Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Thursday that, from this day forward, no military combat jobs would be off-limits to women. “There will be no exceptions,” said Carter. “They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”
The decision is an historic one, though not an unexpected one. It is the inevitable result of a deadline put into place by President Obama three years ago. At that time, the White House demanded that women be allowed to serve in combat positions unless the military could provide specific reasons for exemption. Carter, facing the January deadline, had little choice.
It’s not exactly a done deal; Congress has 30 days to review the decision. But unless this Congress is a different one than we’ve grown to know and love over the last eight years, they aren’t going to do anything.
So what does this mean? Well, it’s one of those things where we won’t know until we know. Carter and others have insisted that women will have to meet the exact same physical standards as men, which is all it takes to convince many Americans that this is a fair and uncontroversial step towards equality and “social justice.” They point to the walls that have fallen regarding racial and homosexual military exclusion, neither of which have had any notable effect on the military’s effectiveness. Same here, they say.
But is it?
You put a black man onto a fighting squad with white men, and the overwhelming chances are that there will be no problems. Even if the squad is filled with racists, they will almost certainly accept their new member. These men are going into war. Nothing clarifies the insignificance of prejudice like the imminent threat of death.
The same thing happens when you put a homosexual into a squad filled with straight men. It’s the same dynamic. Is there going to be harassment? Sometimes. But more often than not, the intensity of the mission is going to blast away whatever disgust the men may feel about gay people.
Put a woman into a squad with straight men, and you have something entirely different. The problem isn’t that these men hate women but rather just the opposite. Mix women with men and you completely change the social dynamic. Mix that social dynamic with the heightened atmosphere of war, and you get something even more unique…and possibly much more dangerous. The last thing we need is a systematic problem of love triangles forming on the front lines.
For feminists, this argument is disgusting. They won’t even hear it. They see it as somehow demeaning to women. Or they say, “Well, men will just have to learn to keep it in their pants.” Sorry, but it ain’t that simple. You can erase gender divisions in the law, but you can’t magically change human nature just because you want the world to be a certain way.
And hey, maybe everything will be fine. Maybe this is the right move. But if it is only the “right move” for social justice and the “wrong move” for the strength of our military, then it’s the wrong move period. Unfortunately, once these walls fall, it’s tough to build them back.