Russian Cannon Fodder

Commentary

Our world is obsessed with saving lives. We survived COVID lockdowns imposed by governments claiming to keep us safe. Teams of burly footballers dropped to their knees because Black Lives Matter. The presumption of innocence wilts under the strain of laws designed to keep women safe.

After all that posturing, it is odd we just watch as hundreds of thousands of young Russian men are being rounded up as cannon fodder. Somehow concern about keeping them safe simply isn’t on the public agenda.

Their lives don’t matter. They are just ordinary men who have found themselves at the very bottom of the intersectionality totem pole. To many they are the enemy, the bad guys, even though most of these young Russians haven’t a clue about why their lives are to be sacrificed.

The Washington Post wrote recently about the “jack-in-the-box” flaw in Russian tanks, referring to the way shells are stored in a ring beneath the turret.

Ukrainian forces are now using drones to detonate above the turret triggering the ammo storage below, with the result that “the explosion instantaneously vaporizes the crew.” The turret is blown sky high—that’s the jack-in-the-box. Vaporized men and bits of tank.

People walk past a destroyed Russian military vehicle at a frontline position in Irpin, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The article ends with a quote from Robert E. Hamilton, a professor at the U.S. Army War College, pointing out that the U.S. military is aware that if one of their tanks is destroyed and the crew survives, they can always replace the tank: “You can make another tank more quickly than you can train another crew.”

He says Russia has no such concerns about a properly trained crew: “The people are as expendable as the machine.”

People? Well, he’s really talking about men. Men and boys. Many of the 300,000 new conscripts are still teenagers, boys who were given no choice but to comply.

“You’re standing there asking yourself whether you should go and fight and die there or spend 20 years in prison,” says Mikhail, a Moscow man protesting the draft who was interviewed by the New York Times.

Reluctant men and boys, sometimes with no prior military experience, given little systematic training, with inept leaders and inadequate equipment, are facing a highly motivated, extremely well-armed and very innovative foe in the Ukrainians. The result is akin to a death sentence.

Tragic Loss of Men

In September, we heard about the war-wrecked Ukrainian town of Lyman, where Russian forces hastily departed to avoid being encircled by advancing Ukrainian troops.

“Not all the Russians made it out,” wrote a Wall Street Journal reporter, mentioning “bodies of young Russian soldiers lay on the roadsides, two hugging each other in unnatural contortions, another, his skin waxlike pale, lying on his back with his fists clenched … a severed hand was perched on the asphalt, a wedding ring on one of the three remaining fingers.”

No wonder so many conscripts are desperate to escape. We’ve all seen images of long queues at the borders, thousands seeking to escape to neighbouring countries, well at least those willing to have them.

The body of a Russian serviceman lies near destroyed Russian military vehicles on the roadside on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 26, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images)

Interestingly, there has been much media interest in stories suggesting that the conscription was targeted, with ethnic minorities disproportionately at risk. Minorities are a far more acceptable group to champion than the ordinary Russian blokes who comprise the major victims of this unfolding human tragedy.

Martin Jones, a professor of international human rights law at the University of York, wrote in The Conversation suggesting the war ticks boxes required for legal protection of conscripts which include catering to conscientious objection, avoiding internationally condemned acts, and conscription that is “extra-legal, discriminatory or results in inhuman treatment.”

With rare bravery, he takes up the point about discrimination: “When it comes to conscription, we have also yet to fully resolve the blatant sexism embedded in the Russian (and more widespread) practice of conscripting only men.”

In March, I wrote about Ukraine’s decision to force men to stay and fight while women and children were hastily shipped off, out of harm’s way.

Suddenly, after decades of feminist demands for women to be allowed to take their rightful place alongside men in the services, we reverted to old-fashioned chivalry, which demands only men are disposable.

At that time, there were reportedly 32,000 women in the Ukrainian military, a very small percentage of the 17 million women in the relevant age group.

Similarly, Russian women only make up 4.26 percent of total active-duty forces, and they are not permitted in frontline combat roles. With so few women in combat service, it is hardly surprising these traditional countries choose to conscript only men.

Slow Progress for American Men

But, in some more egalitarian countries, tough questions are now being asked.

British journalist Anna Hollingsworth, who grew up in Finland, bought into a debate about the gendered conscription practices in that country, slamming them as “an outdated, sexist, and human rights-violating structure.”

She wrote: “From a gender equality perspective, men-only conscription shouts out blatant sexism … There is absolutely no reason why only men should be drafted, and politicians consistently fail to give one. In everyday conversations, though, reasons are found in everything from women serving their duty to their country by giving birth and boys growing into men in the army—it is not uncommon to regard military service as a male rite of passage. It is as if the topic of conscription causes all conversation to undergo a bizarre time warp where all the gender equality established elsewhere in society evaporates.”

In America, a legal battle has been taking place to challenge the male-only draft, originally led by the late Marc Angelucci, the brave men’s rights lawyer murdered in July 2020.

Angelucci and the National Coalition for Men had some big wins, with the Southern District court determining that the male-only draft was unconstitutional, but that was overturned at appeal.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed the male draft law may be unconstitutional and outdated but kicked the can down the road and said they wouldn’t decide the issue, leaving it up to Congress to change the law.

Congress, of course, did nothing, and the discriminatory law remains, which requires men to register for the draft in order to be allowed to vote, get a driver’s license, obtain federal or state loans, grants or scholarships, or retain citizenship.

Slow progress indeed for the men of America. But it sure beats being vaporised in a Jack-in-the-box.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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Bettina Arndt is an Australian writer and social commentator on gender issues. She was the country’s first sex therapist and feminist, before focusing on men’s rights. Arndt has authored several books and has written for major newspaper titles, magazines, and has featured regularly on television. She received the Order of Australia in 2020 for her work in promoting gender equity through advocacy for men. Find her online at her blog, BettinaArndt.substack.com.

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