The military and its use in defending the country are one of the powers expressly enumerated in our Constitution. Unlike other responsibilities that some would like to give to it (e.g. health care, as I’ve discussed here before), this particular duty is spelled out quite clearly. Our founding fathers, in attempting to limit the federal government’s powers while leaving the rest to the states or the people, made sure that this power was indeed a federal issue. Defense of its citizens and interests is a proper role of government.
Over time, aspects of the military have changed, but none more controversial than its makeup. When a racially-integrated military was suggested, initial reactions against it were mostly due to racial prejudice than anything else, either on the part of the person reacting or on the assumption that such prejudice existed in the ranks. As racial views changed, that integration became far easier.
Over time, another type of integration took place; that of including women in combat. The concept was not entirely new (it goes back to ancient times), but in the US, while the controversy was heated in earlier decades, as women were included more and more the issue isn’t considered that big a deal anymore, on par with racial integration. However, I think that recent events should give us pause to consider the question again.
There have always been the straw arguments that proponents of women in combat have attributed to the other side that either were never actually presented or were extreme minority opinions. One of those was that women weren’t as patriotic as men or willing to die for freedom. This was typically presented as the claim that women were just as patriotic, with the implication that the other side didn’t think so.
However, there are a number of arguments against women in combat that represent real physical and psychological concerns, and not always on the part of the women themselves. Wikipedia presents some of these arguments, including physical differences and the reaction of men to wounded women. The tradition and seeming instinct of protecting women plays into this. The cry, “Women and children first”, was never taken to be a call to arms. The Wikipedia article notes, regarding experiments with women in integrated units in the Israeli Defense Force:
The reason for removing female soldiers from the front lines is no reflection on the performance of female soldiers, but that of the male infantrymen after witnessing a woman wounded. The IDF saw a complete loss of control over soldiers who apparently experienced an uncontrollable, protective, instinctual aggression.
Say what you will about the male and the protection instinct, it’s real and it’s there (and it’s not a bad thing).
Another issue has been that of romantic relationship within the unit, causing a couple to perhaps become more concerned about each other than the remainder of the unit, or a love triangle which would create less concern between some. Unit cohesion is paramount in combat, and adding this dimension can easily cancel out any other gains. (Incidentally, this is, at least to me, the main reason to be against gays in the military.)
It’s this sexual angle to the inclusion of women that can be the most destructive. And to some, it can be far worse than an issue with a jilted lover.
A congresswoman said Thursday that her “jaw dropped” when military doctors told her that four in 10 women at a veterans hospital reported being sexually assaulted while in the military.
A government report indicates that the numbers could be even higher.
Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, spoke before a House panel investigating the way the military handles reports of sexual assault.
She said she recently visited a Veterans Affairs hospital in the Los Angeles area, where women told her horror stories of being raped in the military.
“My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41 percent of the female veterans seen there say they were victims of sexual assault while serving in the military,” said Harman, who has long sought better protection of women in the military.
“Twenty-nine percent say they were raped during their military service. They spoke of their continued terror, feelings of helplessness and downward spirals many of their lives have taken since.
“We have an epidemic here,” she said. “Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”
As with other issues, this is not a problem with the women themselves, but of our culture of sexualization of women being taken into the military by soldiers who are products of the culture, and putting them in close quarters for months at a time.
Women have served admirably in combat, no question about it. (Joan of Arc, anyone? And there are plenty of examples in our own military.) And while I’m a firm supported of the traditional argument that no woman should ever be put into a combat situation, I’m aware I’m not going to change too many minds based solely on that. So then, will this statistic cause some folks to reconsider? I certainly hope so, but I don’t think it’ll work with the National Association [that is allegedly] For Women. They have been trying to get women into combat for a long time, in spite of being against violence against women (rather oxymoronic; combat is violence).
And there are those that believe that treating the symptom alone is as good as a cure. By all means, men that sexually assault women should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, even in the military, but that’s a symptom. The problem is a culture that has abandoned its religious roots for a “sexual revolution” and a “freedom” that has brought nothing but bondage, and with results amplified in the close confines of the military.
What irony. The very thing that NOW has always promoted — the sexual revolution — is a major cause of a 41% sexual assault rate in the military, of which 29% is rape, but they continue to fight for putting women into that situation. The rate of rape in the US general population is 5/100th of 1 percent. If it was 29%, NOW would be fighting to get women out of that situation. The lack of intelligence in their position is astounding, especially for the media’s go-to group for women’s issues.
I think it’s time to reconsider this. The experiment is failing, and its cost is too high.
Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes.