Saddam Hussein was always going to be the easy part: the only people who would fight “for” Hussein were those Ba’athists who hurt others very badly (as opposed to just trying to get along to survive). The real question was what 25 million Iraqis were going to do once he was toppled. We got our answer very quickly in places like an-Nasiriyah, where many people (Shia Iraqis, incidentally, and of both sexes and all ages) spontaneously defended their native soil against foreign invaders. We also got our answer in a very different way: Iraqis, ordinary Iraqis, were armed. When I was in Anbar province in the summer of 2004, it was one rifle and three magazines of ammo per adult and, to protect themselves from bandits and insurgents: I heard officers beg Iraqis to defend themselves. We may be the only occupying power in history to openly permit the conquered arms and ammunition, and we have watched as the overwhelming majority of Iraqis consent to allow themselves and their compatriots to be slaughtered.

The most delusional thing about postwar planning for Iraq was the neoconservative assumption that, after decades of totalitarian rule and the destruction of the economy, less by sanctions, than by Saddam Hussein—work, after all, brings people out of their home, families and tribes into the wider society—people who had been brutalized and atomized could act like they knew they could, and did, trust each other.

And we also expected them to want to be like us. We pretended that if we imposed upon them the mechanics of a democracy, such as a Constitution and elections, they would embrace the idea of sharing power: we were liberating them as we liberated Germany and Japan, said people like Condoleezza Rice. Another delusion. We invaded Germany and Japan after bombing their cities to rubble, incinerating them by the tens of thousands, and shoving their armies across continents. We gave all who thought the old Imperial and Nazi orders worth dying for a chance to die for their beliefs, and the Soviets went a good deal further. Germany and Japan were not liberated; they were invaded, defeated, conquered, and occupied after a hell of a lot of people had been killed in the process. We never intended to do that to Iraq.

What we did was liberate Iraq’s monsters from the restraint of Ba’athism and Hussein’s dictatorships. At least during the Hussein years, you knew who they were, where they worked, and pretty much what to do to avoid them. Now they have the run of the streets, and they treat other humans as their noisy play things. Alas, Saddam Hussein may have been the best most Iraqis could do, and they know it.

You don’t have to be a Middle Eastern despot or a jihadi to think, if this is the result of American democratic ideals unhinged from reality, not only no, but hell no.

But these are not the only truths the Iraq Study Group shies away from. It also shies away from certain strategic and military truths.

Oil is a strategic commodity of the highest importance. It is worth fighting for: anyone who doesn’t think oil is worth blood needs to consider how much blood no oil costs, and how quickly, particularly in winter. The world’s oil supplies are finite, and we need to be creating alternatives but that does not mean that Iranian control over much of the world’s known reserves would not be a catastrophe that will bear most heavily upon ordinary people. For Iran is the victor in the Iraq War. And the question, did Iran help bankroll Ahmed Chalabi into encouraging America to do what Iran couldn’t—destroy the Iraqi Army—has never really been asked, much less conclusively answered. Iran is slowly trying to create a regional hegemony in the old Persian Empire: Islam aside, Persia is an ancient and sophisticated civilization and Iran means to be a great power once again.

At the same time, America and Europe cannot tolerate Iran controlling much of the world’s known oil reserves. Arabs and Turks are not interested in being subjected to Persian dominance, raising the possibility of a general war in the Middle East. Yet our Army is wrecked—the people and equipment simply worn out—the Marine Corps isn’t far behind, the Air Force and Navy are shrinking, and the Reserves and National Guard broken. We have financed this war not out of current tax revenues, but by deficit spending, mostly borrowed from China, which increasingly coordinates with…Iran. The result is that we have very limited military, economic, or political leverage in the Middle East, especially with Iran. And negotiating with countries like Syria and Iran does not start with “incentives,” it starts with inflicting real pain on them, the likes of which they have inflicted upon US troops as well as
Iraqi soldiers, police, and civilians.

Now, in the absence of avoiding real, serious pain, why should Iran be interested in helping us? Why should they not rather be interested in seeing if, having defeated the Americans strategically, they cannot also defeat us tactically?

