Women should not deliberately be sent into combat
I know I will upset many readers with this column, but I speak from experience. Women should not be combat soldiers on purpose and should not have combat commands, either. This has suddenly become a pressing matter because Biden just nominated women to those positions.
I used the phrase "on purpose" because we can't always predict where fighting will occur. Women in the military must, therefore, be trained and equipped to fight as effectively as possible. However, we must not throw them into harm's way as a matter of course. Yes, I sound sexist and chauvinistic, and some will say I hate women. In truth, I love women, and I think they are irreplaceable assets to our military. I even believe there is a mission for them on some Special Forces operations. More on all this later.
Let's get the obvious part out of the way — women are simply not as physically capable as men. Not just on average, but significantly. For example, champion runner Allyson Felix's 400 meters lifetime best of 49.26 seconds was beaten by over 15,000 men and boys in 2017.
In fact, women are a little over half as strong as men in their upper bodies, and only about two thirds as strong in their lower bodies. Recent headlines are full of stories about boys who call themselves girls (transgender "women") competing "unfairly" against girls. You know it, and I know it. But girls are not inferior, and they are not "unequal." They are simply different.
Technology helps, but when it comes right down to it, the technology that enables women to do physical work, such as changing a 230-pound truck tire, will often fail in combat. Men would be able to physically handle the challenge, while women would not.
There are times where the kit a soldier carries weighs as much as 100 pounds. The average height of a healthy 20-year-old woman in America is about 5'4", and she weighs in at about 130 pounds. She would be expected to carry 80% of her total body weight in equipment. Now, she may be able to do that for a short distance under ideal conditions, but that is rarely the case in a war zone.
My wife, a West Point graduate and paratrooper, regularly outperformed some men in some physical tasks, but she realized early on that she was killing herself to do it and that she would not be able to keep that up for more than a couple of years. It is often said that a chain or a team is only as strong as its weakest links, and, as my wife understood, this fact has potentially fatal consequences in the military.
But I fully believe that women can contribute significantly to military success. Take for example the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel was overwhelmingly surrounded by enemies who outnumbered them 2.4 to 1 in combat troops. If anyone ever had a reason to include more women in his military, it is Israel.
Still, Israeli women are not deliberately placed in combat. Rather, they are radio and computer operators, and they fly drones and provide medical support. Women train the men on the technical aspects of their jobs, too.
In other words, though they are not intended to fight, they can if they must. They are invaluable to the IDF, but they are not the same. They are equal in value, but not the same — just like my wife was equal in value as a logistics officer to me as a Special Forces soldier. Acknowledging this is not sexist, or chauvinistic, or woman-hating; it is just the truth.
I also believe there a good idea in an interesting program that U.S. Special Operations Command tried out to include some female troops in Special Forces missions in Afghanistan. Special Forces specially selected and trained some women to be in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) that would manage tasks that male soldiers could not due to cultural issues. For example, they could perform medical duties and create relationships with Muslim women who would normally be off-limits to males.
My colleagues have relayed mixed results to me about the CST program, as I would expect. It needs to be refined and made better, but I believe that it is a good idea overall.
Once again, the equal value of women in the military is unquestionable. Their roles may be different from men's, but they serve their country and the world and are due all the respect that should come with that. Don't weaken the military by putting the wrong men or women in the wrong roles.
Image: Sailors in formation. Public Domain.