WOMEN IN COMBAT

Why no debate in Congress over women in combat?

 

kathleenparker@washpost.com

Polling that shows Americans favor women in combat by 2-to-1 is evidence only of the power of misinformation.

And, yes, indoctrination.

Arguments favoring women in direct combat are perhaps well-intentioned, focusing on fairness, opportunity and pride in certain women’s abilities. Unfortunately, most people who make those arguments are operating on false assumptions. And, shall we say, mis-truths.

It’s not their fault. For the past several decades, the media and popular culture have relentlessly advanced the fantasy narrative of women as groin-kicking, martial-arts divas of doom. Where are all the brave men and women who know better? Would that Congress could stop preening for cameras long enough to examine the issue more closely. Democrats may be merely falling in line with their commander in chief, but Republicans seem to be suffering Stockholm syndrome. They’ve been slapped around for so long, they’ve become sympathetic to their captors.

The two most popular arguments for inclusion of women in combat would be valid if only they weren’t incorrect. They are: (1) Only qualified women will be included in combat units; (2) We have a volunteer military and, therefore, only those who want to serve in combat will.

It is certainly true that some women are more fit than some men, but it is also true that most aren’t as capable of becoming as strong as most men. As I’ve written before, women have just about half the upper body strength as men, which is serious business when you’re hiking with a 65-pound (and often heavier) load on your back or hoisting a wounded comrade. It is no coincidence that stress fractures are significantly higher among female recruits than among males during basic training.

This is no insult to women. We’re talking about muscle mass that comes with the packaging and has nothing to do with how many times a week ones goes to the gym. (Or how ripped Demi Moore gets for a movie.)

It’s more than clear, meanwhile, that physical standards would be lowered to allow women where they don’t belong. We know this because Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said as much:

“If we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?”

Translation: If women can’t meet the standards, we’ll just “gender-norm” them. As to whether this is good for our military effectiveness, one can only hope that our enemies are of like mind. One rather doubts it.

As for our all-volunteer military, this is true as far as it goes. In fact, men do not have the option of declining combat. How can the military justify giving women special treatment? Letting women, but not men, choose whether to enter combat duty likely would cause deep resentment among male soldiers. To make life more fair and allow both sexes to choose would be, as military sociologist Charles Moskos once put it, “the end of an effective military force.”

Similarly, there could be no excluding women should a military draft be reinstated. Though this is unlikely in the near future, once women are placed in direct combat roles (as opposed to finding themselves in a combat arena), there may be no justification for excluding them from registering for the Selective Service. The argument against drafting women was always predicated in part upon women’s exclusion from combat.

Women have performed admirably throughout history in a variety of roles that have included combat situations, which is not the same as directly engaging an enemy. But there are other ways to promote women without pitting them against men, who, if women are given special treatment, will resent them to the endangerment of all.

That our Congress is accepting this change without any debate isn’t progress. It is a dereliction of duty and, one is tempted to say, suggestive of cowardice.

© 2013, Washington Post Writers Group

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
DROMI

    ISRAEL

    Israel’s dilemma: Running out of time

    One of the professional hazards of columnists today is the temptation to borrow from the wealth of materials available on the Internet without giving proper credit to their authors. I guess that if Moses came down from Mount Sinai today, he would add an 11th commandment: Thou shall not cut and paste.

  •  
MILBANK

    NASA

    NASA budget for space exploration may be lost in space

    NASA just confirmed what sci-fi enthusiasts have known all along: There are other civilizations out there.

  • GOVERNMENT

    What your government is doing to/for you

    No, it’s not your imagination. The federal government has been acting particularly goofy this spring.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category