Our involvement in Iraq was worse than a mistake, worse even than a blunder, as Talleyrand would have said. It was a delusion. And now, this supposedly realistic report refuses to confront the awful strategic situation American is now stuck in, in Iraq.

It is going to take a long time to repair the damage our delusional adventure in Iraq has done this nation.

I read the Iraq Study Group Report in the context of finishing the third volume of Forrest Pogue’s biography of George Catlett Marshall. Now, Marshall is an interesting man. He loved very deeply, and was loved very deeply in return by his wives, his friends, the children of his heart (he had none of his body), the Army, the Republic. But Pogue makes it clear that Marshall was not a “nice” man: he was not easy to be around, he was remote, austere, and formal, and he could let a quiet, terrifying rage possess him. But Secretary of War Stimson described him as the strongest man in the country, and Secretary of State Dean Acheson described him as having a lofty and beautiful character. Amongst other things, this means that Marshall permitted himself no delusions: about American strengths or weaknesses, or for that matter, the strategic requirements for, and human and economic costs of, successfully waging war. He did not fool himself about industrial capacity, either. (In our lifetime, we have seen much of our industrial capacity exported, primarily to China and Mexico.) And he didn’t permit anyone else around him to kid themselves about these issues.

It is with great pain that I contemplate Pogue’s portrait of Marshall as a man who was a soldier and statesman of the very finest quality. What were we like, when we had leaders like that, and we deserved each other?


Women and Weakness (Part One)

There’s something I’ve noticed, when I do publicity for Women in the Line of Fire.

I hear from guys whose attitude is, women can’t possibly do this. I tell them, well, they are. And I hear from misogynists who positively want to see more women coming home maimed and in body bags. (These men claim neither service, nor loss of male friends, in a war that has at its heart a conflict as to whether women are humans and citizens, or chattel. Such a personal history would not excuse their rants, but it would explain them. And none of these men ever sign their names.)

And then I hear from women who tell me that there are differences between men and women. Usually, they don’t specify these differences, which is a good thing, because they almost always mistake the consequences of profound socialization based upon biological differences for those differences themselves. And it can be positively embarrassing when they do specify what those differences are: I had one woman tell me that in her experience, most women menstruated. She got very upset when I told her that had been my experience, too. She didn’t think servicewomen should have to menstruate in the jungle—I didn’t ask her if she thought the civilian women who live in jungles shouldn’t menstruate while they’re there—and she thought that for women to be strong and have stamina was to turn them into men.

But many far more rational women do not want to hear about what servicewomen are doing, or that it is time to drop the combat exclusion laws. Which is so interesting, because as late as 10 September 2001, it was regarded as great fun by many women to bait the military—I’ll call these women the feminista, to distinguish them from serious and honorable feminists—about servicewomen’s human and professional standing. A sizable minority of servicewomen endured harassment and abuse, sometimes including rape and murder, as the price of serving their country, while institutionally, the military was shamefully indifferent to the crimes committed against them. As an institution, the military seemed to regard the brutalization of women as a necessary side effect of building strong men, and plenty of predators and their collaborators took advantage of this belief. But the feminista were not determined to force the military to take servicewomen seriously because the military is an important institution, and American women are citizens, with a serious stake in that institution and the survival of the Republic that it defends. (Those who who worked to this serious and honorable end, like former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, were very much in the minority.) Rather, they saw the military as the last bastion of machismo, to be smashed by any means necessary, and servicewomen were their tools for doing it.

Then a funny thing happened. We have been on a collision course with militant fundamentalist Islam since 1979, when student radicals seized the American embassy in Tehran. While there are many, many other issues involved, from the fact that oil is worth fighting for, to the absolute failure of most Arab countries to develop modern, functioning societies, to Iran’s slow resurrection as a great power within the boundaries of the old Persian Empire, the most important issue that is least talked about is the status of women: are women full human beings and citizens, or are they sexual and reproductive chattel? On 9/11, we were attacked by militant Islamic radicals, and nearly three thousand Americans slaughtered; about a third of them were women. And while there were women amongst the first responders, and women enlisted to avenge the dead and in some cases to help liberate their own countries of birth, most of those women who had badgered the military to deal honorably and honestly with servicewomen have largely fallen silent. They are certainly not willing to discuss servicewomen’s growing accomplishments in combat, and their growing acceptance by servicemen as humans and professionals of equal worth and dignity.

