The Corner

Demilitarizing the Military

The decision to open up ground combat, front-line roles to women should not be viewed in isolation from a number of significant military policy changes during President Obama’s administration. Some changes have made headlines — the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” women in combat roles, and planned troop reductions– while others, like the ever-increasing influence of international human-rights law in combat operations, have not. There is a common theme, however, and it is decidedly not one of increased combat effectiveness. 

Following the collapse in morale after the Vietnam War, our nation has labored long and hard to create a lethal, courageous, and honorable all-volunteer military that is rightly the most-respected institution in the nation. Make no mistake, women have played a key role in the military’s transformation, and hundreds have bled on the battlefield to defend our liberty. We honor their service and sacrifice.

Yet honoring sacrifice does not necessarily mean acceding to demands for social justice, and the real question should not be whether opening combat roles leads to greater job opportunities for women but whether placing women in infantry companies makes those units deadlier (or at least no less deadly) and more proficient in their core role — engaging and destroying the enemy in close combat. 

Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg, Pa., Bastogne in Belgium, and the Chosin Reservoir in Korea rank among the most hellish and brutal environments ever created by man. The idea that women in the ranks could have repelled Picket’s Charge, or the XLVII Panzer Corps, or the People’s Volunteer Army’s 9th Army just as well as men is more hope than anything else. I pray those hopes won’t ever be tested in equivalent environments, but if history is any guide, the test will come, and no amount of social justice can replace steely courage, superhuman endurance, and ironclad bonds of brotherhood. 

Women and men are not interchangeable biological units. There will be consequences to this change, both expected and unexpected. Is “social justice” worth this very deadly risk?

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More