This is a review of the new book by Mark C. Atkins, Women in Combat. Unnatural, Foolish, Immoral. The title doesn’t leave much to the imagination in terms of either the subject matter or the author’s views upon it. But no matter your own take on the idea of women serving in America’s military on the front lines, Atkins’ tome may be of interest.
It’s first worth noting that the author comes to this subject from a decidedly old-school, some might even say anachronistic worldview. How best to put this? Back in 1973, when Bobby Riggs played Billie Jean King in the Battle of the Sexes, she presented him with a squealing piglet before the match. The gift was in recognition of the fact that her opponent proudly proclaimed himself to be a male chauvinist pig. Were Mr. Riggs alive today, he might well be wearing a Mark Atkins t-shirt. The first portion of this book covers the history of mankind and the evolution of society, reaching a cultural nadir at the point when feminism was born. Atkins describes this particular “ism” as a new religion, one that has ever since waged relentless war on older worldviews like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, that have presumed to ask and answer man’s heady questions. He further notes that progressivism is essentially the bane of accepted conservative doctrine and, frankly, common sense.
While this general outlook may put some readers off while enthralling others, the rest of the book is actually a remarkable journey which seeks to explore the fundamental nature of the genders and their relationship to each other. This is the basis for the conclusion found in the subtitle, declaring that putting military women into combat roles is not only tactically impractical and unwise but unnatural and in defiance of the proper orientation of the universe.
Atkins confronts several of the assumptions which supporters of women in combat frequently cite, including the idea that the mechanization of warfare over the past century has evened the playing field, with technology offsetting women’s natural shortcomings against men in hand to hand combat. (War inevitably devolves into situations where those mechanical advantages are neutralized at times.) The author readily admits that there certainly are some number of exceptional women at the far end of the bell curve who can and do keep up with men when facing the rigors of life on the field in the theatre of combat. But he maintains that those are the rarest of exceptions, and solid policy should be founded upon the normal, not the exceedingly rare.
But while Women in Combat tackles some of the technical challenges of putting ladies in the line of fire, the focus is really on the fundamental nature of mankind. Atkins argues at length in support of the idea that men and women have always been fundamentally different, not because one gender is weaker or somehow inferior to the other, but because the wondrous differences between us allow each to fill very necessary and unique roles in keeping our species stumbling along through history.
As I said at the top, Women in Combat may either delight you or enrage you, depending on your worldview. Don’t let that stop you from reading it. If nothing else, it will provide you with endless hours of debates and verbal battles with your friends and foes alike. Just be sure to restrict the combat to verbal assaults.