The accomplishments of servicewomen, and the accomplishments of servicemen and women together, seem to be profoundly threatening to many women. I have come to believe that to embrace these accomplishments is to accept women’s undeniably biological capacity for strength and stamina, courage and aggression. That capacity seems to profoundly threaten some women, perhaps many.

Yet it is not in a woman’s interest to be weak or vulnerable. No one who has a vested interest in our weakness and vulnerability is our friend. And anyone who tells us it is in our interests to be weak and vulnerable is an enemy. But I see women embrace weakness over and over again, even on such a mundane level as the gym, where many women choose all the limitations, risks and pain of weakness over the rigorous pleasures of a serious exercise program. On the most basic biological level, they deny the craving of their bodies for strength and stamina: most are extremely careful to never increase their strength, expand their range of motion, or improve their cardiovascular capacity. I do not know why so many women would choose, say, a hip fracture (which in older women is often life-threatening) or the spinal fractures that accumulate into a dowager’s hump, or the heart attacks and senility that are badly aggravated by lack of cardiovascular exercise, over the transient soreness that comes with working into a serious exercise program. But every time I go to the gym, I watch women do just that.

If you embrace your own physical weakness, with all its terrible implications for your personal health, the idea of bearing arms must be terribly threatening. Accoringly, I have come to think many women are afraid of hearing that women make good soldiers because to accept that is to accept that the Republic—our Republic, the Republic of which American women are citizens—has a right to count upon us for its defense. It is also to accept that we have a real stake in the survival of the Republic. To say this is not to say, the Iraq war is a good idea, or that the government should have a blank check on us in the form of a draft. But the Republic depends upon us, its citizens, for its survival: that’s fact, not theory. And while it is not perfect, while we have issues to be resolved and problems to be fixed, this is a Republic that increasingly recognizes the full civic worth and human dignity of women. And any American woman who would not trade places for anything with even the most pampered Arab or African woman knows it—regardless of what she says.


Our lives as human beings and citizens, with rights, who live underneath the law and not by anyone’s leave, to borrow from Kipling, rather than as sexual and reproductive chattel—no matter how “humane” or “enlightened” our fathers and husbands may be, no matter how much genuine love there may be between individuals who manage to make a separate peace with each other—are worth defending. By that, I mean fighting, and I don’t mean being killed in some kind of doomed last ditch personal defense, I mean worth killing for in an organized, disciplined (which is to say military) manner.

This is our Republic, and our military. These are our institutions. They are not there to simply be used until they are used up: if we want them to be able to function to enforce our rights amd defend us when we cannot defend ourselves, we have to contribute to their survival in the very dangerous years to come. If the Republic goes down for lack of people to care for it, cherish it, and yes, protect it and defend it, it will not be because men have failed to do so, and men have failed to join the military, it will be because women have also failed to do these things.
And if the Republic goes down, we go down with it.

The only Republic Americans should live in is one that women create, cherish, and define together with men as public and private equals, and together as equals protect and defend.

Charlie Rangel and the Draft

Charlie Rangel and the Draft

Rep. Rangel, incoming chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, has just run an op-ed in The New York Daily News explaining why he intends to introduce a bill calling for the reinstitution of the military draft. He writes, “If this war is the threat to our national security that the Bush administration insists it is, then the President should issue a call for all Americans to sacrifice for the nation’s defense. If there must be a sacrifice, then the burden must be shared fairly.
“That is why I intend to reintroduce legislation to reinstate the military draft, making men and women up to age 42 eligible for service, with no exemptions beyond health or reasons of conscience. I believe it is immoral for those who insist on continuing the conflict in Iraq, and placing war on the table in Iran and North Korea, to do so only at the risk of other people’s children.”

