Politics & Policy

Only a Barbaric Nation Drafts Its Mothers and Daughters into Combat

U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan, April 2012. (Photo: US Army)

The most disappointing moment of Saturday night’s debate came when Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio each embraced the idea that women should register with the selective service, making it possible for America to draft women into ground combat. The argument for registration is based on the new Pentagon policy opening up all combat jobs to women. Women have served in non-combat roles for decades without any serious push for selective-service registration ensuing. In fact, the Supreme Court, in Rostker v. Goldberg (1981), has used the fact that men and women have different roles as justification for rejecting constitutional objections to the all-male draft.

We have repeatedly condemned the Obama administration’s decision to open all combat roles to women, and we have mainly done so by citing a combination of contemporary studies and historical experience to make the case that gender-integrated ground-combat units are less effective than their all-male counterparts.

But that is not the only argument. Indeed, there are other fundamental reasons to oppose not just the presence of women in the infantry but their forcible conscription into its ranks. Such a policy inverts natural law and the rules that have grounded our civilization for thousands of years.

Men should protect women. They should not shelter behind mothers and daughters.

Men should protect women. They should not shelter behind mothers and daughters. Indeed, we see this reality every time there is a mass shooting. Boyfriends throw themselves over girlfriends, and even strangers and acquaintances often give themselves up to save the woman closest to them. Who can forget the story of 45-year-old Shannon Johnson wrapping his arms around 27-year-old Denise Peraza and declaring “I got you” before falling to the San Bernardino shooters’ bullets?

Ground combat is barbaric. Even today, men grapple with men, killing each other with anything they can find. Returning veterans describe countless incidents of hand-to-hand combat with jihadists. In his book about the Battle of Ganjgal, Into the Fire, Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer describes just such an encounter with a Taliban fighter. The Taliban tried to capture Meyer, and they ended up wrestling in the dirt. Meyer describes what happened next:

I pawed at the ground with my right hand and found a rock the size of a baseball. I clutched it and swung blindly at his face. The blow stunned him. Before he could recover, I pushed off his chest, lifted the rock high in my right fist, and smashed it down like a hammer, breaking his front teeth. He looked me in the eyes, the fight knocked out of him, his head not moving. We both knew it was over. I drew back my arm and drove the stone down, crushing his left cheekbone. He went limp. I pushed up on my knees and hit him with more force. This blow caved in the left side of his forehead. I smashed his face again and again, driven by pure primal rage.

That is war. It is not a video game. It is not a movie, where young Hollywood starlets karate-kick their way through masses of inept thugs and goons. When we order women into ground combat, we are ordering them into situations where men larger and stronger than they will show no mercy — crushing the life out of them like Meyer crushed that Taliban.

#share#This is what Ted Cruz was rightly arguing when he called the idea of drafting women into combat “nuts.” The idea that we would force women into combat against “a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them” — to use Cruz’s memorable phrase — is immoral. Women would die terrible deaths, and when they did, the ripple effects on morale would likely be extreme.

EDITORIAL: The Obama Administration’s Disastrous Decision on Women in Combat

Why would Bush, Rubio, and Christie seem to so eagerly surrender to the prevailing winds of political correctness? Part of the problem, no doubt, is that none of them served in the military. They’re simply not familiar with the grueling demands not only of combat but also of training for battle. Part of it may well be pure political fear. After all, the “war on women” narrative harmed Republicans in 2012, so it appears that at least three GOP candidates are willing to court an actual war on women to avoid even the appearance of discrimination.

Military service should not be a prerequisite for understanding morality, common sense, and natural law. Cruz hasn’t served, yet he understood the stakes. He was right, while Bush, Rubio, and Christie were wrong. But the issue’s importance goes beyond who wins the nomination contest. If America chooses not just to permit women to join the infantry but now prepares to force them into ground combat, it will take a step toward barbarism.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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