How did we ever get to the position where women are being preferred to men for recruitment to combat positions in the Australian Army? Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported on August 11 that, in order to meet gender diversity quotas, Army recruiting officers had been instructed not to process applications from males for combat roles over the next twelve months, but to fast-track females through the system for the same front-line positions.
The real implications of such a policy were immediately demonstrated by the Telegraph’s online site which posted, without comment, a CCTV video of events at Paris Orly Airport in March this year. It shows an Islamic terrorist capturing a female member of the French Army on counter-terrorism patrol at the airport. He is much larger than her, and easily seizes her from behind. He disarms her of the assault rifle she carries and takes her hostage. Using her as a shield, he frogmarches her along the terminal shouting he wants to die in the name of Allah and “whatever happens, there will be deaths”.
For three long minutes he and his captive are followed by two male French soldiers, rifles at their shoulders but without benefit of cover. When the terrorist adjusts his grip on his hostage and turns to fire her weapon at his pursuers, they react first and shoot him dead. The female captive crawls away and the two male soldiers rush over to help her.
It is patently obvious from this incident that women are not strong enough or quick enough for this kind of front-line duty. They are bound to be a weak link in any chain of force needed in counter-terrorism situations. Indeed, their presence could well be a positive incitement to terrorists seeking to confront armed forces and die in a blaze of publicity.
Hence, it is irresponsible of the Australian Army to attract young female recruits with promotional material showing them on patrol in camouflage gear in simulated combat zones, bearing the latest automatic assault rifles, doing the same as male recruits and looking assured they can handle whatever arises. For the French Army, in its long, drawn-out war against Islamic terrorism, foot patrols like that at Orly Airport are the front lines of their combat zone and it could not be clearer that women should be kept out of them, to protect not only their own lives but those of their male colleagues and any civilians in the vicinity.
This column appears in the latest edition of Quadrant.
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For the Australian Army, the latest revelations about the obeisance its recruiters now pay to radical feminist ideology, especially the notions that girls can do anything and women are the equal of men at everything, is simply the latest scandal in the so-called diversity revolution inflicted on the force by its former leader Lieutenant General David Morrison.
What is more disturbing is that it is now clear Morrison’s programs were not just one-off experiments driven by his own ambition to please the Rudd and Gillard governments. The current Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, has a much more impressive resumé as commander of a battalion in East Timor and chief of staff to both Peter Cosgrove and Angus Houston when each was Chief of the Defence Force. From 2013 to 2015, he was the commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, which ended the people-smuggling trade in illegal immigrants, the job that elevated him to Army chief under Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
But rather than adopt a different organisational culture, Campbell is going down the same gender-blender slope as his predecessor. Last year he announced: “The number one priority I have with respect to recruitment is increasing our diversity.” He set a target to double the proportion of women employed by the Army from 12 per cent to 25 per cent by 2025.
In a Telegraph article in February about Campbell’s program, Miranda Devine quoted one dissident whistleblower saying that since his target was set, Defence Force Recruiting has pulled out all stops to entice women into the Army. They run “female only information sessions, female only fitness assessments, female only job assessment days, have a dedicated female specialist recruitment team… [and] free fitness training”.
In one speech to recruitment officers, Campbell said he would overcome any resistance to his policy. He mentioned an unnamed dissident who had informed Army Gender Adviser, Julie McKay, that he would resist diversity targets because he “needed to protect the Army from Canberra”.
However, it should now be obvious that the Canberra government and bureaucracy are far from the only influences on the diversity agenda. The Army hierarchy itself has plainly adopted it as a moral obligation. Our generals think this is a good thing to do, that it is a progressive, enlightened and up-to-date policy for the twenty-first century. If they did not accede to its demands, they believe, they would open the Army to accusations of being sexist and discriminatory on gender issues. In short, the Army has absorbed gender diversity as a cultural imperative, irrespective of any incompatibility it might have with the objective of providing Australia with the most effective fighting force possible.
How has it come to this?
The rot set in thirty years ago under the Hawke government’s Minister for Defence, Kim Beazley, the man who bequeathed us the Collins Class submarines. In 1986 Beazley approved the formation of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) to provide university degree programs for junior military officers. Instead of providing higher education within Australian military traditions, Beazley outsourced the running of the Academy to the University of New South Wales, which has conducted it ever since. As a result, ADFA has been subject to all the fashionable trends in civilian academic education that have degraded the humanities and social sciences over the same period.
This has meant that, instead of a largely politically neutral education program based on scholarship but with the defence of the nation itself and its democratic and liberal principles as a central focus, the Academy has taken on board the same kind of identity politics that has infected the study of the humanities everywhere else. Although it has attracted some genuine scholars in military history, such as Jeffrey Grey and Tom Frame, the Academy has also provided plenty of scope for those academics who think their purpose in life is to denigrate Australia’s liberal democracy and demonstrate how crude and uncouth are the cultural values of mainstream Australians.
For instance, three of ADFA’s academics in history, Peter Stanley, Craig Stockings and John Connor, have contributed to books and articles designed to belittle the Anzac Legend, or “Anzackery” as they call it. As Mervyn Bendle has shown in detail in Anzac and Its Enemies (Quadrant Books, 2015), they regard the Anzac Legend as a reactionary mythology that justifies the alleged class, gender and racial oppression inherent in Australian society. The campaign against Anzackery complements long-term efforts by academic feminists to indict Australian masculinity for both war-mongering and domestic violence, not to mention epidemics of date rape and imaginary forms of sexual harassment such as “inappropriate staring” on university campuses.
In ADFA’s International Political Studies program, Professor Anthony Burke—a devotee of postmodern theorists Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, post-colonialist Edward Said and the Frankfurt School of Marxist theory—teaches a program in Refugees and Terrorism, where students learn about Australia’s purported “repression and exclusion of asylum seekers”. Burke practises “critical terrorist studies”, a field that seeks to “de-exceptionalise” terrorism as a form of political violence, rather than a unique form of “evil”, and to engage with terrorists as human beings rather than some de-humanised “Other”.
ADFA students who venture into courses run by the School of English and Media Studies sit at the feet of Professor Nicole Moore, another academic who takes the theories of French postmodernist theorist Michel Foucault seriously and who lists Gender and Sexuality Studies among her research interests. In the school’s undergraduate degree program, they can study subjects such as Reading Theory, and Heroism, Banditry and Manhood.
Or if they go on to postgraduate studies, ADFA students could end up writing theses like the following from a list published on the Academy’s website: Literary Suffragism; Post 9/11 War Films; Representations of African-Americans; or Marriage in the Nineteenth Century Australian Novel—just the thing to prepare them for a promising career as officers in today’s Australian Defence Force.
ADFA’s program in the humanities provides an intellectual climate that teaches identity politics is the progressive political cause du jour, and that students who absorb its principles will get ahead in our military services. If an educational institution keeps doing this for three decades on end, and hardly anyone dares to criticise what it is doing, it is little wonder it can create a cohort of true believers dedicated to imposing their ideology on the institution at large.
In short, ADFA’s academics might have won the Culture Wars but at a hazardous cost to the Army’s ability to fight real wars.