Rangel, of course, was a draftee who was awarded a Bronze Star in an era when the military was not eager to accept blacks, and all too eager to avoid recognizing them when they performed well. But the simple fact is that the draft has always been riddled with unfairness and loopholes. Here, I’d like to draw your attention to my partner, Philip Gold, who has written The Coming Draft: The Crisis in our Military and Why Selective Service is Wrong for America. Approximately 48% of draft-age American men wore a uniform during World War II, the Good War. During the Vietnam era, Approximately 42% of draft-age men wore a uniform, while more than twice as many servicewomen went to Vietnam as men went to jail for principled draft resistance. So much for the myths of massive popular resistance during Vietnam, while World War II was the good war. Of course, if you dodged the draft during WWII, you shut up about it. If you did it during the Vietnam War, you may still be bragging about it, and perhaps confessing how conflicted you still feel.

Philip and I both believe that a draft should be used only when you need a very large (15 million plus) regular force to destroy a nation that presents a clear and present danger to the survival or critical national interests of this country, as determined by Congress upon exercising its Constitutional mandate to declare war.

And yet, the Regular (active) Army alone could stand to be approximately 700,000 and the other services commensurately larger: including service academy (but not contracted ROTC) cadets, the Army’s current top line is 505,000. We also need a larger Reserve and National Guard and a real Homeland Defense system. We are entering an era of climate change, rising sea levels, and almost limitless, uncontrolled violence from state actors (like Iran and China, both of which are seeking to resurrect themselves as great empires) allied with the billions of humans who live on $2/day and less.

This is where Philip begins his discussion of restoring military service as an integral part of citizenship—which it has been throughout Western history, and specifically as the Founders understood it—without militarizing society or resorting to direct Federal conscription. Participation in the common defense, to include uniformed military service, is not only a citizen’s inherent and unalienable right, it is also a fundamental responsibility. But in the aftermath of Vietnam and Iraq, American politicians cannot, and must not, be trusted with a blank check on the body politic.

To resolve this conundrum, he offers a deliberately awkward plan that is based upon the militia of the Founders. The right and the responsibility remain constant, but capabilities, needs, limitations, and preferences vary between individuals and change over a lifetime. Want to be a professional soldier or sailor? Join the Regular forces. Willing to serve only in your state? Join the State Guard if yours has one, although states have reciprocity agreements with each other (this system must be expanded). Willing to risk your life helping others, but there’s no way you’re ever going to use a firearm except in last ditch self-defense? Become a volunteer firefighter or search and rescue volunteer. Willing to help guard America’s borders? Join the Minuteman Project (which is not part of the US government). (Philip and I believe that the United States needs a near-absolute ban on all immigration, including legal immigration and a wall across the Southern Border, coupled with a generous but not blanket amnesty for those illegals in the country to eliminate an exploitable underclass.) Can’t do something as a young person because you’re raising a child? Do something when you’re older. (The Army has publicized the stories of several older women who always wanted to be soldiers, but felt they couldn’t while raising young children, so they enlisted in their late 30s, early 40s.) You get the idea: an individual has to do something to help provide for the common defense, even if that is “only” (in the case of those of us who live in, say, flood or earthquake zones) being able to take care of ourselves, and perhaps the folks next door for 3-5 days after a natural disaster. But what, precisely, except in time of real emergency, is a matter of personal choice and sense of responsibility.

But what about conscientious objectors? Since no one, under this schema, is required to join the military, everyone has the “right” of conscientious objection. Aren’t willing to participate at all? Then you pay a hefty lifetime surcharge on your income tax, analogous to paying for substitutes during the Civil War. If you won’t do that, then you get to talk to the IRS about income tax evasion. But no one goes to jail for refusing to kill, or to wear a uniform.

And yes, Philip and I believe women should be included: all positions at all levels should be open to women, and the United States Code revised to include women who are either citizens or have declared their intention to become citizens as members of the unorganized militia, just as men are. We all have a stake in the common defense—and perhaps, because we are on average shorter and lighter, and thus weaker than men, we women have an even greater stake in it. Which is not to say that what happened in say, New Orleans during and after Katrina was fun or good for men.

Philip and I do not believe everyone—or anyone—“should serve their country,” even in this era of growing danger. We do believe that everyone has the right and responsibility to participate in the common defense according to their individual capabilities (rather than other people’s opinions), constrained only by the circumstances of their lives and the objective need for force levels needed at any given time. We bear in mind this profound distinction between servitude and participation when we say that the American people can no longer be passive consumers of national security.

Women and Strength

Women and Strength

As the author of Women in the Line of Fire, whenever I do media, I get questions and comments on women’s physical strength.

