One day I want to be a grandmother. I want to hold my grandbabies and coo and talk baby talk to them, but boys, if you’re reading this… not yet. And I hope at least one of them will be a girl since I couldn’t have a daughter. If you know me or have been reading my blog, you know I have two children, two sons, one of whom is now in the military. What you may not know is my husband served in the Marine Corps for twelve years and is now in the Army Reserve, so I have a pretty strong opinion about what Leon Panetta did on January 23, 2013 as Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration. He opened all ground combat positions to women, which to many people sounds wonderful, but that decision carries consequences I’m not sure American families are ready to accept.
I want to make sure I clarify my own beliefs here. I am old-fashioned in my ideas about the roles of men and women. I believe men should take care of women because we are the physically weaker sex, but only physically. I’m okay with that. I don’t feel the need to compete with men in that capacity. We are just as smart, just as mentally capable, but if I, or most women I know, were to have a contest of strength and stamina with most men, we would lose. That is reality. We are made differently. Our upper body strength and stamina are not the same as a man’s. There are some exceptions to this rule; there always are. But generally, women have no business in combat arms because they can’t perform at the same level men can. I am also not in favor of how the military has not recognized the women who do serve in combat situations and have done so for years now. It is hypocritical to attach women to combat units and not allow them to officially be recognized in that capacity. I applaud the decision Panetta made only for that reason, but I still believe women should not be serving in combat arms or combat roles. I still have my doubts about women in the military at all, but that point is moot for one reason only. They serve.
One thing that is rarely mentioned when the military is discussed is that men over the centuries have been trained to be warriors. What does that mean? They are trained to kill people and break things. That is what warriors do. Is that what we want our girls to be trained to do? I also think having women serve with men does both sexes a disservice. How can you ask a warrior to go out and kill people and destroy property, and in the next breath ask them to treat women with respect and to behave themselves in public? What does that do to the image they have of each other?
When my husband came home from his deployment which included the first Gulf War, he swore every other word, and we had a toddler at home learning how to talk. Guess what words he learned right away. It takes time to overcome those habits. Men in the military behave differently around each other than they do in civilized society. They have a different set of rules. Is that wrong? Is having a different set of behaviors necessary to do the job they must do without going crazy? Remember they have to “locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat,” in other words, kill people and break things. Can they do it politely? Do we want our eighteen year old women in close combat with the enemy? Remember these are not war games, nor is war intended to be a proving ground for equal rights. When warriors fight, they fight for their country, their lives and the lives of those they love.
Having women serve alongside men in combat arms, I believe, will put unintended stress on men in the military, not because of sexual attraction, though that does come into play, but because most men I know would want to protect a woman serving next to them. They wouldn’t want to see her get hurt because they’ve been trained to protect women. Do we want that societal norm to disappear? I don’t. In addition, think of the fathers of the women who would serve in combat. How would they feel to have their daughters in combat possibly getting shot or captured by the enemy? Would they expect the man next to her to stop engaging the enemy to protect his daughter?
In addition, think of the enemy we are fighting right now. Think of how they treat their women. Would they tend to be merciful if they captured an American woman? If your answer is yes, think of what happened to Lara Logan in Tahrir Square, and she was not a combat soldier but a journalist. And that was not a battlefield but a demonstration. She had not killed anyone. How would the men in a combat unit with a woman feel if they knew that woman had been captured in battle? How much psychological damage could that do to the man in the field next to her if he hadn’t been able to save her from the horrors of war? Just think of what happened to Lara Logan and Daniel Pearl. Do you think women in combat will be spared their fates? Is that what we want for the women of this country?
Here is what Leon Panetta said in his press briefing about this decision as it appeared in The Huffington Post: “Today Gen. Dempsey and I are pleased to announce that we are eliminating the ground combat exclusion rule for women and moving forward with a plan to eliminate all gender-based barriers to service. Our purpose is to ensure the mission is carried out by the best qualified and most capable service members, regardless of gender and regardless of creed and beliefs. If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job—and let me be clear, we are not reducing qualifications—then they should have the right to serve.”
That sounds good and fair, but what are the far-reaching consequences of this decision? Yes, women will have the opportunity to serve in combat units, which some have done already, but the military must not relax the physical standards to allow them to get those positions. If they do, then having someone in combat who is not qualified to be there puts all of the soldiers at risk. Additionally, right now we have an all volunteer force. No one is drafted—yet. As the mother of boys I felt some anxiety when my boys both had to register for the selective service when they turned 18, but they did it. How would I feel if I had a daughter who had to register? I wouldn’t like it at all. Has anyone considered whether young women will have to register? Wouldn’t it be discriminatory not to have them register when men must?
I know this post will be controversial for those who read it, and I think that is a good thing. The sort of decision that Secretary Panetta made is controversial, and if it isn’t, then I don’t believe people have thought about the consequences that are sure to follow. As I said before, I have experience being the mother of a son who is serving in the United States Navy and being the wife of a Marine who is now serving in the United States Army. I know the sacrifice both the service member and the families of the service member make when they serve their country. I wouldn’t want to imagine my daughter, if I had one, being in the same circumstances I know my son will be in and husband has been in. I just don’t believe women belong in combat roles.
By nature women are different. Our bodies are different and more vulnerable; our natures are different. And despite what some people would have the public believe, the military is not just another job. It requires of those who would be a part of it a sacrifice of time spent with family and loved ones, privacy, and sometimes life and limb. The military should not be a testing ground for new social norms which I believe lifting the ban on women in combat actually is. It should be a place with time tested ways to fight battles and improve readiness in combat. Experimenting with putting women in combat roles with no privacy is no way to improve our fighting force.
I can tell you without a doubt if I had a daughter, I would fight tooth and nail to keep her out of any combat related job if she joined the military on her own, even if she were capable of meeting the standards the military sets. Who knows whether women will be forced to sign up for Selective Service? We just don’t know the far-reaching effects of this decision. Only time will provide those answers. Now that restrictions against women serving in combat have been lifted, I do hope the granddaughter I dream of having will not want her to put herself in combat even if she loves this country as much as I do.
Imagine an eighteen year old girl facing a battlefield, having been told to close with and destroy the enemy. I would never doubt her resolve. I know she would do whatever was necessary, but that is the point. I don’t believe it is necessary to put women in combat for the career advancement and higher pay for a few career military women or to prove that women can compete with men in the arena of war. Can’t women remain in noncombat roles? What would be the difference when women comprise only 15 percent of the active duty Armed Forces to begin with? Women and men are different. Can’t we accept that especially when it comes to this extreme circumstance and protect those women who have no interest at all in serving in the Armed Forces much less in combat arms. I don’t want men to think that women are not in need of their protection. Some of us, indeed, most of us are. Including the granddaughter I one day hope to hold.
Please check out the following links to other opinions on this issue. It’s worth our time to be informed.