Sunday, January 27, 2013

Women in Combat

Kathleen Parker has addressed the subject of women in combat before, but she goes back to it, because, apparently, too many people have failed to get the point.

She explains:

Women, because of their inferior physical capacities and greater vulnerabilities upon capture, have a diminished opportunity for survival.

And yes, elevated testosterone levels enhance a young man’s capacity for aggression.

In Parker’s words:

We’re potentially talking about 18-year-old girls, notwithstanding their “adult” designation under the law. (Parents know better.) At least 18-year-old males have the advantage of being gassed up on testosterone, the hormone that fuels not just sexual libido but, more to the point, aggression. To those suffering a sudden onset of the vapors, ignore hormones at your peril.

So many people are so confused about the meaning of equality—many think it is a synonym for “same”—that Parker feels obliged to it does not mean that everyone is the same when it comes to job opportunities:

Now, hold the image of your 18-year-old daughter, neighbor, sister or girlfriend as you follow these facts, which somehow have been ignored in the advancement of a fallacy. The fallacy is that because men and women are equal under the law, they are equal in all endeavors and should have all access to the same opportunities. This is true except when the opportunity requires certain characteristics. Fact: Females have only half the upper-body strength as males — no small point in the field.

Of course, the combat military is not just another job, any more than is playing in the NBA. Do you think that women are being deprived of equal opportunity and career advancement because they do not and cannot play in the NBA?

Further to the fallacy is the operating assumption that military service is just another job. The rules of civil society do not apply to the military, which is a top-down organization in which the rules are created to maximize efficiency in killing enemies. It is not just another job that can be managed with the human resources department’s Manual on Diversity and Sensitivity.

The argument that women’s performance on de facto front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan has proved concerns about combat roles unwarranted is false logic. Just because women in forward support companies can return fire when necessary — or die — doesn’t necessarily mean they are equal to men in combat.

Unbeknown perhaps to many civilians, combat has a very specific meaning in the military. It has nothing to do with stepping on an IED or suffering the consequences of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It means aggressively engaging and attacking the enemy with deliberate offensive action, with a high probability of face-to-face contact.

As a society we are strongly opposed to violence against women. We believe that women need special protection against male violence. Aren’t we contradicting ourselves when we declare that it is fine to expose women to the risk of unnecessary violence:

If the enemy is all around you — and you need every available person — that is one set of circumstances. To ask women to engage vicious men and risk capture under any other is beyond understanding.

Parker adds another point, one that no one really wants to think about: what happens when that eighteen year old girl is captured by the enemy:

The threat to unit cohesion should require no elaboration. But let’s leave that obvious point to pedants and cross into enemy territory where somebody’s 18-year-old daughter has been captured. No one wants to imagine a son in these circumstances either, obviously, but women face special tortures. And, no, the rape of men has never held comparable appeal.

We can train our men to ignore the screams of their female comrades, but is this the society we want to create? And though some female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have endured remarkable suffering, their ability to withstand or survive violent circumstances is no rational argument for putting American girls and women in the hands of enemy men.

It will kill us in the end.


Anonymous said...

How very paternalistic of you to decide what is best for millions of women whose lives you know nothing about.

Dare I mention that I find similarities between what you have just said and endorsed and the arguments against African-Americans serving in the military.

"There are natural differences"
"Some people are just better suited to that job"
"It's not a case of inequality. It's just us looking out for their best interests"

This is simply bigotry.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

That's a vile insinuation, offered by someone who clearly does not know how to read.

I am sure that Kathleen Parker will be happy to know that she is being paternalistic.

Her arguments about women in combat involve upper body strength, testosterone levels and specific vulnerabilities when captured.

BTW-- the quotations you include are not from my article and are not from Parker's either.

By putting the lines in quotes you suggest that they are positions that I endorsed.

You might notice that nothing about what I said relates in any way to race.

I have never suggested and no one else has ever suggested that I should decide what is best for those few women who might want to be in combat. (The notion that there are millions of women who are dying to join combat units is idiotic.)

As I and several other commenters have suggested, it would suffice for men and women to be held to exactly the same training standards. That would solve the problem. Right now, the military is trying to figure out how to relax training standards in order to compensate for the relative weakness of women.

Why not use the same standards and let the standards decide?

Dennis said...

For those who want to know from a woman who has been there and done that:

Malcolm said...

Another opinion from a Woman soldier

Dennis said...
I just wish we would think more about the lives that will be put at risk.