Women in Combat Debate: Should Women Fight?
My good friend Bob Miller has a compelling article on women in combat that deserves a wide audience.
United States Air Force In September of last year, the Naval Institute Proceedings commemorated thirty years of sex-integration at the U.S. Naval Academy with a Commentary by Sharon Disher, USNA ’80, entitled “Women CAN Fight.” As a member of the first sex-integrated Naval Academy class, Disher wrote in conspicuous contradiction of former Marine combat hero, and now Senator, James Webb’s (USNA ‘ 68] then-troublesome 1979 Washingtonian Magazine essay: “Women Can’t Fight.”
Well of course women CAN fight. In Iraq, US military women have fought and still do fight bravely and selflessly. These armed daughters, sisters, wives and mothers can also become wounded, maimed, captured, abused and killed. In fact one hears military women, in particular, declaring their willingness to “die for my country,” words far less often heard from men.
And women can kill; there’s no doubt about it.
But please, put aside for a moment the tendency to rationalize, trivialize, scoff or scorn a cautionary perspective in order to reflect with candor on what this unarguably historic innovation of the “woman as warrior” may signify about a phenomenal cultural trajectory.
The stakes are high.
Read his entire article at the jump.
Robert H. Miller, CAPT, USN ret
Hope For America
PO Box 1007
Willow Grove, PA 19090
First, and simply, I suggest that there is no manly virtue in causing or intentionally allowing the inherent beauty and charm of young womanhood to be grievously disfigured by physical and psychic wounds of war. Nor is there any moral imperative that obliges an infant daughter to surrender her mother for long deployments or forever, as a dead crew”man” on the USS Cole, for example – whose former C.O. later said, “…we didn’t have women; we had sailors.” Thus, he expressed the modern diversity doctrine’s “gender-blindness.” Perhaps the Christian sage and veteran soldier, C. S. Lewis, had something relevant in mind when in The Chronicles of Narnia, “Father Christmas” instructs Lucy not to fight in the battle, because “battles are ugly when women fight.”
(Significantly, the popular Narnia film’s director was uneasy about audience response to such a “sexist” statement, so he simply revised it, to: “…battles are ugly.”)
Let’s consider a question, unasked and unanswered in behalf of the American body politic by the predominantly male Congress that integrated all federal military academies in 1976: “By what high principle might honorable, kind and loving men encourage and enroll women in the armed forces to kill and be killed on their behalf?
What respectable criterion (if any) of national and personal manhood is expressed by men’s dependence on women to confront and kill mortal enemies – for the protection, safety and comfort of able men at ease? Boys and girls, juveniles, depend on their mothers to guard and protect them; but we men?
Frankly, our middle-Eastern male adversaries who might shield themselves from hostile fire behind women and even children seem significantly different in degree, but perhaps not in kind, from men who would send a nation’s daughters and wives armed into battle. Is that too harsh a suggestion to evaluate?
Can women do it? Of course. Are they brave enough and willing? Exemplary, — in their manliness. Think about it.
Perhaps for the first time in history distinctive manhood doesn’t really matter any more. Some of us may be hard pressed to mention anything of consequence that constitutes distinctive “manhood” — or womanhood, for that matter.
But it’s a cultural question of enormous proportions.
The 1973 abandonment of military conscription, only a few years before Congress directed the sex-integration of service academies, also effectively abandoned the notion that there is any duty, any moral obligation much less a peculiarly male obligation to protect and defend the nation in combatant warfare.
Henceforth, an “all volunteer” (really “all-recruited”) force would be assembled by whatever enticements might work. No longer would the armed force comprise just the assembled sons and husbands and if necessary fathers of their families, bonded in community for the dutiful protection of their own beloved women and children who are the transgenerational treasure of a civilized nation.
Henceforth, the combatant force would contain willing young women, gradually older women, sometimes the mothers of infants, wives, sometimes mothers of service members and recently even grandmothers. War became a pseudo-family affair, with or without a husband or father even in view.
While OSD’s controversial and vaunted “Force Transformation” attracts much attention, the entire Defense Department, affirmed by the Commander in Chief and the Congress, stands in the vanguard of an enormous but unevaluated “cultural transformation.”
Ancient principles of male honor and chivalry have been formally discredited and abandoned by influential men and, increasingly, women who imagine they know already something history has never taught and has yet to learn.
Meanwhile, honorable men risk and some have sacrificed military careers in their reluctance or refusal to abandon the “gentleman” part of their manhood. Others may sacrifice something of their manhood for their careers.
When asked whether contemporary senior military leadership is even conscious of their crucial and accountable role in this cultural transformation, one senior combat-seasoned General opined correctly that the military is regulated under Congressional authority, and is unable to deal decisively with this kind of issue.
Congress, even the body-politic, needs to decide; “…what kind of civilization [do] we want to build[?]”
Unfortunately, it seems that “we”, unwittingly and perhaps witlessly, have already decided — through a combination of social activism, legislation, administrative policies, and silent acquiescence. It appears that able and ambitious men and women have become, in the popular jargon, “empowered” to engage in an unprecedented and morally unprincipled empirical venture, a potentially destructive experiment with the future of the civilization that this fortunate nation had inherited, forged and Constitutionalized.
Of course there were stark moral imperfections, notably slavery and persistent racial bigotry in need of purging and correction, but the largely Christian culture codified by the Founders exhibited admirable features that had stood the test of time.
