Our civilization just took a gigantic leap backward yesterday, though I’m wondering if anyone will notice. Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter removed final obstacles restricting women from serving in combat units in the United States military. The decision was made three years ago by then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and now the three year period for studying the move has come to an end. The Washington Post Reports:
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Thursday that he is opening all jobs in combat units to women, a landmark decision that ends a three-year period of research with a number of firsts for female service members and bitter debate at times about how women should be integrated.
The decision opens the military’s most elite units to women who can meet the rigorous requirements for the positions for the first time, including in the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other Special Operations Units. It also opens the Marine Corps infantry, a battle-hardened force that many service officials had openly advocated keeping closed to female service members.
“There will be no exceptions,” Carter said. “This means that, as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.”
I understand that we are living in times of tremendous social change. Americans have by and large cast aside the “quaint” view that men and women are different and that they ought to have roles and responsibilities that correspond to those differences. So for many people, I’m sure this news merely appears as the next stage of progress toward equality in our society. I have a different view.
Are the fortunes of women in our country really enhanced by sending them to be ground up in the discipline of a combat unit and possibly to be killed or maimed in war? Is there a father in America who would under any circumstance risk having his daughter shot or killed in battle? Is there a single husband in this country who thinks it okay for his wife to risk being captured by our enemies? To risk becoming a prisoner of war? Is this the kind of people we want to be? Perhaps this is the kind of people we already are. I would sooner cut off my arm than allow such a thing with my own wife and daughters. Why would I ever support allowing someone else’s to do the same? Why would anyone?
In 2013, Ryan Smith wrote in The Wall Street Journal about the reality that awaits women in combat. Smith illustrates the problem by describing his own experience as a Marine during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Readers should be warned that what you are about to read is not for the faint of heart. But I think it is important for people to consider the reality of what will be required of female infantrymen.
Many articles have been written regarding the relative strength of women and the possible effects on morale of introducing women into all-male units. Less attention has been paid to another aspect: the absolutely dreadful conditions under which grunts live during war…
We rode into war crammed in the back of amphibious assault vehicles. They are designed to hold roughly 15 Marines snugly; due to maintenance issues, by the end of the invasion we had as many as 25 men stuffed into the back. Marines were forced to sit, in full gear, on each other’s laps and in contorted positions for hours on end. That was the least of our problems.
The invasion was a blitzkrieg. The goal was to move as fast to Baghdad as possible. The column would not stop for a lance corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or even a company commander to go to the restroom. Sometimes we spent over 48 hours on the move without exiting the vehicles. We were forced to urinate in empty water bottles inches from our comrades.
Many Marines developed dysentery from the complete lack of sanitary conditions. When an uncontrollable urge hit a Marine, he would be forced to stand, as best he could, hold an MRE bag up to his rear, and defecate inches from his seated comrade’s face…
When we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.
What kind of a society puts its women on the front lines to risk what only men should be called on to risk? In countries ravaged by war, we consider it a tragedy when the battle comes to the backyards of women and children. Why would we thrust our own wives and daughters into that horror? My own instinct is to keep them as far from it as possible.
Perhaps some people believe that women ought to be able to volunteer for whatever job they are qualified to do. But what if the draft were reinstituted? Under the right conditions, the draft would be a very real possibility, and that specter of a draft is really clarifying. It’s one thing for women to volunteer for combat service. It’s an entirely different matter for them to be drafted into it. I have a hard time believing that the women of America would want to be forced into such conditions. Any man that would countenance for one second his 18-year old daughter being pressed into this kind of service is abdicating his responsibility. Are we really going to be the kind of people who press our wives and daughters and mothers to fight in combat?
Men and women are different. The roles that each of them play during wartime ought to correspond to those differences. I have a feeling that more people feel the same way as I do than are willing to admit it. We live in an egalitarian age that can hardly tolerate the “quaint” notion that men and women are different. So very few are willing to speak up. But on this one, reality is staring us in the face.
The welfare of our mothers, wives and daughters is a test of our nation’s character. How willing are we as people to pretend that there are no differences between men and women? It is one thing to stand and applaud as Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner receives an ESPY award. But how many people would be willing to continue the gender charade when their daughters are carried off to war?
John Piper answers this well:
If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.
Everyone in America ought to be scandalized by this news. But in a culture that is doing its level-best to obscure the differences between men and women, I’m wondering if it will even register on anyone’s conscience. To the extent that it doesn’t, we reveal just how far gone we are as a people. This is a sad day.