Some men simply don’t want to know that women’s physical strength can be dramatically increased by the adoption of realistic weight limits and strength training. They’re running off a thirty year old database that they have no intention whatsoever of updating, thank you very much.

Some men demand that the average woman meet physical requirements that are impossible for the average man (who is 5 inches taller, height being the best proxy for strength there is) to meet. One man told me he wanted to crew a tank with guys who could throw him out as if he were a baby—he clearly had no idea of how cramped a tank’s crew compartment is. Another man claimed to be an infantryman weighing 212 pounds, humping a rucksack weighing 85% of his body weight (180 pounds, and that wouldn’t include rifle, helmet, body armor, and web gear, probably bringing the total to well over 200 pounds) 4 and 5 miles a day through Afghanistan, and asserting no woman could have kept up with him. Assuming he is telling the truth (and that is a generous assumption), he’s right. Nor could most men. Those few who can and do, often suffer severe orthopedic injuries, and I told him I hoped he hadn’t.

And then there are the women.

I took two calls on two recent radio shows from women, including one woman who began by telling me that in her experience, most women menstruated. (She was quite put out when I agreed that that was also my experience.) Both women insisted that equality does not mean treating women the same as men, and that to expect women to be strong and have stamina was to turn them into men.

For whatever reason, women as a group look at changes for the better in their status very differently than men do. Men often see opportunity; women want to know what they have to give up, specifically, will they cease being women? Yet that said, these women were not expressing honest differences of opinion, but delusions in point of fact. Equality often does mean treating women the same as men: specifically, it means valuing women as much as we value men. For the historic tradition across cultures is to view women as worth less—often much less—than men. Part of that tradition has often been for women to do heavy work, and sometimes serve as outright beasts of burden, on less food, particularly less meat and fat, than the men in their household and often while pregnant or nursing. Another tradition has been for women to suffer and die in war, while being barred from engaging in war, and combat, as soldiers—i.e., with a good chance of killing those men who mean to kill their menfolk, and subject them, as women, to the mercy and perhaps pleasure of the conqueror.

Treating women the same as men isn’t feminism, cried the caller who assumed I didn’t know about menstruation. But in many ways, that is what feminism has been about. Valuing women as much as men, whether intellectually or physically, and wanting women to be as strong as they can be and to eat as much as they need, does not change women’s chromosomes or hormones. And this equality means that like men, women are responsible for defending their polity: just as no one man can do everything or anything, no woman gets an exemption for being a woman.

For the truth is, the American Republic is in terrible trouble, and the wreckage of our Army and Marine Corps in Iraq is just the beginning of the threat we face in what promises to be an increasingly dangerous century. Draft or no draft, American women are more and more equal citizens of equal human worth to men, which means that we have to take increasing responsibility for the survival of the Republic that increasingly guarantees our human and civic worth.

We have a stake in the survival of this Republic that is greater than our biological lives. If our biological lives are all that matter to us, perhaps we would do well to let the Republic disintegrate and collapse: they say it is easier to drown than to struggle for your life. And with luck, we will find merciful men—many women who are chattel, rather than citizens do, but many do not, and they will have little, if any, recourse, and few if any rights. If we wish a full human life—loving marriages with men who are our equals, and even women; only the children we choose to bear from the sex we wish to have with those whom we wish to raise children; the freedom to show our faces and feel the sun and wind on our skin and in our hair; meaningful work that enables economic dignity for ourselves and our families; to live under laws that we have made—then we are going to have to accept our common human heritage, as women, of intellectual, emotional and physical strength and stamina, and aggression honorably expressed.

Mid-Term Election Results

Mid-Term Election Results

The Democrats took both houses of Congress and a woman, Nancy Pelosi, will likely become Speaker of the House next January. If only because they are disgusted with the Republican party and what conservatism has become, Americans have decided that they are not unwilling to trust the Democrats, derided these past few years as “the Mommy party” with national security. At the same time, women are 15% of the military and 11% of the troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are not required to register for the draft, and they do not serve in ground combat specialties or (officially) small ground combat units.

