Females in the Military, Only Forward?

Printer Friendly
Short URL: http://goo.gl/bMZIS

The fourteenth century Mongol conqueror Timur reportedly declared it was better to be in right place at the right time on the battlefied with ten men than in the wrong place at the wrong time with ten thousand men.  In light of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's announcement this month, Timur would have to update his axiom to include women.  To implement the decision to open combat positions to women, the military services will have until 2016 to complete their review of the military occupational specialties to be opened.  In the interim, whether the citizenry of the United States recognizes the consequences of its increasingly idle male population ceding responsibility for defending the country to a military increasingly populated by females (and homosexuals) is unclear.

Males, Can't Live With Them...

In 1998, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama published an essay in Foreign Affairs entitled "Women and the Evolution of World Politics."  Departing from the familiar theoretical examinations of international affairs along realist or idealist lines, Fukuyama weaved together anthropological, biological, cultural, and demographic observations to elaborate on the increasing "feminization" of global politics.

Given the primordial bases for male violent proclivities, the entry of women in the previously male-dominated arena of political power should re-shape future international relations.  Fukuyama observed "a truly matriarchal world... would be less prone to conflict and more conciliatory and cooperative than the one we inhabit now. ... The feminization of world politics has... been taking place gradually over the past hundred years, with very positive effects."

Nonetheless, on the present matter of women joining the military, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld has countered the opening would "wreck the military."  Van Creveld notes the inability of American forces to achieve anything against illiterate tribesmen can be linked, in part, to the feminization of the military.

Van Creveld asserted the presence of females have not directly subtracted from the fighting power of the American military, but their increasing presence has diminished its prestige.  "Loss of prestige leads to diminishing economic rewards; diminishing economic rewards lead to loss of prestige. As any number of historical examples has shown, the outcome is a vicious cycle. Can anybody put forward a reason why the U.S. military should be an exception to the rule?"

Diminished prestige may mean little when the U.S. military remains one of the most respected institutions in the country, but it means a lot when an estimated 35 percent of 31.2 million Americans aged 17 to 24 (circa 2009) were deemed unqualified for military service because of physical and medical issues.  When criminal records, drug use, and intelligence are added, the percentage rises to 75 percent.

Exacerbating the matter has been the impact of instituting and expanding a massive entitlement system.  According to American demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that the proportion of adult men 20 and older working or seeking work dropped by 13 percentage points between 1948 and 2008.  "The American male flight from work is so acute that more than 7% of men in their late 30s (the prime working age-group) had totally checked out of the workforce. ... the recent American flight from work has largely been a flight to government disability programs."

And what are these men doing with their time?  According to American social scientist Charles Murray, simply watching television.  (Murray, Charles (2012-01-31). Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (Kindle Locations 3009-3032). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)

Murray may be discussing a segment lower class white American males, but he is drawing attention to broader unwelcome trends -- a declining work ethic, interest in romantic commitment, engaging in the community, and practicing faith.

Less interested in becoming a warrior, idling away in front of television -- maybe opening combat positions to women is the right decision and will compensate for apparent retreat of masculine men.

...Can't Live Without the Bloodthirsty Bastards

Unfortunately, the same breath in which Fukuyama heralds the progress attained women, Fukuyama warns such progress will be limited -- principally because males' proclivities for violence is primordial -- "what is bred in the bone cannot be altered easily by changes in culture and ideology."  

More specifically, continuing feminization is a plus, but only if you live in a democratic country.

The need for recourse to primordial instincts to draw your enemy's blood diminishes between democratic states; between democratic and authoritarian states, less so.  Fukuyama warns "in anything but a totally feminized world, feminized policies could be a liability... in a system of competitive states, the best regimes adopt the practices of the worst in order to survive." [Emphasis added]

Moreover, considering the decline in family size across the Western world and increasing intolerance of casualties, democratic states may fare poorly against enemies with plenty of young, hot-headed men eager to slake their primordial instincts.

Proponents would counter the present international environment features few credible peer threats to the United States.  Acknowledged, few states have committed the resources or could field a military to threaten the United States -- but some post-Westphalian actors have shown a conventional military is not needed to wage war and engage in wanton acts of catastrophic terrorism.  America's response has been to craft a veritable "industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine," but the Joint Special Operations Command is an elite cadre of warriors open only to the most qualified and the last place standards should be diminished in the name of gender equality.

Females in the Military, Only One Way Forward?

Admittedly, depicting the decision to open combat positions to women as an existential matter for the American Republic is hyperbole, but have decision-makers countenanced this ostensible advance might be wrong?

Fukuyama notes unit cohesion, the foundation of military performance, has been traditionally built around male bonding, which can only be jeopardized when men start competing for the attention of women. Accordingly, gender segregation, unlike racial segregation, in certain parts of the military would be appropriate and necessary.  

America will never return to racial segregation but shouldn't future decision-makers be prepared to reverse this decision?  Equality is fundamental to the American Republic, but should the instrument for defending its perseverance be potentially dulled by it? Couldn't decision-makers simultaneously address the factors apparently undermining the once venerable hardiness of American males?

The debate should be more comprehensive than presently imagined because its resolution will indeed be far-reaching.