WASHINGTON, DC: Crickets.
This was the sound of America reacting to news earlier this month that all military positions, including ground combat, will be opened to women.
It is axiomatic that the White House, not just this one, makes controversial announcements when people are otherwise distracted. Usually, this means late Friday afternoons when there isn’t much time for the media to make trouble. This particular announcement came on a Thursday, the day after two vicious killers opened fire on a holiday party in San Bernardino.
Ever since, all eyes have been on the assault and aftermath, as well as the antics of Donald Trump, while the notion of women in combat faded from the nation’s peripheral vision.
Arguments against this move are many, some of which I touched upon in a previous column that focused on women’s unequal opportunity to survive because of various physical differences. This time, I submit another crucially important but politically incorrect proposition: Men’s lives will also be put at greater risk if women are in combat.
The reasoning should be obvious. Plainly put, men tend to like women quite a lot and either will be tempted to express their attraction, and/or will want to protect their female companions.
Scoff if you must, but blame Nature.
Any combat veteran will tell you that unit cohesion is everything in battle. Common sense tells us that putting young men and women in the prime of their sexual lives together in the field, where the possibility of death is potentially imminent, is a potential — and unnecessary — gamble on unit cohesion. There is, after all, nothing like a funeral to remind the living of their mortal imperative.
Sexual tension is a most delightful distraction in civilian life. But in close quarters, where men likely would vastly outnumber the few women who qualify for combat, other human emotions — envy, jealousy and resentment — enter into a fray that’s already complicated enough.
This is certainly not to blame women for men’s weaknesses. Both sexes are equally responsible for — or perhaps I should say, equally victims of — Nature’s own agenda. There is, meanwhile, only one pertinent question in this debate: Does putting women in combat improve military effectiveness? If not, then it’s a mistake.
My mailbox is full of letters from combat veterans opposing this move. A frequent comment comes in the form of a question: What happens to women when they’re captured? We know what happens. Will our men be able to withstand the screams of their female companion as she’s raped or tortured?
The Defense Department has tried to find out through its Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program, which provides training for evading capture and survival skills in a POW environment. The training simulates a variety of possible scenarios, including torture and, in some cases, at least the perception of a woman being raped. The soldier, who doesn’t know who the woman is, can stop it if he cooperates.
Feminists, among whom I count myself with an asterisk, will protest that blocking women from any military job undermines women’s capacity for self-determination. While needlessly true, there’s another feminist creed that should prevail in this case: choice.
But no-choice could foreseeably become the rule should the military ever again need to reinstate the draft. Already there’s discussion about requiring girls to tender themselves to the Selective Service Bureau on their 18th birthdays, the same as boys. This makes logical sense in theory even if it defies sanity in application.
The reason women have never been required to register with the Selective Service is because they weren’t allowed in combat. Now that they are, there’s no valid argument against their also being eligible for conscription. You can go to the bank on this one.
You may be wondering when and where women have a chance to debate this change in a world that will affect all women into the future? Civilians may have missed it, but the Pentagon has been heading in this direction for decades.
For now, as America is focused on the Islamic State and the presidential election, women in combat will just happen one day sometime in the not-distant future. Eventually, we’ll avert our eyes from footage of a young woman’s tortured body — someone’s wife, mother, daughter, sister or lover — as she is crucified, burned or beheaded in the name of God knows what.
That will be a day no civilized nation should have invited upon itself.
(c) 2014, WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP