Women in Combat: Venus Ascending into the House of Mars

On December 3, 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that all combat jobs will be open to women with no exceptions. He was quick to add, “…as long as they qualify and meet the standards.”

His announcement received little attention. Probably because women have already an increased military presence and the idea of restricting any jobs to women is now so archaic as to be nonsensical. But if that were completely true, why did Carter feel he had to make a qualifying statement?

Before looking into Carter’s (actually President Obama’s) policy change, it’s important to acknowledge that since the dawn of time, women have fought, when necessary, in traditional male military roles. And today, military women are put in harm’s way when assigned to combat areas while in support roles.

What is different in the new policy is that women will now participate in all combat roles as a matter of policy versus as a matter of necessity. A turn of events with many potential consequences; of which I will limit myself to three.     

Mars versus Venus

Many traditionalists would argue women typically don’t have the physical strength and the male-warrior persona necessary to perform combat duties. This line of argument is often popularly put in terms of the differences in Mars and Venus (DMV).

However, feminists often point out that any gender differences are minor or are conditions of upbringing. Nevertheless, when convenient, feminists love to point out the violent nature of men and the nurturing disposition of women; the very characteristics of Mars and Venus. In fact, the subtle effect of Venus in the house of Mars has not gone unnoticed.  Over the past several decades, the influx of women into the military has led to the expression “the feminization of the military.”   

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Part of the problem with the DMV argument, from both the Left and Right, is that warfare has changed drastically since when the primary requirement was to drive a 50 pound ax into your enemy’s skull. Today, you can kill your enemy from an air conditioned room in Virginia while being eight months pregnant.

But we can’t leave the argument there, because what we’re really talking about are not women piloting drones but being grunts. Drones have a purpose, but it’s the grunts, the boots on the ground, that win wars; that is, if their political leaders allowed them to win.

Therefore, the DMV argument really gets down to, given some objective standards; can women be grunts, let alone members of Special Forces? The short answer is, yes. But now we get into Carter’s qualification conditions.

If we could discuss this topic rationally, the problem would be put in terms of an equality of opportunity. Let’s set X much greater than Y and say at this time X% of males are capable of meeting combat standards but only Y% of women are. Then we should be satisfied to see those “natural” ratios in combat ranks. (Special Forces numbers might differ.) These ratios may naturally adjust over time if in nature versus nurture, nurture has an edge.

However, we cannot discuss this rationally, because the new policy will quickly devolve to sexism and equality of outcome. And thus, over time, politics will require a quota system to ensure the ratio of men and women in combat roles is the same as in society. And with that quota system come the lawyers, the changes in standards, and the potentially dangerous outcomes for both the men and women in the trenches.

There are indications, discussed here, that this is already happening.

Mars and Venus share foxholes; Mars bridled

If it was just a case of DMV, we could wrap up the discussion now. But then there is the second issue that deals with male/female sexual tension and its negative consequences to combat readiness. If you argue that men and women serving together as grunts sharing a foxhole is different than men and women writing software sharing a cubicle, your words would fall on national leaders who see, hear, and speak no evil.  

In all cultures, human sexual norms are a complex set of rules that are sometimes dictated down by a ruling class as opposed to being allowed to evolve organically. Progressives view historical western sexual norms as patriarchally driven. Therefore, if there is a sexuality problem with men and women working as closely as sometimes is required for grunts in combat, it is a male problem and must be suppressed and replaced; something which is rigorously occurring in the military today.

This issue is cousin to the transgender locker room problem. Here the Left would also argue that opposition is the result of conditioning and must also be suppressed and replaced; something which is rigorously occurring in society today.  

But my aim here is not to solve problems of human sexuality. My only comment is, “If life were only that simple.”  

Venus’ Motherhood Devalued

The new policy can thank society’s devaluation of motherhood for partial support. Patriarchalism aside, a primary reason why societies protected women from combat was because of their value in the reproductive process; a process where men were mostly a fungible commodity. A tribe could easily afford to lose a substantial number of young male warriors, but no tribe could survive with an equivalent loss of young women; in battle or in changing cultural norms.

The Left has successfully detached men from their traditional parental and gender roles and Liberals are fighting aggressively to do the same for women. This is why Carter’s qualification statement was really meant to cut off criticism from traditionalists. As discussed above, it has no real meaning under equality of outcome.

It’s difficult to say where all this will go or what unforeseen problems this new policy will create. On the other hand, it may work with no major detrimental consequences! But the military is just a reflection of the society it serves. So one thing is certain; we have seen great changes in our society over the past few decades and will see many more in the future as we leap blindly into our brave new world.

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Tony Corvo is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with a Ph.D. in physics. He is active in local Beavercreek, Ohio politics and is the author of All Politics is Loco: Musings from the Conservative Next Door. He and his wife have two grown daughters. He writes extensively on local issues. Many of his recent articles can be found at taxbusters.wordpress.com/author/phdmc2.

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Photo: By Spc. William Hatton (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/35072) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons