The timing of the recent announcement from the Obama Administration that it would lift the ban on women serving in combat positions was fascinating.
After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s responsibility dodging and Biden-esque responses to questioning by Senators yesterday, the White House needed a distraction and a way to appease their feminist supporters (because it is so obvious that Clinton is being tossed under the bus). So, the rules regarding gender roles in combat assignments are now rescinded.
I have serious concerns. While I admire the role women play in the military, and acknowledge they can show tremendous bravery under battle conditions (such as Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown, who earned the Silver Star in Afghanistan), I am a firm believer that 40 years of politically correct social engineering cannot alter the realities of several million years of evolution.
As a biochemist, I have asserted that women suffer in our “hooking up” culture because certain hormonal realities exist even if they are ignored. In this same way, I believe that physical realities do not magically disappear because elite politicians have decided to pander to activist constituencies. For example, muscle development is, in part, driven by testosterone. As a result, most men are physically stronger than most women. There are always exceptions, but such exceptions should not drive policy.
However, since the only military experience I have is creating electronic armies in Civilization V, I asked a veteran for his opinion. Barry Jacobsen, who was a member of Special Forces Operational Detachment “A” (known as an “A-Team”), offers his assessment based on his experience about what it takes to be a combat infantryman.
I have heard from friends still in Service that today, women are given “breaks” the male soldiers never enjoy. Such as transport back to the “rear” for showers after several days in the field; reduced Physical Training scores; and, of course, maternity leave when/if they become pregnant (on one recent West Pac deployment, on a Navy war ship half of the female crew members became pregnant during the deployment; the ship subsequently being dubbed “the Love Boat”). In combat, where political correctness can get someone killed, women who will be allowed to participate due to lowered requirements and standards risk not being able to pull their own weight; literally or figuratively. This will weaken the overall unit ability, jeopardizing the mission and putting lives at risk.
But today we are led by a civilian leadership, and particularly by a President with no personal military experience. They have never had to “hump a ruck”. Otherwise, they might understand that such proposals, while fashionable in Washington cocktail parties, have no place in the harsh reality of combat. (Though the current nominee for Secretary of Defense, Senator Chuck Hagel, is a Vietnam War veteran. It remains to be seen what his opinion of this proposal will be.)
Those making policy should be reminded that the American military does not exist as a petri dish for social experimentation. It exists to fight and to win wars. We have the best military in the world, and when the next war comes around (and it will come), we want still to have the best military in the world. Not the most socially equal; not the most politically enlightened. But the best fighting force in the world.
I think new technology levels the playing field somewhat, so there may be combat options that benefit from the strengths women possess (e.g., fine motor skills). However, expecting every woman to be the physical equal to a man, like some sort of “Xena – Warrior Princess” is senseless. As this clip shows, those feats are staged; men need to fight beside others who can do this in reality.