The Corner

National Security & Defense

Individual Empowerment Is Not a Military Objective

Watching Twitter and much of the online commentary about Trump’s tweeted ban on transgender Americans serving in the military, it’s obvious that most people flat-out don’t understand the process of military recruitment or how the military should make decisions about who serves and who doesn’t.

Simply put, forget what you know about private employment. Forget it. In private employment, as a general rule you approach your employer as an individual and are judged by that employer entirely on your individual merit. Gay, straight, trans, white, black — the question is simple: Can you do the job? And while “the job” can be challenging — and it can require teamwork — the consequence of poor performance is rarely, if ever, horrific death, dismemberment, and/or world-historical civilizational changes.

The military is different. You’re trying to forge men into a team, place them into the most stressful situations humanity has ever seen, and get them to perform under pressure. Oh, and in total war you need numbers. Lots of numbers — but without fracturing unit cohesion, coddling weakness, or taking on unacceptable risks.

So, here’s what you do — you make group decisions. Do people with certain kinds of criminal backgrounds tend to be more trouble than they’re worth? They’re out. How about folks with medical conditions that have a tendency to flare up in the field. They’re out also. It’s foolish to create a force that contains numbers of people who are disproportionately likely to have substantial problems. Increased injuries lead to manpower shortages in the field. Prolonged absences create training gaps. Physical weakness leads to poor performance.

With that in mind, I want you to read again the statistics on transgender mental health my colleague Dan McLaughlin quoted earlier today:

Fifty three percent (53%) of USTS respondents aged 18 to 25 reported experiencing current serious psychological distress [compared to 10% of the general population] . . . Forty percent (40%) of respondents have attempted suicide at some point in their life, compared to 4.6% in the U.S. population. Forty-eight percent (48%) of respondents have seriously thought about killing themselves in the past year, compared to 4% of the U.S. population, and 82% have had serious thoughts about killing themselves at some point in their life . . . 29% of respondents reported illicit drug use, marijuana consumption, and/or nonmedical prescription drug use in the past month, nearly three times the rate in the U.S. population (10%). . . . The prevalence of HIV and AIDS has been found in prior research to be higher among transgender people than in the U.S. general population. . . .

Those are staggering numbers. And while I know that trans activists may argue that military service is one way that trans people can feel more accepted in society, that’s not the purpose of the military.

Coincidentally, yesterday the L.A. Times published a compelling op-ed outlining the staggering physical problems faced by women in ground combat. It turns out that social justice can’t trump biology. Here’s some basic science:

Testosterone also causes development of a heavier and stronger skeleton in males and has a specific effect on shaping the male pelvis, adding greater strength for load-bearing tasks and enabling more efficient locomotion. It increases the size and function of their hearts and lungs and consequently males have 40% greater aerobic capacity, and higher endurance compared with females. Women’s smaller hearts require more blood to be pumped each minute at a given level of exertion because they have less hemoglobin in their blood to carry oxygen.

These differences will put women at a distinct disadvantage in newly opened infantry jobs, where they will be expected to carry 100-pound packs routinely, or in armor jobs, where they will have to load 35-pound rounds again and again. Women in these roles will have to constantly work at a higher percentage of their maximal capacity to achieve the same performance as men. No training system can close the gap.

That is absolutely right, and as political pressure increases, we will fling disproportionately unfit soldiers into the most stressful of jobs. But it’s not just individuals who suffer. The mission suffers. The nation suffers. Warriors are distracted, units are depleted, and enemies who care nothing about political correctness and social justice will be all too happy to exploit performance gaps and take advantage of weakness.

So, please, stop taking about individual rights. Stop talking about individual goals. The military has to make hard choices on the basis of odds, probabilities, and centuries of hard-earned experience. Our national existence — ultimately, our very civilization — depends on getting those answers right. And if there’s one thing that any person learns in war, “fairness” has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome. The battlefield is the most unjust place on earth.

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