Now what?

Whoever hath a Will, Anne hath a way, said James Joyce somewhere, probably in Finnegans Wake though we can’t find the passage. It is one of the great obscene puns of all time. Watching General Petraeus come down — perhaps the only competent man in the Obama administration — we were reminded that men & women can never be trusted in each other’s company. Merely checking the headlines, one is apprised of the latest proofs. Media which showed no interest in the appalling failure to secure the American mission in Benghazi, or rescue the inmates while the U.S. had a chance, are suddenly all over this story of a “potential security breach.” (Ike had an affair, & JFK several dozen, & people looked the other way. Suddenly now that we are living in Sodom & Gomorrah, marital infidelity is a resignation offence.)

We dare just one rightwing tabloid to ask the question on many ageing minds. To wit, “Do you understand now why we don’t put women on the front line?” Or rather, why we didn’t used to. There are many unanswerable reasons for this, & Mrs Broadwell has supplied only a few of them. Men, you see, are easily distracted by women. And this is a serious thing because men have one-track minds. Women can multitask, they claim, but men require focus, & when there is a war going on, it is best to leave them focused on the enemy.

The other arguments we may leave aside for today. They touch upon civilizational matters that are anyway best pursued on other planes. This one is merely practical & tactical.

Some decades ago, we met a female Israeli paratrooper, directing automobile traffic along the Rehov Yaffo in new Jerusalem. She was wearing an impressive side arm, & her military uniform on this fill-in civilian job. Indeed, she looked quite fetching thus accoutred, & we essayed a ludicrous act of jaywalking in order to get her attention. (We were young, once.) This worked, & in the upshot we received a stiff warning about the traffic rules, & an invitation to a party. Details, details: let us cut to the chase. We were puzzled, in those days, by the whole idea of a female paratrooper, & were enlightened by the answers we received from this young lady, to various questions we were later able to put.

“We go in when all the men are dead,” was the short & summarizing reply. She belonged to an all-female paratrooper unit, in constant training & ever ready for call-up in the event of war. (In peacetime, apparently, other useful tasks.) As she explained, the Israelis, whose survival depends on never losing a single war, were not so stupid as to put men & women in the same paratroop unit; nor so uncivilized as to send the women in first. They were, in effect, a reserve to the battalion reserve.

Now that struck us as a sensible arrangement, given the shortage of “manpower” that followed from being a nation of a few million surrounded by enemies of a few hundred million.

Well, we could say more. But we would be accused, in that case, of indulging a morbid fascination with the self-destruction of the United States of America, as of the West, generally.