In a rapidly changing world, our national security hinges on our ability to adapt. The American military faces unprecedented challenges. From emerging cyber threats to complex geopolitical conflicts, our armed forces require agility, innovation, and adaptability.

However, amid this modernization, there is a pressing need to reaffirm the importance of the timeless virtues of traditional masculinity — not as a call for unthinking machismo, but as a call to strengthen the warrior ethos vital to our national security.

Former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles recognized the necessity of such traits on and off the battlefield, remarking in his speech on the Marshall Plan, “The world will never have lasting peace so long as men reserve for war the finest human qualities.”

His remarks were a clear call to transfer the remarkable traditionally masculine traits shown on World War II battlefields to industry, governance, and diplomacy.

To clarify, the term “traditional masculinity” refers here to traits such as resilience, leadership, independence, problem-solving, protectiveness, assertiveness, and physical fitness. Such attributes form the bedrock of the warrior spirit that liberated Europe and the Pacific.

In the crucible of combat, it is these traits that often make the difference between victory and defeat.

However, contemporary societal trends have begun to question the value of traditional masculinity, labeling it as “toxic.”

These critiques have seeped into military circles, leading to an unwarranted discarding of essential warrior traits. Indeed, leadership fails to realize that the most dominant form of masculinity, wherein our military uses dominance, violence, and control to assert its power and superiority, is critical to warfare.

The military’s trend toward emasculation and the use of overtly cartoonish recruitment ads or drag queen influencers for recruitment have proved ineffective, as demonstrated by the precipitous drop in recruiting numbers and the inability of the armed forces to retain talent. The current softer, gentler approach risks alienating those who embody traditionally masculine traits that have proven their worth time and again in warfare.

One needs only watch the helmet and drone camera footage coming out of the war in Ukraine to see the brutality of conflict. Violence of action is a critical element on the battlefield which is defined as the “unrestricted use of speed, strength, surprise and aggression to achieve total dominance against your enemy.”

A failure to engender these traits will lead to catastrophic military defeats.

A military that doesn’t recognize the value of its warrior ethos, which hinges on traditional concepts of masculinity, compromises our national security and readiness for conflict. Let’s not forget that at the heart of advanced technology and machinery, it’s the men and women who embody resilience, courage, and physical strength who tip the balance between victory and defeat.

It’s also important to stress that these virtues are not solely confined to men. Research continues to show that women can cultivate and demonstrate traditionally masculine traits such as physical toughness and aggression while preserving their femininity. Women who harness these traits can bring unique advantages and contribute significantly to broader national security operations.

The U.S. military must push back against societal pressures to dilute traditional masculinity and instead work to nurture these virtues. We need a martial culture that promotes physical endurance, mental toughness, and moral courage, fostering a revival of the warrior spirit.

This isn’t about promoting aggression or toxic behavior; it’s a call for strength of character, respect for others, and a readiness to sacrifice for the greater good. These are the qualities that define a true warrior, and these are the qualities we need to foster in our military to secure our national safety.

Meaghan Mobbs is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.