'Equality' on the Battlefield
War is terrible.
Perhaps that is one reason why during relatively peaceful interludes, but sometimes even in wartime, palliative fantasies are concocted to make armed conflict seem less horrible and the stresses of war more equitably distributed. Civilians, often the most ravaged by war, long to see their hopes and dreams of a perfect society, along with their ways of conducting affairs and mediating conflict, inform the armies of nations. Then peace will reign.
But most often, attempts to make armies resemble the mores and behavior of contemporary civil society amount to chimerical impracticalities and downright denial of reality. It seems the present administration of the U.S. is gripped by a fantasy of "equality" designed to distribute the rigors of combat more equitably between men and women by allowing women to enter combat zones as infantry. Women are to be both as endangered and as heroic as men traditionally have been in wartime.
The West has seen similar fantastical pipe dreams before.
Before and during World War I, the French military was gripped by an illusory vision of heroism. French soldiers were taught to think of themselves as unconquerable because they possessed elan vital. A concept developed by philosopher Henri Bergson, elan vital was a supposed life force imparting a heroic invincibility that would enable French soldiers to conquer the less nobly endowed, retrogressive Huns comprising the German armies.
Buoyed by their fantasy of natural supremacy, the French nobly went forth, garbed in their brilliant red and blue uniforms and wielding their flashing sabers. They met the cold, hard and merciless reality of German machine gunners who methodically picked off rank after rank of inspired Frenchmen who, despite elan vital, fell dead. Illusion eventually bowed before reality. The French changed uniforms and tactics. But not before the fiction the nation's soldiers were taught to believe in had resulted in countless casualties.
The American military has now been asked to embrace a fantasy equal to or worse than the concept of elan vital.
Today's adherents of heroic fantasy have decreed the battlefield can be a gender-neutral zone reflective of the Left's domestic agenda for gender "equality." The daydream is that women and men can act as interchangeable units on the battlefield. The eradication of the differences between the sexes the Left is seeking to achieve in civilian society is to be applied to the U.S. military, which is now expected to embrace a sort of psychological Lamarckianism that insists men and women can by sheer positive thinking -- "I can be anything I want to be"--overcome the natural limitations of the female sex by an act of will.
Today's version of elan vital, monotonously repeated for at least two generations, is reminiscent of the fatuous Emile Coue's theories of self-improvement based on optimistic mantra, "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better." Ideas similar to Coue's theories of the transformative abilities of positive thinking were to trickle down to children's literature in the form of The Little Engine That Could (1930) -- "I think I can; I think I can." In turn, the "I think I can," motif has now become the ubiquitous mantra repeated continually to little boys and girls: "You can be anything you want to be."
Including a female GI Joe locked in hand-to-hand combat with hardened male soldiers.
No. Sometimes, you can't be anything you want to be. Sometimes, you shouldn't even try.
It is impossible to eliminate the natural differences and natural attraction between the sexes. It is hallucinatory to believe there are not core differences between the way men and women think and act. It is also madness to deny the heightened testosterone levels characterizing men on the battlefield.
For instance, does anyone suppose women will not be assaulted and raped when put side by side with men in a battle zone?
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has found sexual assaults within our armed services are far more common in war zones. Think of it: women face assault and rape within their own units. Even if the assaults sometimes don't amount to physical rape, the temptation to trade sexual favors for protection and/or advancement is great. How many women in the military can testify that they are propositioned regularly by men who are their superiors in rank? How many have not been merely propositioned, but have been forced into sexual encounters they don't want?
There is another reality that contradicts the fantasy: Special tortures await women when in the hands of enemies who regard women as unclean and as infidels who are lower than dogs. Such enemies are highly unlikely to be handing out birth control pills to the women they rape and use as sex slaves -- if they allow captured women to remain alive. Women face impregnation and forced abortion or the killing of infants conceived during rape when captured behind enemy lines. Men may face torture and even death, but they do not face what women will inevitably face if captured by implacable misogynists who care nothing about the niceties of the Geneva Conventions.
