No sex in the war zone – Good luck with that!

Posted on June 6, 2010
Filed Under Cadogan's Laws, Commentary | Leave a Comment

Canadian Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan has been relieved of his command and faces possible court martial. He is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with a female member of military personnel.

The situation evokes a discussion of a Cadogan’s Law: There are only two things going on in the world. One is sex. The other is foreplay.

There are many reasons why a sexual relationship complicates battlefield operations.

One is that, from the junior ranks on up, members have to back each other up. Romantic connections interfere with that. Even the added desire to live can, I suppose, hinder a person’s desire to soldier.

Another is that the military is among the purest examples of unbalanced authority. A general can have a lot of influence on a junior member’s career and life. Reagan Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” The potential for the abuse of power is extreme.

At the same time, the drive that makes a man a general also tends to make him a stallion. Cadogan’s law leads to the conclusion that the reason men strive to be presidents, generals, or the world’s alpha male golfer, is to attract women.

Yet another legitimate military concern is that love and lust are famously distracting. Ships run aground when wheelhouse personel are more into each other than into steering the boat.

One that I think usually gets little consideration is that spouses at home want their mates to remain faithful. If they know fraternization is tolerated, they are more likely to discourage their mates from participation. Some of them would also be less likely to handle celibate separation. Ménard is married.

Still, banning sex and romance is a fruitless exercise. Cadogan’s law is never more in play than in times of intense team bonding and mortal danger. Our genes don’t give a damn about us. They do go nuts when they think we might be about to die or there has been a death nearby. Infantry on a battlefield, gold medal women’s hockey teams, and cast members of “Godspell,” form a bond that is a type of love. Adults become sexually aroused when a friend or someone in the family dies. It isn’t talked about much because it seems shameful. It is, however, natural that death would stimulate a sudden surge in the lust for life.

The military works very hard to foster the team bond. Tough training, living conditions, nasty boot camp sergeants, common humiliations and initiations are all part of welding teams together.

Those shameless genes of ours also lust for variety. One of Tom Robbins’s characters in “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” says, “The only true aphrodisiac in the world is strange stuff.” This is borne out by the fact that scientists have discovered that women who are raped are more likely to conceive than women engaged in consensual sex. The genes are always lusting for new chromosomes.

Mass rape has been a product of war throughout recorded history and, undoubtedly, before. Most of us have heard hints of the huge number of rapes committed by Russians closing in on Berlin in the final months of WW II.

It is interesting that more sexually liberal societies like ours would still have sexual repression as a military policy. Social scientists claim that one of the big causes of wars is a large percentage of unemployed young men who are not having regular sex. Societies in which rich men have several wives and poor men have none and are subject to stoning for adultery make easier the creation of people who are willing to become suicide bombers.

There is an ancient aphorism that the first casualty in war is truth. It may be almost as true that the second casualty is sexual fidelity.

It would seem that our genes love war. That is probably one reason wars are fought by the young.

There is absolutely nothing in history to indicate that any army has been significantly successful in separating romance and sex from war. In Canada, we celebrate our surviving war brides. For every war zone wedding, there must have been hundreds, thousands, of war zone relationships. Sad to say, when consensual sex is severely restricted or banned, non-consensual sex is too often a consequence.

The genes played musical beds at home too.

It does not seem likely that society can control sex and romance anwhere although we sometimes have to try. We don’t want adult teachers having sex with pubescent teens.

We can and do reduce sexual infidelity by avoiding war but even that produces limited success if we have peacekeeping forces serving abroad.

I think it is time we revisited the concept and policy of war zone celibacy, with a great deal of input from those most directly concerned. I don’t know what we might be able to come up with but no sex in the war zone?

Good luck with that!                          DAC

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