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Charles Paige / October 2, 2018

Evaluating Women in Combat

Defense Secretary James Mattis says “the jury is still out” on whether it’s a good idea.

If there’s a bright side to the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation mess, it’s that it deflected attention from comments made by Defense Secretary James Mattis that on a slower news day would have triggered outrage from the same folks stirring the Kavanaugh pot and made Mattis a target for their mischief. During a recent question and answer session at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), a cadet posed this query to Mattis:

Sir … first off I’d just like to say, pardon my language, but there are a lot of bad-ass women here, some [more] physically fit than I am, some smarter than I am, but I remember I was doing some research on the Marine Corps’ experiment to see if [having] females in combat arms makes us more combat effective, and I would just like to hear your thoughts on that.

The cadet was likely referring to a nine-month long test conducted by the Marine Corps in 2015 — the only test conducted by a service that assessed unit performance under field, combat-like conditions. Unsurprisingly, it that found that assigning females to combat-arms units broke down cohesion and made the units less effective. Although only a single example, the recent case of one of the first enlisted females serving as an infantry Marine seems to provide additional, real-world validation of the thesis. The now-demoted NCO pled guilty to fraternization (i.e., having a sexual relationship with a subordinate Marine that undermined good order and discipline in the unit) and will be discharged.

Secretary Mattis, renowned (and beloved) for being straightforward and plainspoken, responded simply that “the jury is still out” on women in combat units. After making a seemingly obvious statement — “We cannot do something that militarily doesn’t make sense” — Mattis concluded that he was open to whatever decision the evidence supported. He didn’t say he thought it was a bad idea or that he didn’t support women having ground combat arms (infantry, artillery, armor, reconnaissance) military specialties. But he did say that the small number of women who have pursued these assignments so far — both in the U.S. and in foreign militaries — makes it difficult to make any authoritative statement about whether it’s “a strength or a weakness to have women in that circumstance.”

Those few on the Left who weren’t piling on the #StopKavanaugh campaign weren’t pleased with Mattis’s objectivity (hmmm, where else have we recently seen feminists argue that intent is more important than evidence?), and essentially accused him of hurting wannabe female combatants’ feelings. Ironically, if that’s true, it’s further evidence that members of the Fairer Sex are not the best candidates for these roles.

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