Harming unit cohesion

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The Obama administration's Pentagon has reversed policy on assigning women to land combat operations by taking incremental steps to implement the recommendations of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission.

The psychological aim of training men for combat is to develop in them a sense of the mission, of being part of a dedicated whole. The bonds fostered among men in combat may be seen, at their best, in the television series “Band of Brothers.”

This “unit cohesion” brings with it a sense of mutual trust, teamwork, individual sacrifice and determination to jointly complete the mission. It is a unique bond of male friendship; comrades-in-arms have an intergroup relationship that few other social units will ever know or enjoy. Just ask any veteran.

Now, what happens when we introduce young women into that mix? Immediately, new attachments arise — binary attachments between men and women who are at the same age developmentally, when such attachments represent a powerful drive. All the emotions so vividly displayed in soap operas are at work, writ large: love and sex, growing attachments, split allegiances, rivalries, jealousy, betrayal, rage and revenge, to name just a few. As binary attachments grow, unit cohesion is weakened; competing values bring inevitable conflict in small groups.

Placing healthy young men and women in their sexual prime together in close quarters has already had predictable results. The Pentagon's decision would be just another loss for common sense if it weren't so important.

Louis Chandler


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