WHY WOMEN SHOULD NOT BE PLACED IN COMBAT
When asked by CNN’s John King if it was a good idea to expand the role of women in combat, Rick Santorum gave a largely incoherent response that suggested he believed women in combat introduced an element of “emotion” that would interfere with fulfillment of the mission. Here is what he said in pertinent part: “I do have concerns about women in front-line combat. I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the best interest of the mission, because of other types of emotions that are involved.” He either meant that men would be more emotional if women served alongside of them or that women would be more emotional than men and would tend to compromise the mission. The explanation he gave is hard to decipher and sounds sexist and knee-jerk rather than rational and contemplative.
I happen to agree that women ought not be required to serve in combat, but for a different reason. If able-bodied women are capable of child bearing, then if we place them at risk of capture, we could experience one of the greatest horrors any civilization could be forced to endure. Yes, men like women could be raped in captivity, but only women can be impregnated and forced to give birth. If that horror were not gruesome enough, the children born of female soldiers could be mistreated to extract strategic information from those soldiers or other Americans or allies in captivity. The entire nation could be forced to confront a blackmail scenario where to save the lives of children born in captivity we would have to accede to demands that reduced our strategic effectiveness. Moreover, if the duration of a war is as long as the war in Afghanistan (over 11 years), children born of soldiers held in captivity by the enemy could be forced into slave labor, could be forced on suicide missions, could be made to engage in criminal enterprises, or could be murdered in a public act of terror. There are, thus, many rational and compelling reasons why women ought not be required to serve in combat.
To be sure, we need the most able people male and female to serve in the military but to serve the best interests of the United States we have to be mindful of the unique characteristics of each person if we are to minimize the risks they and the nation face and maximize effectiveness. Consequently, we would not require a person with extreme myopia to serve as a fighter pilot, even if he or she wore corrective lenses, because the risk exists that the person might lose those lenses and be unable to fly the plane. We would not require a person who has suffered from epilepsy, heart arrhythmias, or an occasionally debilitating condition to serve in combat, even if medication could control those conditions, because those conditions pose a higher than necessary risk of disability at a critical moment. Likewise, if women are child bearing, they should not be required to serve in a capacity that would risk capture because of the obvious and horrific consequences that could occur to them, rather than to men, if they were captured by the enemy.
I do not share the view that women are somehow less able to perform roles in combat than men. Nor do I subscribe to the view that women are more emotional than men or that men are unable to perform their duties when women serve alongside them. Those views seem born more of prejudice than of reliable evidence. Response to a crisis varies person by person but gender alone does not qualify or disqualify a woman from serving her country. Consequently, if able bodied American men are in short supply in some future conflict, I certainly expect that the women of this country will serve in combat and will serve well if that is required of them. When the supply of able bodied men for combat is adequate, however, the military should not require women to serve in any role that places them at risk of capture, even if women volunteer for those assignments.
Some have argued that women must be permitted to serve in combat roles to avoid gender bias, without regard to the risks I present here. They submit that there is no valid distinguishing principle between men and women. While I agree with them that all are entitled to equal justice under law (regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or creed), we must frankly recognize that, indeed, there is an undeniable biological difference that makes it objectionable in the extreme for women to be placed at risk of capture.
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Thus, in this respect women are different and the standard applied to them must likewise be different than that applied to men. Were men child bearers and not women, I would argue that women rather than men should be in front-line combat. The point of distinction is, therefore, not based on gender but based on the immutable characteristic that women have and men do not (childbearing capability). The point is simple and yet profoundly important to appreciate. No civilized nation with a sufficient quantity of able-bodied men to serve in combat should place women in that role because, if captured, women can be forced to endure unspeakable horrors that men haven’t the biological make-up to experience, horrors that magnify greatly the devastating nature of war not only for the women captured but for innocents and, indeed, for the entire nation.
� 2012 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved