Good Training

Last night I was watching videos of Laura Phelps-Sweatt, the strongest woman powerlifter and one of the strongest humans in the world, training with Gracie Vanasse, and it made me want to move. Problem was that it was 11 o’clock at night, so my options were limited. I call these “girlfriend pushups”:

Watching the video, I realize that I need to focus on keeping a neutral head position so that I don’t cheat off the last couple inches.

Here’s Laura and Gracie doing box squats. Laura stays well below her competition max of 670-775 pounds, so my guess is that she’s training for explosion (with more weight on the bar than my max record in the same weight class, plus green bands for progressive resistance):

Women in Combat: Already Done It.

My guest blog on the Women in Combat symposium of May 1-2 2014 just went live on Carrying the Gun. Check it out. 

Lego Roundup

Here’s a likeness of former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal clutching a real basketball. 

Asian Historical Issues Are Sensitive Indeed

Just a quick update on yesterday’s post about Northeast Asian relations: Polling finds that Kim Jong-Un, dictator of North Korea, has higher favorability ratings in South Korea than Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister. Ouch.

Super-Sensing Bats and the Frogs They Hunt

The Trachops cirrhosus bat hunts túngara frogs by echolocating them based on the ripples in water produced by the frogs’ mating songs. In defense, the frogs have been observed to go silent when they know predators are around. Nat Geo reports on a further twist: The frogs can make use of audio camouflage:

 Researchers found that when a frog’s puddle was littered with debris or vegetation, like leaves, it made them much more difficult for frog-eating bats to detect.

That’s because the debris acts as “echo-acoustic clutter” and breaks up the ripples that the túngara frog’s song would otherwise generate.


Replacing the War Powers Act

Hayes Brown reports on a bill proposed by Senators John McCain and Tim Kaine to replace the War Powers Act with a stronger restriction on the executive use of force:

That provision would exclude humanitarian missions and covert operations, and the initial consultation could be deferred in time of emergency, but must take place within three days after. The legislation would also raise a new joint committee composed of the heads of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Intelligence, and Appropriations in both Houses of Congress “to ensure there is a timely exchange of views between the legislative and executive branches, not just notification by the executive.”

Finally, the law, if passed and signed, would require a vote in Congress in support of or against any military operation within 30 days. “Under the Act, all Members of Congress would eventually be asked to vote on decisions of war in order to ensure a deliberate public discussion in the full view of the American public, increasing the knowledge of the population and the accountability of our elected officials,” a press release announcing the legislation reads.

I’m in general agreement with the sentiment of this bill. As Hayes notes, Congress has never successfully marshaled the War Powers Act to prevent an executive use of force. That said, I wonder how much difference the proposed replacement will make.

First, there’s the possibility for abuse of the emergency deferral provision. This provision is a necessary hedge in a world of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles with 30-minute flight times. But how many presidents can we expect to promote their use of force as something other than an emergency?

In the event of good-faith implementation, the bill’s initial requirement for an executive “consultation” with a joint congressional committee may not deter the executive if the committee lacks the authority to deny a use of force.

If the president goes ahead with a use of force against the wishes of the committee, the subsequent Congressional vote will be fraught with political peril. As we saw with the Iraq War, it’s easy to drum up public support for the initiation of force through fearmongering, jingoism, and other forms of manipulation. Congressmembers may often find themselves with no political choice but to vote for, and thus to legitimize, continued military action once nay votes can be painted as complicity in abandoning the troops.

On the other hand, it’s possible that the committee could get out ahead of the president and use his defiance as a political bludgeon to swing the floor vote against him. If this happened even occasionally, the bill’s track record would be better than that of the War Powers Act. But I would expect presidentially-evoked “rally round the flag” effect to drown out the committee’s protestations in times of fear, when barriers against war are most necessary.

The bill would be a valuable step in the direction of democratic barriers to the use of force. But in the absence of cultural deglamorization of war and constant political vigilance, it may not prevent that many wars.

If Infantry Culture Precludes Integration, Just Change It, Cont.

In Tuesday’s post on gender integration of the infantry, I argued that the military’s indoctrination program provides the tools to change infantry culture to be compatible with integration. I also quoted Soren Sjogren, a Danish infantry officer. Yesterday, Soren commented on the post:

I guess that military culture is changing. We might affect the recruits but we are also affected by trends in society if nothing else at least then through legislation. Denmark is a small country and the culture in our military generally reflects the culture in civilian society. My principles for leading mixed gender units are deeply rooted in Scandinavian civilian norms.

How to conduct that transmission, however, is interesting and rather complex. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.

I suppose I have not fully thought out my ideas on this topic. In fact, looking through previous posts, I realize I once argued that military boot camps “can only strip away so much.”

Indeed, part of the challenge seems to be that American society is conflicted on this issue. It’s not hard to find US servicemembers who believe that anyone who can meet an occupational standard should be afforded the opportunity to do the job. These folks are probably drawing in great part from values inculcated during their civilian upbringing. It’s also not hard to find servicemembers who believe that women are of an essentially inferior nature that makes them unfit for combat. These people are probably likewise drawing on values from their civilian upbringing.

But military professionalism should unambiguously stipulate that the only valid measure of an individual servicemember’s merit is whether they can accomplish a given mission according to procedure. In my experience, the prevailing conception of Marine Corps professionalism treated open sexism as an exception to this norm. It strikes me as within the capabilities of the indoctrination toolbox to clarify that military professionalism does not permit such exceptions.

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