Response to R. Cort Kirkwood’s article “The Military’s War on Nature”
By guest blogger Victoria McCaffrey, student at Hillsdale College
The American military is creating an opening for women in combat starting in 2014. Putting women into combat has been long in coming, beginning with the military integrating women and men in the late 1970s. Today, military integration is practiced throughout the world, but treating women as men’s equals in combat is one of the most radical moves yet made by the US military. My fears are not only for the women themselves, but for their families, as well as the implications this will have on the US military.
In one of his latest pieces appearing in the April edition of Chronicles, Kirkwood relates his fears as well, although he focuses more on the physical aspect of women in combat, as opposed to the sociological and psychological effects women, men, and their families will experience. Nevertheless, Kirkwood’s argument is strongly reinforced by the following data from the Marine Corps:
“Studies show that women are endowed with 20-percent lower aerobic power than men, 40-percent lower muscle strength, 47-percent lower lifting strength, and 26 percent slower road-march speed… the attrition rate from injuries is twice that of men; their nondeployable rate is three times higher.”
Clearly the data behind injecting women to combat is, well, nonexistent. Women obviously have a different physique than men, and a lesser degree of physical strength—which is not a reflection of other strengths women do possess—would be detrimental in a scene of intense fighting. Biology alone should be persuasive enough; however, in addition to wives, sisters, and daughters fighting alongside husbands, brothers, and sons, I am left musing over the following thoughts: for what purpose will our troops be deployed? To protect a country without families left behind as both women and men enter combat? And what will the psychological effects of war leave on these women?
Despite its clear bias in favor of overturning the combat exclusion policy, the APA concedes, “Nearly twice as many civilian women report PTSD than civilian men” and “One in five women veterans who seek health-care services from the Department of Veterans Affairs reported experiencing military sexual trauma, an incident of sexual assault or severe harassment while in uniform.” Not only is it highly unlikely that increasing women’s involvement in perilous military operations will improve these statistics, but the psychological effect upon men is also a factor in this equation: as one Marine explains,
“One common concern voiced by male Marines is whether they might react differently to seeing female infantrymen in danger, wounded or even killed. Might men respond in ways that could endanger a mission if they tried to protect a female colleague?”
Highlighting the physical and psychological differences between men and women at war should not underscore the valor displayed by both sexes on the battlefield. As Kirkwood explains, whether a woman can be physically courageous is beside the point; indeed, there are countless tales of courageous women throughout history. However, it is time for us to openly acknowledge the differences between the sexes as well as the consequent effects combat could render on our women and our society. Perhaps not all change is for the best.
 Kirkwood, R. Cort. “The Military’s War on Nature.” Chronicles April 2013: 5. Print