In my not too long ago post about women in combat, commenters reiterated the concern that women in the military’s prospects for advancement are inhibited unless their resume includes combat participation, and therefore, barring women from combat, precludes their chances of reaching the top.
If you consider the military a business operation, like, say, a supermarket chain, in which you could not rise to CEO if you hadn’t worked the cash register and women were forbidden from working the cash register – due to some “retro” explanation, like their long hair might get caught in the drawer – then the argument against barring women from combat is entirely understandable.
The logic is consistent. If you can’t advance to “Level A”, because you haven’t participated in “Activity B”, and the sub-group you belong to is forbidden from participating in “Activity B”, then that is indisputably unfair.
The difference is, the military is not a supermarket chain. And “Activity B” is not working the cash register. The military is, in fact, unique and unlike any other corporate entity, in that…”Activity B”, a deemed necessary prerequisite for rising to the top…
Is killing people.
“If you want to be president of IBM, you have to kill people from Microsoft.”
That doesn’t happen.
Nor, apparently, does the military allow for any exceptions.
“I enjoy the military, and I aspire to be in charge of the entire operation someday. I just don’t like the killing part. Really, I love everything else. It’s just that one little thing. Do you think we could forget about it, just this once?”
When I was five and experienced an excruciating “ice-cream headache”, my parents decided, “No more ice-cream for Earlo.” To which I tearfully replied, “I like ice-cream. Just take away the ‘cold.’”
In both of these cases…
“No can do.”
“I’ll do everything the military requires of me, except for the killing.”
Killing is the meat and potatoes of the military operation. In “Basic Training”, you don’t race up to the stuffed dummy, and try to negotiate an armistice. You plunge the bayonet into the part of the dummy representing that area of an actual person’s body that will make them be dead the fastest.
That’s what Basic Training is basically about – learning the most certain and efficient methods of killing people from other countries.
Without that essential element, the military is people in camouflage outfits saluting each other.
Of course, that’s not how military service is promoted. “Learn to kill. And earn money for college.” The preeminent selling point is a patriotic appeal, wherein American young men and women are offered the opportunity of “defending your country.”
What confuses me, in that regard, is that ever since the War of 1812, when American soldiers defended their country against English (and Canadian) invaders, “defending your country”, for Americans, involved leaving their country, and fighting the enemy somewhere else, primarily in the enemy’s country.
How is that “defending your country”? When you’re off fighting on the other side of the world, does that not, in fact, leave your country less defended?
I understand the strategy of “I would rather fight them over there than have to fight them over here.” It’s just that, in the last sixty-five years, I don’t remember anyone from North Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada, Panama, and, except for nineteen people, the entire Muslim world, threatening to fight us over here. Of course, I don’t read the whole paper. It could have been on one of the pages I flipped past.
“Defending your country?” Sure, if it’s real. But absent this questionable selling point, we are brought inescapably back to the killing. Now, I am no expert on “gender-difference” biology. Except for the obvious stuff. Maybe there are some women whose aggressive tendencies are equal to those of men (and, hopefully, superior to mine.) For them, as for the men with similar proclivities, the military looks like the best and safest place to blow off some homicidal steam.
But as a blanket cultural concept – “Women are just as capable of eviscerating an enemy as anyone else” – I don’t know, it just makes me sad. (Rather than proud that women have come so far.)
The logic is unassailable. If combat is necessary to reach the top in the military, then women cannot be restricted from combat.
You look in Kindergarten schoolyards, and you see the girls playing differently from the boys. Nobody made them do that. They just do.
Harumph, he concludes,
Isn’t that telling us something?
And if it is…
Shouldn’t we be listening?