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A British Boost for Military Gender Equality

Fortune has smiled over the fight for women’s military equality in an unlikely place, the austerity-battered armed forces of the United Kingdom. Headlines over the past year have been dominated by signing ceremonies ending bureaucratic hurdles including the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and Australia offering combat roles to women. In Britain, a serendipitous constellation of administrative, merit-based, and organic advancement may make Britain’s military the new poster-child of gender-equality: the lifting of a ban on female submariners, the first female RN commander of a major warship, and the first female soldier to kill an enemy in combat.

These moves are neither unique nor historic firsts for the world’s militaries. With that said they do point to a more organic methodology by which women are making progress for gender equality. In the case of the UK, a mix of administrative, merit-based, and ‘trial-by-fire’ moments have given a sudden boost to women hoping to serve their countries in any capacity.

Lifting the ban on female submariners is part of a larger trend. The Royal Navy joins the ranks of the US, Australian, Canadian, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian navies in allowing women to serve.

Further, Britain is not the first to grant a warship command to a woman. In 1998 CDR Maureen A. Farren was the first woman to command a USN combatant ship, the USS Mount Vernon. In 2010 Rear Admiral Nora Tyson became the first female commander of a Carrier Strike Group and CDR Sara Joyner was the first female commander of a Carrier Air Wing*. Perhaps a sign of true equality within the USN, a female commander was even fired from her command of the USS Cowpens for “cruelty and mistreatment” aboard her 400-person ship. Canada gave its first major warship command to a female in 2009 to CDR Josee Kurtz aboard the HMCS Halifax.

Lastly, women have been a deadly component of the battlefield for decades. There are many historical examples, including the deadly efficiency of female Soviet Snipers, and the self-motivated French Resistance fighter Nancy Wake who led attacks against Gestapo HQs and killed an SS officer with her bare hands so he could not raise the alarm of a raid.

However, the UK has been the home of a sudden boost of momentum for the cause of gender-equality in armed forces around the world, and they deserved the highlight.



*A rundown of women’s milestones in the US Navy can be found here.


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Pearl Harbor, 70th Anniversary

An eye for an eye,
A tooth for a tooth,
This Sunday, it’s our turn to shoot.
–Remember Pearl Harbor

The opening verse to Admiral Halsey’s order to attack the N. Marshall islands on February 1st, 1942.

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Getting Back to Basics on LCS-Bashing

The Littoral Combat System has recently taken another round of beatings, this time regarding its missile woes. Blogger CDR Salamander compared LCS advocates (members of the Church of Latter Day LCS Advocates) to The Thing in the dog kennel (Warning: The Thing). Salamander is upset, mainly, at the issue surrounding the Griffin Missile. He writes:

Never before has so much been spent for so little capability…

Let me help you with the math with that 13-lb warhead.. 1/6th of 25nm is 4.17nm. Let that soak in. Target 2nm inland … close shore … some goober pulls a 57mm AZP S-60 out from behind the goat shed .. etc, etc, etc … I guess we could just use that awesome speed to run away from a threat. That has such a wonderful pedigree in the Navy.

We have recognized the Griffin’s shortcomings and are now working for something else. OK, fine. Something beats nothing for now. But, as a result – more money falling in to this money pit; money that could have been used to equip our fleet with something useful – a good general purpose light frigate or heavy corvette.
The best time to execute Plan B was four years ago – but alas the PPT was too strong. It can still be done, though less effectively at more cost – but is still better than the swampy and pestilence filled path we continue to go down. Blinkered stubbornness is not how one wins at war. It is how one finds yourself sunk or surrounded.

There was no competitive procurement for the Precision Attack Missile (nee PAM and/or NLOS) replacement, it looks like they just decided to stick with Raytheon – and now – here we go.

Would you really want one of your kids to go to war in one of these death traps any time soon? Marines or SOF ashore – like this as your cover and support? Ponder.

Ares, however, quickly reminds us of the LCS’s existential crisis that remains unsolved.

LCS advocates in the Navy would jump in here and say, now look, the whole point of this is that it’s a different kind of warship. Yes, it can’t get into a slugfest with a Sovremenny — but it was never built to do so. LCS is supposed to show up two days before the strike group and be sure it’s clear of mines, submarines and villains in small boats.

The problem, of course, is that this explanation — like the Marines’ insistance that their former Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle didn’t need protection against IED because, well, it would just never drive where there were IEDs, OK? — sounds embarrassingly rigid. “LCS doesn’t need a heavier main battery because it will never get into serious combat — we’ve CC’d all potential enemies on this doctrine so they’ll know to play by the rules just in case.”

In short, we have an expensive ship carrying woefully inadequate capabilities into an environment where it cannot serve a tactical purpose. However, I don’t think focusing on each new controversy surrounding the LCS does much other than fog over the existential crisis to which Ares points. Lets take a broad stroke at the LCS in the Taiwan Strait. A small number of LCS platforms are supposed to remove mines, battle the PLAN submarine fleet, conduct operations against small boats (most likely fast-attack missile boats), but not get caught up on combat with larger ships? Sure. The LCS narrative is built upon a self-contradictory justification fairy tale.

With that said, I do believe that by spending energy focusing on the Griffin’s shortcomings, or any other specific issue, we give LCS advocates a battleground away from the important node of contention–the mission it can’t complete–out of which they can wiggle themselves. Instead, by hammering away at the core, existential issue upon which all over LCS issues are merely frosting, we can have better discussions about the fate of the LCS program in our greater strategic framework.


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New Home, New Hopes

Welcome to the new home of Petty Tyranny!

Its been a while coming, but moving back to the United States, spending time with my fiancee after a year apart, a sluggish job hunt, and generally getting my bearings has made both my transition away from tumblr and steady publishing a battle of months rather than days.

The factors are few, but powerful. The venerable Galrahn alerted me to the reality that many military bases block tumblr (for whatever reason), making either Blogspot or WordPress superior platforms for purposes of reaching a major part of my target audience. Next, although I love tumblr as a multimedia platform, I was getting far too many “adult” and spam blogs “liking” my feed. Any potential employer, curious about my writing, risked getting a wrong impression with any glance at my “notes”. Such a risk is simply too great given the state of the economy and my rather new presence amongst the foreign policy blogosphere.

I hope you all enjoy the style and substance of the new home. My sincere desire is to write more frequently, but this is proving to be a rather slow process involving a lot of confidence building and self-reflection.

I will be posting media, articles, and shorter clips over at the Petty Tyranny tumblr site, so do keep up. Thank you for your support so far.


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