My sister Amy has always made fun of my sparkly headbands and tendency to tear up at the scrape of a knee. In high school, I chose swimming (and mostly shopping) while she competed in brutal water polo. She is a brilliant, feisty woman who never backs down from a fight and reveres her country with great sincerity. It did not surprise my family when she decided to attend the United States Naval Academy.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s decision to lift the 1994 ban on women in combat affects me personally. It poses an incredible risk with no identifiable reward except to placate the cries for equality from feminists thousands of miles away from the fog of war. My sister, the girl who played in the backyard with me, could now engage in hand-to-hand combat. The girl who shared a bunk bed with me could now spend months in abysmal living conditions. The woman who will be my maid of honor could be killed before she gets the chance to do so. And many women declare this a victory.
Other sisters of service women can identify with my story. The sound of taps and the visions of graveyards play in our nightmares. Yet the military continues to allow political pressure to dictate its policies. That alone speaks to our military readiness, and continuing to compromise will lead to an inevitable erosion of standards. The unintended consequences of allowing the gender equality agenda to influence the military seems reason enough to reject the idea.
Top performance in life-threatening situations requires unit cohesion. While both men and women receive excellent training, the unavoidable interaction between the sexes will pose a problem. Sexual attraction is natural and inevitable. This opens the floodgates to innumerable problems: dating, love, infidelity, drama, and disaster. Furthermore, making this work would require desensitizing men to female suffering. One struggles to imagine a man reacting to a woman being tortured by al-Qaeda precisely the same way he would if it were a man. But altering men’s sensitivities would hardly help the military and certainly prove harmful to our society.
Infantry and Special Forces units, the operations that will now be available to women, offer brutal living conditions. The missions can often last for months, typically without access to a base. Showers are rare and soldiers resort to using baby wipes to keep sand off their faces. The military does not make provisions for personal hygiene or privacy for the units. What percentage of women would prefer this duty remains unclear, but Army Staff Sergeant Stacey Zinda told CNN last week that “she has yet to have a female soldier approach her about joining a combat unit.”
Feminists claim that women could overcome these obstacles. Perhaps so. But women stand to gain very little from it. The sexual revolution claimed to fight for a woman’s right to embrace her own sexuality, but now instead encourages her to abandon it to survive among men. A woman in combat might actually be oppressed because she will necessarily have to become like a man. Equality never sounded so terrible.
But supporters of the Pentagon’s decision see it as a chance for women finally to have the right of serving their country to the fullest extent.
“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,” The New York Times editorial board wrote.
There is nothing fair about the military. War does not discern; it kills. There is nothing fair about why some men have survived instead of others who have perished in defense of our country. The military is designed to defend the United States of America, not to award gold stars to everyone who participated. Women have the right to serve their country, but they do not have the right to demand changes that would affect military readiness. Neither do men.
Amy has another year to choose which part of the Navy she will serve. She could end up working behind a desk at the Pentagon, or something much more perilous. She will serve admirably because she is a fighter. She will fight to defend an individual’s right to exert pressure on our nation’s leaders. I just hope that in the future Secretary Panetta will offer her and other women more than unconditional surrender to gender politics and political correctness.