Democratic control of both houses of Congress means that both these situations are likely to change, and the catalyst is likely to be a report due to Congress on December 31 from the Pentagon on the use of servicewomen overseas. The report is being prepared by Rand Corporation, which has a history of being rational about servicewomen. Everything is now on the table. We can now expect a serious discussion of opening all military roles and positions to servicewomen, as well as expanding the number of servicewomen. We can also expect an enormous amount of posturing by the Bush Administration, which has not changed its position one iota (use women in combat but deny what you’re doing, and them, their recognition), while the Cultural Conservatives are opposed to equality in all its forms.

Real change during the Bush Administration is, however, unlikely unless there is a military disaster on the ground. (The most likely scenario is either the largest defeat of a US Army military unit since World War Two at the hands of Iranian soldiers, or the use of tactical, if not strategic, nuclear weapons to stave off such a defeat.) Nevertheless, the Army and Marine Corps are in such bad shape that they will continue to expand the use of selected women (volunteers or not) in combat and continue inching servicewomen as a group closer to combat. This will give more women combat experience (and increase female casualties). It will also give more men more experience with women engaging in combat, which we were once told was probably impossible for women, and certainly impossible for men and women to do together.

Given that the regular, active military needs to be some 200,000 people larger, and the Army and Marine Corps need the greatest expansion, there is no way the military can reverse servicewomen’s growing participation in combat. Nor should it try. The exclusion of women from combat, in an institution that is all about combat, put servicewomen in a terribly difficult personal and professional position that has only begun to ease with their participation in the core of their profession. Many of the problems that attended the integration of women into the military had far less to do with women, and far more with the military’s pretense that they would not be in combat (because that was all it ever was, epsecially in Cold War Europe) and the small numbers of women in the military, especailly in “non-traditional” roles. The military (especially the Army and Marine Corps) would do well to seriously appeal to women in their recruiting ads, including a candid appeal for the same kind of qualities in women, that in men have historically made good soldiers.

We can also expect serious discussion of a draft, including women, brought to us by an alliance between the far right ( which wants a military and preferrably male-only draft) and far left (which wants national service with military and non-military options to provide supposedly cheap labor for a welfare state, although there will be nothing cheap about this labor: incentives aside, it will gut the low end of the economy). Rostker v. Goldberg (1981) upheld the Constitutionality of a male-only draft, based upon the Supreme Court’s deference to Congress, which in turn deferred to the military’s assessment of its own needs. The military, which has never been honest about servicewomen’s vulnerability to combat and its dependence upon them, argued that a draft was necessary to provide combat replacements in case of a war with the Soviet Union, and that since women were barred from combat by law, the military had no need for female conscripts.

A quarter-century later, the growing acceptance of servicewomen as military professionals by their male peers, and their increasing, solid performance in combat means that the military can no longer argue that it does not need women, even in combat, even as draftees. Especially as most families these years are small, and the dramatic reduction of childhood mortality no longer means that many regard a younger son as a spare to be contributed to the military. And a sizable minority of parents of sons are likely to look unkindly upon excluding the daughters of other people, if only because equality of rights means equality of responsibilities.

A Definition of Civic Feminism

A Definition of Civic Feminism

The struggle of American feminism was to make women equal to men: as human beings, with equal access to work and education, to control not only their inheritance, but also their wages and other property, and to reduce (if not entirely eliminate) the scope of violence men could inflict upon them with impunity. And this means as citizens. For man or woman, a citizen is neither a taxpayer nor a consumer: we all consume, but that is not what we are, and even though taxes are essential to maintain a civilization, the poorest illegal alien pays taxes. And finally, a citizen is not a voter: residents of totalitarian societies vote and the results are usually trumpeted, even though they protect no one from arbitrary arrest, torture, and execution.

There are several markers of citizenship.

Formally, there is the right to vote, to serve on a jury, and in the United States be part of the militia, organized or unorganized, in order to provide for the common defense. These are all rights that can only be exercised collectively.

Then there are these informal rights: the right to marry whom you choose, without needing to obtain permission for yourself, either to give your hand, or end the partnership. The right to be free from public torture, for example, by the police during interrogation, or the judiciary, after sentencing, and legal protection against private torture, be it wife-beating, lynching, or gay-bashing or any other form. And the right to serve in the military in any position and at any rank that you personally are capable of filling and obtaining.

