The Right Opinion

Soldier Girl Blues

By Jonah Goldberg · Jan. 30, 2013

What if, during the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney had accused President Obama of wanting to let servicewomen serve in combat? After all, Obama had hinted as much in 2008. What would Obama's response have been?

My hunch is that he would have accused Romney of practicing the “politics of division” or some such and denied it.

In any case, wouldn't an open debate have been better than putting women into combat by fiat? You'd think the folks who are always clamoring for a “national conversation” on this, that and the other thing would prefer to make a sweeping change after, you know, a national conversation.

Instead, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the change on his way out the door. And Panetta has been lionized even though it wasn't really his decision to make. If the president didn't want this to happen, it wouldn't happen. Perhaps Obama let Panetta run with the idea, just in case it turned out to be a political fiasco.

The good news for Obama is that it hasn't been. Absent any informed debate, polls support the idea. Indeed, the Republican Party has been shockingly restrained in even questioning what is a vastly bigger deal than the lifting of the half-ban on gays in the military – “don't ask, don't tell.” The mainstream media have celebrated the milestone and largely yawned at the skeptics.

Most lacking from the coverage is any attempt to explain how this will make combat units better at combat. Instead, we're told that gender integration is necessary because without combat experience, it's hard for women to get promoted.

Lifting that glass ceiling is an understandable, even lofty desire. But what does it have to do with making the military better at fighting?

My point isn't that women should be kept out of all combat roles. Indeed, as many supporters of the move are quick to point out, women are already getting shot at. “In our male-centric viewpoint, we want to keep women from harm's way,” Ric Epps a former Air Force intelligence officer who teaches political science, told the Los Angeles Times. “But … modern warfare has changed. There are no true front lines; the danger is everywhere, and women have already been there in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

True enough. But does anyone believe such changes are permanent? Will we never again have front lines? Or are the generals simply fighting the last war and projecting that experience out into the future?

Heck, if we'll never have wars between standing armies again, we can really afford to cut the defense budget. Something tells me that's not the conclusion the Pentagon wants us to draw.

It is a common habit of many liberals and self-avowed centrists to preen about how they don't deny science and evolution the way conservatives do. Well, on this issue, it is the opponents of women in combat invoking the scientific data that confirm a fairly obvious evolutionary fact: Men and women are different. For instance, at their physical peak, “the average woman has the aerobic capacity of a 50-year-old male,” notes defense intellectual and veteran Mackubin Thomas Owens in a powerfully empirical article in the Weekly Standard.

Another evolutionary fact is that men act different when around women. This creates challenges for unit cohesion and fighting effectiveness.

The three most common responses to such concerns are that countries such as Israel and Canada let women in combat; advances for women can't be held hostage to sexist attitudes; there won't be any lowering of standards, so only physically qualified women will be in combat.

As to the first point, Israeli gender integration is often wildly exaggerated. And the Canadians have neither the capacity nor the need for a large standing army.

The latter arguments don't strike me as particularly reality-based either. Sexist attitudes alone aren't a justification for anything. But we're not talking about misogyny here. Proof of that is the fact that the military already practices gender-norming (giving women extra points for being women) in many instances. Will there really be less now?

Obama's decision hasn't stifled the debate, it's merely postponed it until the day Americans see large numbers of women coming home in body bags, alongside the men.

© 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

7 Comments

HardThought in Kansas said:

I was a Scout Sniper for twenty years.

The last thing I would want in a combat unit is women for reasons that are not misogynistic.

In society, the usual male response to an emergency is "Women and children first!" How is that going to work out when you are both in danger of dying?

The next questionis unmarried or married soldiers in such close proximity. There will be liasions. If you are thinking that the individual should control themselves, then apply that to civilian life, too. Abstinence should work everywhere even though in the military it will have the force of law. It already does, but that doesn't stop it.

There are numerous hygiene issues plus latrine issues. I am not blaming women for being female, but it is one more thing to deal with while trying to save lives. The stupid unisex latrines in the horrible mismake of "Starship Troopers" just. won't. work.

Imagine a five week deployment with no seperate facilities, showers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, foxhole living and military rations. The problems boggle the mind.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 2:33 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

In the beginning, mankind was destined to sin, because it is human nature. Kane killed Able, because of jealousy/envy. God still provides a narrow path to Redemption, for us sinners, because Jesus Christ died for our sins-Christ paid the penalty! 1 Peter 3:18. Ok so I'm off topic-I'm the only one in my family who wasn't a soldier. However, I am in the Lord's Army! Alleluia!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 5:56 AM

Travis in Texas said:

Yes, letting women in the front lines of combat is a big mistake. There are facts, that aren't misogynistic, that can't be ignored. Physical differences/limitations being the most obvious. How many women do you see in the NFL, MLB, or NBA. The social/sexual dynamics between men and women will only hamper a combat unit's ability focus on the battlefield.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Bubba in USA said:

This is a terrible, sad joke. I am a service academy grad (USAFA), and being involved firsthand with its physical fitness testing, saw firsthand how the standards, almost by definition, were and will be lowered. 1/2 the pushups, 1/7 the pull-ups, inability to carry a 13lb firearm on hard runs (Uh, yeah, guess who carried two? The guys.), muscle breakdown in survival training - it was, to be redundant, a bad joke. Our line was "A double standard is better than no standard at all."

In my 9-year tenure in the USAF - which by all accounts is (or is tied for) the least physically demanding service - I never met a woman in ANY branch who was big enough, strong enough or tough enough to take out a medium-sized 50 year old male soldier/marine/airman/sailor in hand to hand. Never. Moreover, I have a Vietnam infantry friend who was 150 lbs when he was in country. He needed to carry out his dead colleague for 2 miles. Again, I have never met ANY woman who could do this.

Despite the protestations of Col. Martha McSally (not a professional airman, but the quintessential example of a "careerist" who made her bones by being a thorn under the saddle of the brass while pushing gender feminism AND getting special privileges), this is the single stupidest thing the military has done since... DADT repeal. We're imploding and the military is not immune. Ideas kill.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 4:55 PM

wjm in Colorado replied:

Bubba, I am with you, after 26 years of service, I have seen the liberal social experimentation in the military as total failure. Women have no place in front line combat, they are naturally incapable of the task.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 5:00 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA said:

What about a women in combat situation during her menstrual cycle? What about a severly wounded woman in combat situation during her menstrual cycle. Does the Corpsman and her squad mates male or female apply pressure to both bleeds?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 6:41 PM

Shel in Alaska said:

Jonah is missing the big point. What's important here is that people's feelings are taken into consideration, not whether or not we're combat capable. Hasn't he figured that out by now? And for the record, I am a prior-enlisted active duty Air Force major with nearly 24 years of service. A lot has changed since I first joined and it isn't for the better in most cases, this policy being one of them. My immediate reaction is that sexual harassment and assaults are going to increase in an environment in which we are attempting to put a stop to it as much as possible.

HardThought also brought up a good point: the problem with facilities/supplies in a forward location. No one wants to discuss it, but most women menstruate and need appropriate items for their hygiene, which can be difficult to get when living in a foxhole.. But the details don't matter. Just feelings. It might be time to retire.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 5:29 PM