Another day, another Army sex scandal

When is the Australian Army going to learn about the birds and the bees?
Michael Cook | Jun 14 2013 | comment  

It is a rather ho-hum story, just another sex scandal in the Australian Army. Three senior officers have been suspended, five are facing suspension and nine are under investigation for emailing one another home-made pornography. It appears that officers who styled themselves the Jedi Council filmed sexual encounters with women they had met in clubs – some of them also in the Army -- and emailed the images to their mates.

The Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, has taken the unusual step of denouncing the “explicit, derogatory, demeaning and repugnant” abuse even before the investigation had been concluded.

A very severe Lt-Gen Morrison appeared on YouTube yesterday giving his 50,000 troops a savage dressing-down.

“Those who think that it is OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this army. Our service has been engaged in continuous operation since 1999, and in its longest war ever in Afghanistan. On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future. If that does not suit you, then get out. You may find another employer where your attitude and behaviour is acceptable, but I doubt it.”  

Maybe it’s time for the General and his politician bosses to acknowledge that they are living in La-La Land.

The significant thing about this controversy is that it occurred during and after intense publicity about a similar scandal in 2011. That ended in long report by an outside investigator, a compensation fund for victims and humiliating mea culpas by generals and government ministers. It was impossible for anyone in the Army, especially high-ranking officers to be ignorant of its policy of zero tolerance for sexual abuse.

So what happened? This. And it is even worse, according to General Morrison.

The news is quite discouraging for the leaders of the Australian Defence Force, which is struggling to attract and keep quality personnel. Women have become an important part of its recruitment strategy – but will women sign up if they fear abuse?

"We know that we must build a critical mass of women if we are going to fully realise the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce in the Army [said General Morrison]. It's clear, however, that we've got to be relentless in driving this change [in sexual ethics]. If we do not do this, the parents of Australia simply will not entrust us with the well-being of their daughters, and who can blame them?"

There is a naïve, even dreamy, quality to the General’s indignation. Of course he is defending a policy crafted for him by politicians, but he seems genuinely bewildered. In an interview he was asked to give an explanation for the persistence of this appalling behaviour. "I don't have one,” he said.

“I can't be more honest with you than that. I can't put a theory on it. I certainly can't find an easy switch to flick to turn it off. I suspect that it's rooted in part in human nature, but that's no excuse either. It's on me. I'm responsible for this, I'm the Chief of the Australian Army.

Perhaps it is time for the Australian Defence Force (and armed services in the US as well) to ask themselves if a policy of full integration of men and women is possible. As Robert R. Reilly has argued in MercatorNet about the US Army, the political program is "Inject sexual tension into combat units by mixing genders, which results in an explosion of sexual harassment; then blame the military and insist that it transform itself – not to fight the enemy and win wars – but to fight sexual harassment."

The experts on sex discrimination attribute abusive behaviour to lack of knowledge. If they can only give young men a thorough education in why they should treat women with respect, it happens. This is a revival of the ancient theory of Pelagius, who taught that unruly desires could be completely mastered by an educated will.

What this latest scandal shows is that something else is at work. There has been no lack of education programs. But there is a weakness of will which the most pervasive and intense propaganda from government bureaucrats cannot strengthen. How could it? They are trying to decree chastity based on a faulty view of human nature.

One solution is endorsing the traditional Christian view of sexuality as something legitimate and holy but also, outside of marriage, powerful and destructive. This is illustrated in this touching photo of Josh and Bre, a US Marine and his bride-to-be (check out the blog for background) which went viral on the internet recently.

Of course, that’s not going to happen. We live in a largely post-Christian societhy. 

The other is admitting defeat and surrendering to human nature. A completely integrated armed services is impossible without constant scandal. Either the Army has to stop the integration or accept the scandal. It can’t have both.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. 

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