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May 22, 2008

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Why the change? Because it had already changed for Iraq, so now Afghanistan has the same rules.

Why the change? Because it had already changed for Iraq, so now Afghanistan has the same rules.

So can someone more familiar than I with the UCMJ 'splain me the answer to what seems the relevant question: Will this change make it easier or more difficult for women whose comrades-in-arms rape them to obtain justice?

I think I can guess at the answer, but I'm interested in hearing from someone who knows how these complaints are currently being processed.

One thing I like about Americans is that they seem to enjoy getting around rules. I believe that this is based on a love of freedom. This is not a universal mindset however.

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Dear Hilzoy: I hope you are well.

I would think the reason for Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser's order was fairly obvious. He was trying to make some allowance for military and civilian employees of opposite genders to be able to meet each other when off duty. As long as they did not socialize too "intimately."

Sincerely, Sean

Dear Hilzoy: I hope you are well.

I think the reason for Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser's order was fairly obvious. He was trying to enable military personnel and civilian employees of the opposite sexes to meet and socialize fairly easily when off duty. So long as they did not socialize too "intimately."

Sincerely, Sean

Apologies. I sent two nearly the same notes. Because I thought I had failed to send the first one successfuly.

Sincerely, Sean

Apologies for sending two nearly the same notes. I thought I had failed to upload the first message.

Sincerely, Sean

I think that the rationale of the order is: sex is allowed, if no one else knows about it. Having sex is not forbidden per se, only having it so that other people know it. If a female servicemember gets pregnant in Afghanistan, she does not face disciplinary action, and the proud father can come forward to confess his paternity. (If they're asked about the circumstances of getting pregnant, they can always "take the fifth".) This is obviously a good thing.

Hilzoy says So, um, why did they bother to make this change?

This represents a frightening trend in the Army to get bogged down in useless and mundane regulations for rear-echelon support soldiers. Senior NCOs looking for uniform violations and the mandatory use of reflective belts while on the FOB are some of the trite rules. Strict order and discipline about such matters has it's place, but not in a combat environment. Senior military leaders should be more concerned with killing the Taliban, reconstructing Afghanistan, and winning over the hearts and minds of local Afghans.

Phoneix Rising says I think I can guess at the answer, but I'm interested in hearing from someone who knows how these complaints are currently being processed.

Rock Richard, a blogger over at Vetvoice knows a lot about this and just returned from A-stan. Drop him a line, and I'm sure he can answer your questions. Hopefully they are taken very seriously, but I'm not the expert.

Men and women "will not cohabit with, reside or sleep with members of the opposite gender in living spaces of any kind," unless they are married or if it’s necessary for military reasons, the new policy states.

Now it's up to the brave soldiers to find a situation where it is of vital military importance to have sex while unmarried. ;-)

As far as I can tell, having sex outdoors seems to be the way to go.

"Cohabitation" may mean also non-sexual relationship where persons share living quarters. For example, I have slept many a night in a tent with female comrades-in-arms during field exercises. (In Finland, female soldiers have separate rooms in barracks but no separate facilities in exercises or aboard ships. In Sweden, so I've heard, they do not have separate facilities at all.)

No one in his/her right mind would like to start having sex in a tent with 15 other soldiers trying to get some sleep.

Dear Sean: I hope you are well. Any chance you might take a stab at responding to my reply to you in the "Kennedy Hospitalized" thread, or my previous response in the "Kennedy Hospitalized" thread (the other one)?

Sincerely,
Gary

"This represents a frightening trend in the Army to get bogged down in useless and mundane regulations for rear-echelon support soldiers."

"Trend"? I expect you're aware that the U.S. Army was infamous for this during the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Korea, as well as most points in between? I'm sure it may feel worse, but soldiers in all those wars felt the same way, and there's plenty of documentation that they're correct.

Also some fiction you may have heard of.

Or, for that matter, the same is true of most standing national Armies of the last couple of hundred years; see the British Army, particularly.

"REMF" isn't a recent term, and neither is "catch-22," etc.

I think the Army here is facing reality about the fact that sex between unmarried personnel is happening, but they kind of want to keep TOO MUCH of it from happening. What they seem to be hinting at is you can have sex, but be discreet about it.

The comments have me disoriented. I was lusting for snark, eager for some for myself, snark glands swollen and ready to explode, thinking Thullen will have leaped astride and ridden into the sunrise.

But no. Is it discreet reticence, fitting a subject that refuses reason and underlines the irrational urges classically (as Gary notes) found in the dens of military bureaucratic perversity?

Oh well. It’s left for me to blandly note delight in the conundrum of an officer named Rumi, as in Çelaladdin Rumi, but female, lining up the dominoes to crush anyone who follows the rules made famous by Joseph Heller, by admitting that Intimacy exists and soldiers like Intimacy but Intimacy may only be achieved by dancing dexterously on coals of confusion.
Since this serves well as a metaphor for war, I guess it makes perfect sense. Danger Out There and In Here. Keeps the troops on their toes, quick-witted and wary. Good plan.

Sean, thanks. Poetically executed posting. Made me smile. And I imagine you managed to grasp the Meaning of It All.

