Debauchery in the Ranks

Texas Fred has a new post with interesting stories from war front. Specifically, his sources say that prostitution and illegal drug use are growing problems among U.S. troops in Iraq. We don't know how widespread these problems are, and Fred's sources are anonymous, so take this with a grain of salt. However, I don't think anyone would deny these things happen to some degree at least.

Prostitutes have followed armies for thousands of years, of course. The difference this time is that the same people are wearing both hats: some female American soldiers are reportedly selling themselves to the males for cash. Some, according to Texas Fred's sources, are making quite a lot of money in this way.

I'm trying to think of a historical parallel for this and coming up short. Examples of gender-mixed armies deploying outside their home countries for more than short periods are few and far between. Maybe now we are seeing why it is not a good idea.

In principle, I'm not against the idea of women in the service. My experience in the Army commanding a mixed unit was fairly positive. We had some minor problems, but the females in my company were professional and did their fair share of the work. However, those women came of age in a different era. They didn't grow up with MTV and gangsta rap and all that goes with it. Is a mixed force workable in today's sexually-charged popular culture? Maybe not.

Leaving aside the moral dimension, this kind of activity is still problematic. First of all, in a war zone every soldier is a potential blood donor for injured troops. Anything that promotes the spread of infectious disease creates risk for all. Yes, yes, I'm sure they use "protection." Fine. It's not foolproof, as lots of people find out the hard way.

Second, when the "protection" fails, the result is pregnancy. That leads to several possibilities, all unpleasant. The pregnant female soldier becomes physically less able to do her job, leaving more work for the others in the unit and harming morale. Eventually she will get shipped home and may or may not be replaced. From there, she will either kill her baby through abortion, or give birth to a baby with no father in the picture. Neither option is good for the child.

Third, we now have an Army with many married soldiers. Long deployments create temptation for both spouses to be unfaithful, which may be inevitable, but it doesn't do morale any good when the wives (or husbands) back home have to wonder what their husbands (or wives) are up to over there. This leads to more broken homes and family strife, and ultimately weakens the force as good soldiers look for work that lets them keep their families together.

Fourth, a unit whose members are in the habit of sleeping with each other for money is unlikely to be cohesive and operate at peak efficiency when necessary. Given that military forces are routinely involved with life and death, it doesn't make sense to let them devolve into fraternity parties.

Short of imposing a draft, I doubt the U.S. could field a military force of the current size without females. On the other hand, young men and women will do what comes naturally, especially when forced together for months on end. Sergeants can't be everywhere at once, and anyway who will watch the sergeants? They're human, too. I don't see any good solutions.

Finally, don't think for a minute that the Iraqi population doesn't know this is going on. Their culture frowns on such behavior. It's not surprising, then, if the last thing they want is for their country to become more like America. They observe our debauchery and conclude, quite reasonably, that if this is what "freedom" brings they don't want any part of it.

At the end of the day, it all points back to what I've said for many other reasons: U.S. forces should not be in Iraq. This operation is accomplishing little and destroying readiness in the process. It needs to end as soon as possible.


Dymphna said...

Have you seen pictures of Iraqi women? I seriously doubt that any American soldier would be so desperate as too... besides the female soldiers are readily available and getting pregnant is a one way ticket home.

ignorant redneck said...

I served in Germany in the 80's--sex was readily available for free, or in the legal brothels "on the economy" But the "behavioral sciencespecialist/drug and alcoholcouncelor", an NCO was able to supplement her income nicely. As was the post librarian (who was later dismissed for ties to the Rot Armee Fraction.)

It's a consequence of original sin: Men + Women = temptation x cash > prostitution.