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Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Facade of American Empire, 1898-2001 (Critical War Studies) [Paperback]

Aaron Belkin

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Book Description

30 May 2012 Critical War Studies
The masculinity of those who serve in the American military would seem to be beyond reproach, yet it is full of contradictions. To become a warrior, one must renounce those things in life that are perceived to be unmasculine. Yet at the same time, the military has encouraged and even mandated warriors to do exactly the opposite. With the expansion of America's overseas ambitions after 1898, warriors have been compelled to cultivate aspects of themselves which under any other circumstances would seem unmasculine. The creation of a masculine armed force therefore has required a surprising degree of engagement with the unmasculine while, at the same time, requiring warriors to maintain a strict disavowal of those very same unmasculine things against which they define themselves. In Bring Me Men, Aaron Belkin explores these contradictions in great detail and shows that their invisibility has been central to the process of concealing American empire's nastiest warts. Maintaining the warrior's heroic image has involved displacing negative aspects of military masculinity's contradictions onto demonized outcasts, especially women, gay men and lesbians, and African Americans. Ironically, these scapegoats of military masculinity have not distanced themselves from the armed forces, but have stabilized the benign facade of empire as they sought to gain admittance to the community of warriors. By examining case studies that expose these contradictions-the phenomenon of male-on-male rape at the U.S. Naval Academy, for example, as well as historical and contemporary attitudes toward cleanliness and filth-Belkin utterly upends our understanding of the relationship between warrior masculinity and American empire and the fragile processes sustaining it.


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'One of the smartest analysts of today's US military, Aaron Belkin here challenges the too-simple presumption that an uncomplicated militarized masculinity dominates American soldiers' lives. Instead, through grittily graphic cases, Belkin reveals a dense web of gender confusions and contradictions that foster a culture of obedience inside the military, while nurturing a dangerously undemocratic set of myths among civilians. This is a timely, significant book.' ---Cynthia Enloe, author of Nimo's War, Emma's War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War

'Just as the racial integration of the American military starting in the Korean War and the gender integration beginning with the current all-volunteer force reflected and helped shape American conceptions of race and gender, so does the recent lifting of the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly mirror and shape our conceptions of sexuality, and particularly masculinity, in both the military and more broadly in society. Aaron Belkin has been the most prominent analyst of this latter process. This volume reframes our evolving understanding of sexuality and the falsity of the masculine/feminine dualism, and places this process in the context of historical, cultural, and political change in America.' ---David Segal, Director, Center for Research on Military Organization

'Aaron Belkin's fascinating, original, and authoritative book overturns conventional wisdom about military masculinity and raises important and troubling questions about warrior identity. He shows that over the past century the US military has instilled not just hypermasculinity but also its opposites - intimacy, femininity, queerness, male rape - to create gender confusion in the ranks and then offer blind obedience to authority as the remedy. A must-read book for anyone interested in gender and war.' --Joshua Goldstein, author of War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa

About the Author

AARON BELKIN is Associate Professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University and Director of the Palm Center at the University of California. He was a MacArthur Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of California Berkeley and a pre-doctoral fellow at Stanford, and he has published more than twenty-five books, chapters, and peer-reviewed journal articles. His most recent book is United We Stand? Divide and Conquer Politics and the Logic of International Hostility.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original, Insightful, and Important 30 Aug 2012
By DH Mazur - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Bring Me Men is a compelling trip through American military culture over the last century. Author Aaron Belkin focuses on the odd concept of "military masculinity": odd because it's a form of masculinity that is not helpful to the military and, stranger still, not even consistently masculine.

Bring Me Men is an exquisite cross between Andrew Bacevich's book "The New American Militarism" and William Ian Miller's "The Anatomy of Disgust." Belkin explains that the peculiarly American brand of military masculinity is steeped in parts of humanity that can disgust us (filth, sexuality, penetration, sadism, and weakness), and these bizarre conceptions of masculinity are in turn a microcosm of how the U.S. conducts foreign relations. Military masculinity is a fantasy-world depiction of maleness and authority that is often at odds with our values, both civilian and military, and at odds with traditional masculinity itself.

It's this contradiction that will fascinate readers. Belkin is a researcher and scholar who may have been the person most responsible for ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He worked closely with the military to ensure its policies would be based on facts and experience, not fear and emotion. He succeeded, but gay service members were just another in a long line of scapegoats on which the military has projected the problems it most wanted to deny in itself.

The stories are the most irresistible part of Bring Me Men. From tales of sanitation engineering during the Spanish-American War to recent efforts to bury reports of heterosexual male-on-male rape at military academies, Belkin bypasses the shiny patriotism of the 9/11 era and digs into the softer rot beneath.

Finally, Bring Me Men dares to show how our uncritical adoration of those serving in uniform has led to a counterproductive and dangerous policy of American exceptionalism abroad. This book is a work of real courage. Read it and you'll never hear a call to use military force the same way again.

A former Air Force officer, current law professor, and author of "A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger"
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a read! 11 Sep 2012
By Tirzah - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was both compelling and very disturbing. I work for a military organization; also a family member works at the Naval Academy. Several close friends are in the military or retired from the military. It makes me wonder what horrors they have suffered from the military culture. Yet do they accept that this is normal part of military life?
The book is written by an academic and its style is very academic, so it can be hard to follow some times. And it is horrifying. But a good read!
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great! 22 Feb 2013
By Pen Name - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A simple, yet great, guide to the U.S. Armed Forces. Provides a look at all the major components and goes into great detail; an excellent companion.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive review of real history 10 Sep 2012
By jeffrey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a practical view of real history with international comparisons. The obvious conclusion is that American military are myopic when compared to other military such as Israel. I read it with interest.
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