Phoenix: how these complaints are currently being processed..
Complaints? Process? (Sounds like; protest)? Next door down the hall to Hell.

Finally, my first thought.
What about condoms?

The Bundeswehr has similar poroblems. The French have "regimental brothels" for units abroad, the Germans do it the wink-wink nudge-nudge way (i.e. don't get caught and we will not really control but if you catch some STD you are in trouble for making us look bad). We have few women soldiers in the first place and almost none that go abroad with the (potentially) fighting troops, so it is mainly about "external" sex.
One might think about prostitution what one wants but it is likely a way to keep sexual abuse of "comrades" low. Forced celibacy is a recipe for trouble (not just in the military).

Aren't condoms issued for emergency watertightening of equipment (and gun muzzles)?

(Oh well, again. Sean commented rather than posted, but it scanned better the wrong way. I guess that’s consistent with the tenor of the question.)

Aren't condoms issued for emergency watertightening of equipment (and gun muzzles)?
Right, of course. Protection for your love-gun. The steel is more important than the flesh, for sure.
Improvisatory ingenuity the essence of successful soldiering, and it fits perfectly the aforesaid tenor. (Basses will have to tough it out.)

singing while running
This is my rifle.

This is my gun.

This one's for fighting.

This one's for fun.
/singing while running


Later

Sergeant: You slimy puke! What do you think you're doing in my barracks!

Private: Sir! Yes, sir! I'm just emergency watertightening my gun muzzle, sir!

Neil: I thought of outside. I suspect that that would be a Very Bad Idea in a war zone in a conservative Muslim country. (I mean, I don't imagine people would react well to mysterious rustlings in the shrubbery, under the circumstances.) But what do I know?

Some event or complaint almost certainly generated this change. My guess is that some soldiers argued that the rules against visiting quarters designated for the opposite sex kept them from socializing in non-sexual ways (poker or monopoly games, working out, or alcoholics anonymous gatherings) that they wanted to keep away from common areas like mess halls.

Sexual relations among soldiers can indeed have implications for good order and discipline that go beyond harassment or rape. Usually this involves special treatment and inappropriate supervisor-subordinate relationships. But other rules cover this, so a general order prohibiting sex between unmarried soldiers would not be necessary to limit this activity.

As a former combat soldier, two things stand out here to me: First, it seems a bit puritanical to impose a general ban on consensual sexual relations between adult soldiers just because they are not married. I get the reasoning behind a prohibition on romance between two soldiers in the same unit, but a general ban seems to have no basis but a religious one. Also, I wonder why the leadership believes that such a ban is needed in a combat zone but not at home station. Unless they worry that women might be using pregnancy as a ticket out of the theater of operations, it seems to me like a petty exercise in making a rule they know a lot of people will break. This in fact creates its own morale and discipline problems, both through selective enforcement and the creation of an impression that the leadership is out of touch.

Hilzoy,

This new policy seems to follow the Don't Ask, Don't Tell tone.

More ambiguity.

Hartmut/8:50 am --

When it comes to sex, one could do worse things than follow the lead of the French.

Viva la Sex.

Yeah, hilzoy, it's kind of funny how the maximally stupid option is the only one that still (as far as I can see) remains legal.

I'm glad this decision came down during a Republican administration. Can you imagine the outrage if a Democratic administration attempted to repeal or loosen the ban on premarital sex?

When I was in a Logbase during Desert Storm awaiting the ground war, we had 5000 gallon blivets (which are like giant waterbeds) placed around the camp. On our morning runs we would often find discarded condoms near them. We felt good knowing that safe sex was being practiced. And the outdoor sex didn't seem to effect our relationship with the local population, mainly because there was none.

Mikeyes,

Cool -- if that's the right word -- first-hand account.

I wasn't a combat soldier, but I was in the Army and I'm surprised the Army was trying to keep the gender segregation at all. In training environments they did so, but we weren't considered "real" soldiers yet.

It really doesn't have that much to do with sex as what Stanton Scott mentioned for socialization and, I would add, even day to day affairs. It's a royal pain to get things done sometimes when you have to have an escort just to drop by a female's room. A female could be in your squad, you have to help her with something or talk to her about something, and you have to meet in a public place--which is potentially not even appropriate. Glad they loosened up a little (though just a little).

So, um, why did they bother to make this change?

So that they can dismiss any and all rape charges as consensual. Obviously.

It is a conundrum. A textured conundrum. This may be a seminal policy.

Don't they have hotels in Afghanistan? The way I read this, sex is no longer banned, just don't do it at home. Am I missing something?

"Don't they have hotels in Afghanistan?"

Um, if you think that U.S. troops in Afghanistan (or Iraq) are conveniently a reasonable drive away from hotels safe for American personnel, you might be using an awful lot of Afghanistan's primary export. I'd suggest doing a bit of reading on the conditions most troops are bivouacked in.

Try this, and see if can find the word "hotel" mentioned anywhere.

Happy Memorial Day.

There are always vehicles. If it's good enough for high school proms, why can't it work for soldiers who are accustomed to doing things in unusual circumstances.

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