*I think a mandatory military draft is order in our country.
Keep in mind this is from someone who doesn’t take commands well and would have never volunteered for the military (but would have served if necessary), and someone who wondered if my sister and brother-in-law were crazy when they signed up for the army post 9/11.
Still, a draft is the way to go. It would allow for a constant influx of people to defend our country and give us a chance to fulfill our responsibility as world leader. The problem is we don’t have a draft. And in the absence of one, we need to constantly recruit people to fill the military ranks. So it makes perfect sense that Leon Panetta would allow women to serve as combat troops in our armed forces.
Lifting this ban does two things. First it addresses the point I highlighted earlier, that our armed forces are always stretched thin by the number of military obligations we have throughout the world. Essentially female combat troops would boost the number of people we have available for international assignments. Secondly it allows women to gain crucial experience they need to continue to climb the ranks of the military.
Another aspect of this issue is that in many ways it is an ex post facto authorization of the reality within the military already. In other words lifting the ban on female combat troops formally allows women to serve in roles they’ve already been serving in. Because while technically women were support personnel, when a unit takes fire from hostile forces the bullets don’t stop to ask questions; nor do the people shooting those weapons hesitate because there are women in the group they are targeting. The bottom line is that if you are in a combat zone, you are a combat soldier. Your technical job title is only important when you are up for promotion and the other candidates have “served as a sniper” in their record while you have “mechanic” in yours. Lifting this ban eliminates this artificial obstacle to female advancement.
I don’t remember where but I once read a quote from someone who didn’t want women in the military at all. The sentiment of this individual was based on the hypothetical situation of a couple hearing a strange sound in the middle of the night. Presumably the husband would be the one to investigate because shame on any man who would send a woman to take on any potential intruders. Similarly, shame on all of us in this country for allowing women in our military to defend us. This position is amplified by this week’s news.
But there are a few holes in this position. To begin, this person has a problem man in the hypothetical couple so it would stand to reason that this person should have a problem with the men of our country in general. The house doesn’t care who defends it and neither should the people who run our country. But this goes back to the first point I made, if there were enough men volunteering for military duty then this would be a non-issue. But the larger problem with this argument against women in the military in general, and combat roles specifically, is that it relies on an outdated philosophy on gender roles within society.
Most people feel like women should be able to attempt anything a man can attempt and let them succeed or fail on their own merit. Taking biology into consideration (men are on average bigger, stronger, and faster than women) this means that there will be less women able to succeed in endeavors that require lots of physically demanding tasks – firefighting for example. But saying the odds are low that a woman will succeed at something is very different from saying women can’t attempt it. To the point perhaps there won’t be very many women who qualify for combat duty (I don’t know what fitness requirements there may be), and women in Afghanistan will have to continue to risk their lives as cooks instead of machine gunners. But I’m willing to give those women who are big, strong and fast enough an M-16 (do we still use those?) and let her do what she signed up for: defend the country.
My definition of feminism is that it is the radical idea that women are people. Some people are fit to fight and some aren’t. And we should be thankful that those who are fit to fight and happen to be female are willing to risk their lives. Because without them it could very well be draft time.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.