A few thoughts on women in combat from a dinosaur

All this week I’ve been witnessing some of the end zone dancing taking place among various groups regarding the recent decision to allow women to fully serve in combat roles alongside the men. There are many variations on the theme, of course, but the editorial board at the Gray Lady probably summed the general sentiment up fairly well.

The Pentagon’s decision to end its ban on women in combat is a triumph for equality and common sense. By opening infantry, artillery and other battlefield jobs to all qualified service members regardless of sex, the military is showing that categorical discrimination has no place in a society that honors fairness and equal opportunity.

Equality is great, isn’t it? Respect and unbiased treatment of everyone regardless of gender or any other metric you’d care to name is a principle which I believe most of us can agree upon. And I still maintain that both men and women should be given a fair and equal shot at any job which they can adequately perform. And yet, when it comes to the idea of American women serving in combat roles on the front lines during war, I am a hypocrite. A throwback. A dinosaur.

There are several jobs where women are absent or underrepresented, almost exclusively in professions where the demands are extremely physical in nature. And while I don’t agree with the delivery of the message, Allen West points out a few items of note.

“I have to tell you, if this is the case, then why do we have separate hockey leagues? Women should be out there playing ice hockey with the guys in the NHL. We should not have a WNBA. I can’t shoot a three-pointer, but there are ladies who could certainly take me to the hoop. Maybe they should be competing with Kobe Bryant.”

This is the interesting part, and it should be noted that the new Defense policy comes to bear on this. In the professions listed by West, I will agree that perhaps women should be offered the same chance to play. (Are they?) But even in sports such as golf, the best female athletes thus far have failed to defeat top tier male players. I can’t really explain why. But if they wish to compete they need to demonstrate that they can perform at the same level, and if they can, then they should.

It has already been noted that this policy may not result of a flood of women into combat positions because of the simple reality that so many of them will not be able to manage all of the requirements to make it through infantry training. But when it comes to the military, even if they can manage the tasks demanded, should they be allowed? For me, there is simply something different. Yes, it’s true that that the average woman will have trouble lifting a 220 pound male soldier in full battle gear and carry him to safety, as some have noted. But it’s probably also true that we could find some who can. So if they can manage all of the physical requirements, why should they not be given this opportunity?

Because. And I’m well aware that this is the worst possible answer. But there is just something about sending women into combat on the front lines which I’m simply not ready, willing or able to accept. Even if we have women who are physically prepared for every contingency on the battlefield, I don’t want them in those roles. There is something primal about war which I believe inhabits the souls of men across America. When we go to war, one of the driving reasons behind it is that we shall “defend our women.” The thought of putting them directly in harm’s way runs contrary to every instinct, and the perils which would surely await our women as POWs is too great to bear.

So I’m a dinosaur. I do not apologize. It’s just how I was built, and I’m saying this not only as a veteran myself, but a man coming from a family of men who served in uniform almost to the last one. I just don’t want women in the infantry or other direct combat roles. I’m not saying they aren’t capable in some cases. I’m just saying I don’t want them to do it.