The experience of the Israelis, a democratic nation that has deployed women to combat zones, is instructive. Phyllis Chesler reported in a symposium on Islamic Terror and Sexual Mutilation:
"Soon after the establishment of the IDF, the removal of all women from front-line positions was decreed. Decisive for this decision was the very real possibility of falling into enemy hands as prisoners of war. It was fair and equitable, it was argued, to demand from women equal sacrifice and risk; but the risk for women prisoners of rape and sexual molestation was infinitely greater than the same risk for men."
During the same symposium, Dr. David Gutman said:
"During the Israeli War of Independence Jewish fighters, including female soldiers captured by Arab irregulars, were routinely tortured and mutilated in the most obscene ways (by contrast, water-boarding would have furnished a pleasant interlude), and IDF officers warned their troops against being taken alive."
John Luddy of the Heritage Foundation cites the demoralizing effects on unit cohesion, another vital consideration. Male soldiers who saw their fellow women soldiers mutilated in obscene ways were devastated.
"For example, it is a common misperception that Israel allows women in combat units. In fact women have been barred from combat in Israel since 1950, when a review of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War showed how harmful their presence could be. The study revealed that men tried to protect and assist women rather than continue their attack. As a result, they not only put their own lives in greater danger, but also jeopardized the survival of the entire unit. The study further revealed that unit morale was damaged when men saw women killed and maimed on the battlefield."
But just as importantly, when given combat units are facing each other, one of which has women and the other which has men, the most likely outcome is that the male-only forces will win. After all, war is about winning. Imagine the sheer joy of the SS if they had faced an American battalion made up of men and women -- or only women? The ludicrousness of the situation would have been exceeded only by the slaughter. Weakness would have ensured victory by the enemy.
Is weakening our armed forces what is actually desired? We conservatives should never forget the military has long been a target of the Left, who wish to weaken it so it does not present a threat to their goals of a European-style America. It is a badly kept secret that our president dislikes the Armed Forces and would even allow "sequestration" -- gutting our military -- in order to promote his domestic agenda. What better tactic to complete the emasculation of the finest military in the world than to insist on enforced "equality" between the sexes on the battlefield?
Speaking of emasculation, what happens to the manhood of soldiers who are expected to fight alongside women? What man is going to choose being a soldier if he has to share a foxhole with a female and give up belonging to a band of brothers?
Radical feminists who want their fantasy of so-called "equality" to extend to the battlefield must ask themselves if they are prepared to have universal Selective Service, along with all it implies for all women, not just those who meet the standards and who would choose to be fighters alongside men. What transpires when choice is taken out of the hands of all women? Who, for instance, will take care of all the children if Mom and Dad both head for the battlefields?
None of the above is meant to imply American women have not shown they are capable of much when they serve in the armed services. The core issues concerning women in combat do not indicate women are not as intelligent, as brave and as true as men. Individual women can even sometimes outperform men. They can be just as ferocious when protecting what is precious to them and their country.
No, the core issues concern the innate limitations of and the unique dangers facing soldiers of the female sex as pertains to mixed gender battle units, the battlefield, and capture by the enemy. Even when women have met all the physical standards applying to male soldiers, they remain women and therefore automatically more vulnerable than men. That is why no armies, ancient or modern, ever incorporated women soldiers into their infantry ranks. In fact, the appearance of women on the battlefield would not only be welcomed by our enemies, it would be a fantastical exercise in political correctness that would not only to be uniquely dangerous to women, but might well prove fatal to the readiness and effectiveness of our military and our country.
Those who would conduct wars according to fantasies will lose. The French were on the verge of losing WWI no matter how firmly they believed a mystical endowment of heroism was bestowed on their soldiers by the elixir of "elan vital." It was when France faced reality and changed her politically-correct assumptions that she began to break her losing streak, with the help of American soldiers -- all of whom were men.
It is time to put the axe to the root of the fantasy of "equality" before it irrevocably damages the finest military in the world.
Fay Voshell, selected as one of the Delaware GOP's "Winning Women" of 2008, is a contributor to American Thinker and National Review Online.
Jacqueline Hamilton (a pseudonym) is a U.S. Army Officer Veteran (Captain, Combat Arms Branch Parachutist) who served in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. She is now an Army wife and mother.