Saturday, January 26, 2013

Women in Combat

So the US military will now allow women to hold jobs in the front line units that do most of our fighting -- armor, artillery, infantry. The impetus for this move did not come from liberals in the White House or Congress, but from the service chiefs. This ought not to surprise anyone who knows the American military. For officers in particular, the military is a gigantic career ladder they spend their lives climbing, so the complaint of female officers that not being able to hold combat jobs was hurting their careers was bound to win out in the end. The services are also always short of people with certain vital skills, like speaking Arabic, and this move allows commanders more freedom to use women with such skills wherever they will do the most good.

My emotional reaction to this change is no, no, no. I recognize, though, that I feel this way because war is not a reality to me. For me, it is a myth. In my mind war is where male courage was tested by blood and men formed bonds of heroic brotherhood, where ordinary citizens joined the Minutemen and the 20th Maine and risked death in defense of their freedom. For me the distinction between men who go to war and women who stay home is an archetype, something more spiritual or even erotic than political.

Is any of that relevant to government policy? I guess not. For most soldiers and sailors, most of the time, the military is a job. For officers, it is a career. For the nation, it is an instrument of policy. Not allowing women to aim cannons is discrimination, plain and simple. If the Army thinks that letting women aim cannons will help women get ahead and make our military stronger, who am I to speak against that? So I won't. I will simply wonder where the modern world is headed, and ponder what it means to make changes in the most ancient structures of civilization so the military career ladder will be more equitable.

1 comment:

David said...

It's interesting (to me, at any rate) that war is a myth to me as well, and yet I think about war in an entirely different manner. For me war is an ethical decision in which the Allied cause in the Second World War and the Union cause in the American Civil War stand at one end of the moral continuum as Legitimate And Necessary, and all the others string out on a continuum toward the opposite end. When I imagine myself participating in these wars, I never imagine heroism or bonding, only terror and misery and probably soiling myself, as well as being killed. But they had to be done anyway.

All this is one reason why I hate the neocons so much. The wars they plan in no way meet the World War II standard of legitimacy or necessity.