Finally, like the Greeks and early Romans before them, the American Founders viewed education, both practical and liberal, as well as work at a scale that enabled one to be more than just a waged slave, as inherent to citizenship: you needed to be educated, and you needed economic insulation from political and other pressures in order to make your civic—political—decisions freely. And your intellect and your work were needed in the public realm.

Taken together, all this means something very specific. A citizen’s intellect, labor, and body are his (and now in America, hers as well), and citizens actively participate in their community and the Republic as members of both, who can count upon both to uphold their rights, just as citizens are responsible for the survival and prosperity of both community and Republic.

It is foolish to ignore how deeply radical was the generations-long struggle of the American feminist movement to make women citizens, even if that struggle was deeply rooted in American political ideas that preceded the actual Revolution. And if that struggle has profoundly and powerfully changed the American political and social landscape very much for the better, in a very short time since the revival of second-stage feminism in the mid-1960s, these ideas are still deeply radical throughout much of the world today. For that matter, there are people in our own country that still haven’t got the word. Yet American women are almost complete citizens. The military is more and more open to women, and we are in the midst of a long, deep sea-change in attitudes towards rape and other violence directed against women: we are well along in the process of being able to count upon our polity to uphold our rights, well along in the process of our polity being able to count upon us to ensure its survival. And if it is time for American women—as feminists, or if you prefer it, as citizens—to accelerate and finalize the change in our status from non-citizens to citizens, it is time we did so together with men to revive what it means to be an American citizen.

A citizen, native-born or naturalized, is a participant in the life of the polity, from a child being educated for adulthood, to an adult who has meaningful work enabling a dignified life, to a participant in the activities that define, shape, and protect the polity: voting, jury service and the common defense, on a spectrum ranging from community watch up to the federal uniformed services. Civic feminism should strive to revive this concept of citizen, and reinvigorate and complete its extension to all Americans, native-born and naturalized, regardless of ethnicity, sex, or orientation, as equals, in public and private.

An Introduction This blog begins where my current…

An Introduction

This blog begins where my current book, Women in the Line of Fire, concludes: “Civic Feminism and the Wars of the 21st Century.” I’m now beginning a book called All the Sisters and All the Brothers : Civic Feminism for the 21st Century, and I’ll be using this blog to explore some of the ideas in it, as well as plenty of ideas that won’t be any part of the book.

I write this as a feminist who is dismayed at what organized, mainstream feminism has been for thirty years before it self-destructed on 14 September 2001, in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center. That feminism was a feminism of self-obsession, hissy-fitting, and a politics that, beyond securing equality for women, had little to do with reality. Now we’re pretty much equal and it’s time for a feminism for the hard years ahead.

Call it civic feminism, and there’s nothing new about it. In truth, it’s a return to feminism’s American roots and best heritage as the quest for equality of responsibility for, and equal participation in, civilization.

Women have a stake in the United States of America. But America is not immortal, and is currently walking open-eyed into disaster. This new civic feminism, while continuing the fight to remedy past injustice and remove the remaining barriers to equality, now concentrates on preserving this civilization.

What does the old feminism offer? In a word, burnout, most recently exemplified by Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda’s GreenStoneMedia network, which offers us programming on such important topics as Paul McCartney’s divorce and internet dating. Women, Gloria Steinem tells us, because women want something “lighter and more entertaining” than political talk shows. We couldn’t possibly want political talk shows in which the participants speak to us, citizen to citizen, with respect for our dignity and theirs, our intelligence and theirs, about the important issues of our time.

What the new feminism offers is the belief that civilization is nothing less than that which men and women together add to, create, guard and defend, as public and private equals.

If you’re tired of saying and thinking, “I’m a feminist, but…” or, “I’m not a feminist, but…” Or if you’ve never been able to declare yourself a feminist, even when you would like to, perhaps the new civic feminism is for you.

If you’re a man, and would welcome such a feminism, then I hope civic feminism is for you, too. Because in the end, civic feminism, like civilization, is something we do together. Over the next few posts, I’ll be laying out the groundwork for what I hope will eventually revitalize feminism in this country, and with it the idea of citizenship.

I hope to hear from you.

Clear Ideas for Difficult Times

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