Women at the Front

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

Ostensibly, there are really only two issues about the inclusion of women in combat units: one, apparently the nation believes that it will react to the future combat deaths or capture of women in ground units the same way it does to the loss of male soldiers, even in numbers commensurate with male KIAs — that is, society has evolved beyond the traditional chivalric notion of deference to “women” (e.g., on a sinking ship the men of our modern culture no longer feel any need to step back and allow women first crack at the lifeboats); and two, assuming there is no gender exemption for meeting physical requirements (e.g., SEALs, Rangers, Green Berets, etc. insist that women meet the same physical requirements as their male counterparts), then there seems no reason why women should not be fully integrated into combat units.

Let us hope, however, that these agreements have been previously finalized, and we don’t in the future hear of brilliant female SEALs or courageous Rangers who should not be excluded from combat and therein the chance of promotion because they were not able to meet a particular (and suddenly “irrelevant”) standard of physical strength.

In a larger sense, with the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and women in front-line combat units, we have decided that the military is one with all other civilian institutions and without a particular code or caste. Fair enough — in the past, there certainly have been excellent male soldiers who were romantically attracted to one another (cf. the Theban Sacred Band) and plenty of brave and effective female pilots, snipers, and infantrywomen (cf. the Russian front after 1942), and we shall soon discover whether our more recent reluctance to follow those clear examples was absurd.

One way or another, we have now apparently made a number of assumptions: that in the next war we will see overtly gay men and women fully integrated in small ground units amid firefights and carnage at the front; that this will not affect negatively, but more likely improve, US combat efficacy; and that those intolerant reactionaries who object and feel less safe or simply less comfortable will shun the military — and that the military will not suffer as a consequence of their absence, but more likely improve. If all true, then we are onto the brave new world!

©2013 Victor Davis Hanson

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