We have a spectrum of opinions among ourselves at IWF on the fraught issue of putting women on the front lines in military combat.
In 2016, after Obama Defense Secretary Ashton Carter opened up all positions to women, including combat on the front line–IWF hosted a panel on women on the front lines with the London Center for Policy Research. (Here is a report on the panel.)
Heather Mac Donald is opposed to putting women on the front lines. In a must-read piece in today's Wall Street Journal, she reviews the research on the issue. A 2015 Marine Corps study, for example, found that all-men teams vastly performed other units in simulated combat.
Mac Donald reports that the Marines have lowered physical standards in their infantry officer training course after only two women were able to pass with previous standards. But that it not the only problem.
Mac Donald dares to address the politically incorrect aspect of putting women in combat–it concerns eros:
Lowering these physical requirements risks reducing the American military’s lethality. A more serious effect of sex integration has become taboo to mention: the inevitable introduction of eros into combat units. Putting young, hormonally charged men and women into stressful close quarters for extended periods guarantees sexual liaisons, rivalries and breakups, all of which undermine the bonding essential to a unified fighting force.
A Marine commander who served in Afghanistan described to me how the arrival of an all-female team tasked with reaching out to local women affected discipline on his forward operating base. Until that point, rigorous discipline had been the norm. But when four women—three service members and a translator—arrived, the post’s atmosphere changed overnight from a “stern, businesslike place to that of an eighth-grade dance.”
The officer walked into a common room one day to find the women clustered in the center. They were surrounded by eager male Marines, one of whom was doing a handstand.
Another Marine officer, who was stationed on a Navy ship after 9/11, told me that a female officer had regular trysts with an enlisted sailor in the engine room. Marine Cpl. Remedios Cruz, one of the first women to join the infantry, was discharged late last year after admitting to a sexual relationship with a male subordinate. Army Sgt. First Class Chase Usher was relieved of his leadership position for a consensual relationship with a female soldier that began almost immediately after she arrived at his newly gender-integrated unit in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Long before infantry integration became a feminist imperative, evidence was clear that a coed military was a sexually active one. In 1988 then-Navy Secretary Jim Webb reported that of the unmarried enlisted Navy and Air Force women stationed in Iceland, half were pregnant.
Mac Donald concludes:
The argument for putting women into combat roles has always been nonmilitary: Combat experience qualifies soldiers for high-ranking Pentagon jobs. But war isn’t about promoting equality.
This will undoubtedly be an issue in the confirmation of the next Defense Secretary.
I urge you to read Heather's entire oped.