Could women in combat mean fewer wars?


U.S. Marine Corporal Jessica L. Williams (L) and Lance Corporal Shawnee Redbear of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Golf Company patrol in Basabad, Helmand Province, in this March 9, 2011 file photo. The US military officially dropped its ban on women serving in ground combat January 24, 2013 after a policy review by top commanders. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The Pentagon’s decision to allow women to serve in combat has been met with great jubilation -- and consternation. A column by my colleague Kathleen Parker suggested that the decision was misguided because women are not equal, biologically, to men. Others have used the Bible to defend the status quo.

All men (and women) are created equal. But we know that equal rights are different from equal abilities. Parker wrote that women “through quirks of biology and human nature, are not equal to men.” But I would counter that some military women should be in combat and some should not. Just as some men should be in combat and some should not.

In fact, there are plenty of non-combat jobs in the military which are being filled by men. I support two levels of enlistment: one for support and one for combat. That way, the military can have highly qualified men and women in support roles and send those who choose, both men and women, into combat.

Women in Afghanistan today are already in combat situations and many readily embrace the idea that they can now make it official. These are women who know what combat entails and do not shrink from it, women who are qualified to assume the duties that men do. Military authorities have deemed them fit.

I believe women should be able to match the same standards as men. There would be nothing worse than a woman or a man, for that matter, who is not combat ready. They shouldn’t be there in the first place.

The most strident objections to women in combat come from conservative religious groups, particularly Christians. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said of women in combat: “Men are designed to be the primary protectors while women are intended as the primary nurturers. No amount of social engineering can overcome these realities. The dignity of women is to be defended by men, not undermined by vulnerability in the extreme conditions of combat.”

I believe everyone should be required to sign up for selective service. The idea of a draft is pretty much off of the table, but if it were ever to be reinstated because of a serious attack on our homeland not everyone drafted would go into combat. Combat should be reserved for those who volunteer. If there is a war the majority of Americans believe is worth fighting, there would be no shortage of men and women willing to sign up for battle. If not, we shouldn’t be in it. Period.

Few people would object to women and men being called up to serve in some capacity, other than combat, in a national emergency. In fact it has often been proposed that every young American be required to participate in some form of national service for two years.

The biggest problem with required combat for any sex is that we don’t always send our young men and women into harm’s way for good reasons. We have fought some terrible, some would say illegal, wars. Vietnam was a disaster. Even President Lyndon Johnson admitted early on that it was a bad war and unwinnable. He knew it and so did his secretary of defense and they pursued it anyway. Korea wasn’t exactly World War II, the last “great war” worth fighting.

Iraq was invaded on faulty intelligence and turned out to be a disaster. Afghanistan has turned into a quagmire. Too many people have died because of fickle, weak, dishonest, corrupt or ambitious politicians. The idea of having to fight in a war you don’t believe in is reprehensible, whether you are a man or a woman. That is why only those who volunteer, men and women, should be required to fight.

Kathleen Parker talks about the unacceptability of 18 year old girls going into combat. Certainly the prospect of one being captured and raped is horrible. I would venture to say though, that today’s female enlistee is also in danger of being assaulted by a comrade, a sad fact that some believe will be reduced by equalizing the opportunities for men and women to hold all positions.

Let’s talk about 18 year old boys. They are children too. Anyone who has ever seen “Saving Private Ryan” cannot forget the unbearable scenes of teenagers landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day, screaming for their mothers as they are being slaughtered.

War is a terrible thing. Nobody should ever have to fight in one. But if we are to engage in wars, then those courageous men and women who choose to do so should be permitted. In America, we call that equality.

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