Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Women Soldiers and the Stakes of War

From Chronicles:
To be sure, women have been involved in varying degrees of military service throughout recorded history.  One of the most famous examples is Deborah the Prophetess (Judges 4-5).  Her job was to motivate a commander named Barak who had cold feet about fighting Jabin’s army.  Barak would not fight unless Deborah went with him on the campaign, and she pushed him forward into battle.  Barak’s army was victorious as was foretold, and Deborah was celebrated.  Other famous female commanders include Boudica, a queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe, and Queen Elizabeth I of England. Boudica led a rebellion against the Romans in Britain around a.d. 60, and Queen Elizabeth I was the monarch in charge of the defenses of England during the failed Spanish invasion in 1588.

These famous and oft-cited examples of women in the military share two traits: They were capable administrators, and they were not splitting skulls as the men they commanded were.  Historically, when women have been used as soldiers, it has been in response to a desperate situation where there were not enough men available to defend a position or an area.  The Soviet Union used women to fight on the front lines during World War II to ward off a German invasion; female soldiers filled in the gaps on the lines.  Modern Israel—a small country surrounded by nations that wish she did not exist—conscripts women into combat positions.  In 2010, the Israeli Defense Forces reported that 34 percent of all its soldiers were women.  Most of them serve in support roles (medics, supply), but 88 percent of all IDF jobs are open to female candidates.  Although there are many jobs open to women, in the IDF women do not go into every field, serving in only 69 percent of the available positions.  Women also make up about 25 percent of the IDF’s officer corps.

In the United States, leftist activists (who will not have to live with the direct consequences of their radical policies) regularly point out that the IDF has women in its infantry units.  They fail to mention that these infantry units essentially function as border guards and would not engage in direct combat.  They also fail to mention that the IDF does not allow women into its various special forces.  Nor does their narrative account for the fact that many women serve in the IDF because they have no choice: Theirs is not an all-volunteer force.

The situation is very different in the United States, where these days our military is deployed not to fight against hostile neighbors but for social engineering, nation-building, and keeping markets open.  Given that context, the push by President Obama, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, and members of Congress to require women to register for Selective Service is an empty gesture: Reinstating the draft would be political suicide for any politician who advocated it, and if we know one thing about politicians, it is that most of them would roll their own mothers into traffic to keep their jobs.  If the Selective Service were reactivated, today’s helicopter parents would lose their minds, and the fortunate sons and daughters of politically connected families would get deferments. Opening combat roles to women, however, is not an empty gesture.  Real women will fight and die.  This move raises some questions beyond matters of “social justice” and equality. (Read more.)

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