There was an implicit recognition of marriage and family as the engine of civilized culture and its school of moral integrity, functioning ideally under, or as a conscious exception from, the protective servant-leadership of a Godly man, a husband and father – in loving care for his wife and her children, with an eye to their neighbors and the next generation.
Despite flaws, few would deny that families and the nation generally blossomed during its short history by the agency of divine providence, by the grace of God the Creator who had formed Man as male and female in order to be united as “one flesh,” and to procreate and rear their own kind.
Again and again there were trials, with no predetermined or assured survival of the nation. Yet through civil war, foreign wars, profound economic collapse, seasons of moral decadence, and surely right now, as even Thomas Jefferson once reminded, the nation’s liberties depend ultimately on the good pleasure of Almighty God.
And so our public voices give the nod to God as oaths of office are sworn, as pledges of allegiance are recited, and by earnest prayer or sometimes just a tag-line at the close of public speeches.
But in action, the nation’s three-decade or more movement of women increasingly toward war is arguably affirming some other god, not a refined public Godliness.
As men might now deploy women to war merely because they really “…CAN Fight,” and because some women might want very much to do so for the variety of personal motives, men tamper with the divine ordering of Creation, trusting in the superiority of an ostensibly “better idea” than God’s.
The prospect of unfettered opportunities may seem to gratify the personal ambition of some women in the present generation, — and in the short term, as we sometimes hear, even to fulfill their childhood dreams of joining a military service. But it remains to be seen whether, in the larger sense, an actual “service” is being performed and whether (as a citation in the earlier Naval Institute article suggests,) “in the long run” it will be “for the best.” The end of the long run is well beyond view, and includes generations only now being groomed.
The “best”, if history is guide, surely includes a stable, moral national culture sustained by loving and productive families, led ideally by honorable men.
A recent OPED by Paul Belien, “Europe’s Culture War; Secularism on the March,” described that continent’s growing “sexuality confusion”, and cited Karl Popper’s prophetic assertion in 1954 that “moral framework” is the most important safeguard of a society … Nothing is more dangerous than the destruction of this traditional framework, …. In the end its destruction will lead to cynicism and nihilism, i.e. to the disregard and the dissolution of all human values.”
As women migrate increasingly into all traditionally male vocations, the military as a pinnacle manifestation (bastion, if you must), there is reasonable doubt that young boys and girls will gain a consistent idea of what moral manhood and womanhood really are. As daughters emulate their fathers, or mothers who had already given themselves to duties that men really should be doing for them, their own daughters will learn a “new” womanhood that may not include the institution of marriage that helps form and prove responsible manhood.
Some critics have argued that men are becoming feminized. Others think it’s reasonable to ask whether men are becoming “juvenilized”, learning to depend increasingly on those who are essentially maternal beings in the created order, designed to be joined with one man only, rather than to be “one of the boys.”
Neither the USNI article, nor other bold arguments favoring the movement of women into military arms, give attention to any moral principle whatever. Pragmatic and speculative considerations prevail. Anecdotal testimonies are selective, seeming to express an odd confidence that battles and wars are entirely mechanistic processes, with victory the direct and inevitable product of personal “capabilities.” One might think that enthusiasm for recruiting “the best individuals” among volunteering females and males will itself actually insure dominance in battle and in war.
“Women CAN Fight” correctly alludes to the historic novelty of our modern, perhaps post-modern “woman warrior” phenomenon. RADM Sam Locklear is cited as saying that women can “get the job done,” reflecting the shift toward an occupational paradigm, where “equal employment opportunity” has been the given societal aim of many. But the vocation of arms remains, whether recognized or not, a morally weighted calling, not merely a legal “employment.” The spilling and shedding of blood, the taking and spending of human lives, is far more than a “job” to “get done.” It is either justified national vengeance against threatening evil, or it is murderous.
The elevation and preservation of an honorable, moral civilization surely requires disciplined attention to an agreed moral framework, and I suggest that the military officer’s commission carries fiduciary moral responsibilities for preservation of the society he defends. His duties transcend mundane characteristics of a journeyman’s “job.” Properly, the commissioned officer is not paid in compensation for his employment in some “workplace”, as for the manufactured product of his labors. Just as is a faithful minister or priest, he is to be relieved of worldly cares in order to free him to answer his high calling to selfless service of the commonweal, service that has no fixed “working hours” or common protections from dangers to life and limb. Vocabulary matters.
The culturally formative influence of the Christian Church, broadly speaking, continues inescapably today, for good or for ill. By its surprising indifference and silence about this particular matter, even the Church has largely lent its authoritative consent to an historic “cultural transformation” that is abandoning formal recognition of distinctive manhood and womanhood according to ancient moral principles, and even according to the social framework that Alexis de Tocqueville apparently so admired as our own 19th century national attribute.
Admirable features of that society have become dissatisfying in but a few decades. Sexual “diversity” has become an egalitarian mantra and social doctrine, including even a diversity of imaginative pseudo-family constructions that are proudly justified as a personal right and expression of liberty, ostensibly deserving government respect and public rewards.
Militant Islam has warranted national alarm as a selfless mediator of dire and destructive physical threat to contemporary Western culture and our so-called “way of life.” But there’s a well-advanced internal, or “domestic” threat to proven features of moral civilization that warrants hard, sober and courageous reflection by all who are stewards and mediators of Truth, authority and power – and who stand under divine accountability for the right use of them.
Man’s unloving use of women in war signals an underlying enormity, a far richer and permeating disintegration of Man as male and female, along with the cultural institutions he inhabits.