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Win the fight before it breaks out
For every George Washington, we should look for a Georgia Washington, too.
Sen. Ted Cruz invoked the word "emasculated" to compare an American soldier (a woman) with Russian soldiers (men). It's incredibly childish, particularly since the American soldier is actively serving her country. The roid-rage, faux-masculine routine is an idiotic ruse to fall for. A 21st Century defense policy has to look for intelligence, grit, and originality without making lazy assumptions about the physical package that will contain them.
■ James Mattis once said, "How can we coach anything if we don't know a lot more than just the tactics, techniques, and procedures?" When people like Sen. Cruz talk about the military as if it is reducible to how much weight a person can lift rather than how well they can learn to execute complex tasks, they denigrate the professionalized armed forces upon which we depend.
■ Trench warfare went out with WWI. The need for sophisticated fighting forces was obvious certainly no later than WWII, of which Dwight Eisenhower wrote, "Thorough technical, psychological, and physical training is one protection and one weapon that every nation can give to its soldiers before committing them to battle, but since war always comes to a democracy as an unexpected emergency, this training must be largely accomplished in peace." Note the order of Eisenhower's words: Technical and psychological training were listed first, and it's unlikely that was a mere accident.
■ It's odd to cling so tightly to this false equivalence among masculinity, physical strength, and perceived military dominance (especially so for a United States Senator amplifying Russian propaganda). There certainly are people who are made uncomfortable by celebrities like Demi Lovato and Elliot Page, who have publicly defied conventional gender orientations this year. Some of those people may even be elected officials. Their discomfort may even be authentic. But that discomfort -- however personal or sincere -- doesn't have a place in public policy.
■ And that is where the performative, faux-masculine displays get into trouble. There's a whole lot of play-acting going on among people who owe it to their fellow Americans to behave better. Patriotic men and women alike owe everyone else their best judgment, their temperance, and their willingness to engage complexity with humility. Jack Bauer slapping a terrorist is fiction: The real-life CIA needs female leaders and male ones not for their physiques but for their brains. Osama bin Laden was hunted down by a female-dominated team of analysts.
■ Our adversaries can have all the nonsense displays of muscle-bound aggression fan service they want. If it gives them a false sense of security, then so much the better. Last year's hand-to-hand combat in the Himalayas was extraordinary expressly because it was so out of place. The martial advantage of today and tomorrow comes from putting brains to work using tools. Little or nothing about that combination depends upon gender: We should be thinking of how we could double our supply of great leaders by looking not just for the next George Washington, George C. Marshall, or George S. Patton -- but for Georgia Washington, Georgia C. Marshall, and Georgia S. Patton, too.
■ Let us praise people for the qualities they bring to their work and the character they demonstrate on and off the job. Let us demand that our policymakers steer clear of pointlessly adhering to notions of security that were already outdated 80 years ago. And particularly as we observe Memorial Day, let us have sufficient regard for our armed forces that we not only expect them to demonstrate professionalism but that we treat them with professional regard in return -- seeing that it's not the hairstyles that matter to our national safety but the minds underneath.