The Cat Fight Over Women in Combat
Of the several victories women have won in this country since enfranchisement in 1920, the least liberating of them is having mothers of small children being blown to pieces in frontline combat.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has given military branches until January 2016 to deliberate over allowing women to serve in combat roles. The Obama Pentagon intends to lift the barriers restricting women from serving in such positions.
Progressives hoping to see the change happen have yet to show the country what this would do for either women or the military. So far the leading selling point is this: now they can be men.
Much of the left’s position on the issue focuses on the misguided notion that women can do the job as well as men. This is quite a statement, primarily because everyone knows it’s false. To clear things up right out of the box: no, this isn’t to say that women “can’t” fight, or that that they don’t want to. It isn’t to say that women shouldn’t be able to serve their country through military service, or that many haven’t already done so. I’m only saying that the citizenry has certain moral and strategic incentives to keep women out of military combat. Lastly, I’m not operating under the false notion that military service only requires physical strength, but that it requires a lot of it.
The addition of women into job fields tailored to be filled by strong men (I have a problem labeling military service in this way for the reason that it’s not just another job) has already shown to be a bad idea.
Case in point: Brian Nichols, who was the defendant in a rape case in 2005, wrestled a gun from a female deputy in an Atlanta court house. Nichols then went on a rampage shooting and killing four people. To pretend that the same would have happened to a male deputy misses the point. It’s no question that a female officer (probably six inches to a foot shorter and much lighter than her male counterpart) doesn’t offer the same amount of protection against a 200 pound man.
But just to illustrate the point, after Nichols escaped the court house and led police on a manhunt, Maj. Skip Platt described how, being surrounded by male police in an apartment, Nichols gave up “without a struggle.”
Would male officers have handled the situation better if any portion of their squad were female? Does it need to be tested?
In instances where men attest that every ounce of their body strength was needed to complete a mission, it’s nonsensical to say that there’s an interest important enough to justify adding women to the mix. Think of the EP-3 spy plane that was shot down over China in 2001. The crew of 24, including three women, was piloted by a 220 pound Lieutenant who just barely managed to safely land the damaged aircraft, using brute strength to keep it leveled. What about the male firemen who died on September 11 using every last bit of strength to carry the wounded out of the towers?
Will American warriors have an easier time carrying their wounded off the battlefield knowing that they’re sufficiently gender-diverse? These are questions that need to be faced realistically.
Kingsly Browne, professor of law at Michigan’s Wayne State University, offers some work on how the biological (not social) differences between men and women account for why women shouldn’t be introduced into combat roles.
“The reason men don’t like women comrades in dangerous situations is they don’t trust them when the shooting starts,” Browne says, “and that is probably because women don’t possess whatever cues evoke trust in men… Men don’t say, ‘This is a person I would follow through the gates of hell.’ Men aren’t hard-wired to follow women into danger.”
Further, men and women react differently to pressures. When’s the last time you saw a woman scared of being called a wimp or coward for refusing to participate in some physically arduous endeavor like attempting to open a pickle jar?
Browne notes that “[w]omen are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder at higher rates than men. We know that women in general feel more negative emotional consequences from physical aggression.” This sheds light on another aspect of the issue. Many women aren’t ready to give up their role in society.
Women aren’t expected to be men. Many women still value “being a lady” just as many men value “being a man.” Unlike the biological factors mentioned above, these social factors are just as important in society. To institutionalize women in frontline combat would change this dynamic. I wouldn’t put it past the American public to second guess a world where little Johnny needs to get used to worrying about his mother being taken captive or killed by enemy combatants while fighting alongside men.
We have the luxury of a civilian control of the military. This should mean that common sense will trump weightless calls for equality in all areas of life regardless of the effect.
Keith Fierro | Cal State Fullerton | @KJFierro