Before the ladies start sharpening their knives and sending hate-mail, let me preface this; my wife is a better shot than me with a pistol (but I’ve got her with a rifle hands-down). After two kids, it’s an easy bet that she’s tougher than me. I can say without hesitation that she’s smarter than me. But, I can also say that I would go back to war 1,000 times so that she never had to see it for a second.
The word has just come out about allowing women into combat, and it seems as if the wrong questions and people are being asked their opinions in the media, and a lot of people have been asking mine, so here it goes if you want it.
Firstly, I don’t deny the fact that there are women out there who want to be on the front lines, or that there are many women who could do a great job there (see above). My main problems with this idea are the operational environments in which we are currently operating, and the effect this will have on general morale (keep reading….for different reasons than one would think).
From an operational environment standpoint, you have to realize where we are currently engaged in combat, and ostensibly will be in the near future. I’ve been to Afghanistan, Iraq and North Africa, and these battles and environments are much different than those you see in the typical wars from years past.
Namely, that all of these countries are Muslim-dominated and put women below cattle on their “respect” list. I’m not saying that all Muslims do or think like this, as you may very well have an American Muslim neighbor who is just as horrified by this as you, but from a guy who’s been on the ground in all of the places that we are engaged in combat, please trust me that this is the norm there.
In our current operational environment, our “hearts and minds” campaigns are fought on the streets and in the villages, where Infantry squad leaders and Special Forces ODA’s are routinely in Shura’s (meetings) with village elders, and much of our valuable on-the-ground intel comes from walking through villages and talking to locals.
If the “hearts and minds” COIN strategy is still our mission, how well do you think it’s going to go when we force a Muslim village elder in the mountains of Afghanistan to do business and negotiate with someone he sees as inferior and not worthy of talking to a man? How about when she says something he doesn’t like, and does what he’s done his entire life and reaches out to give her the back of his hand?
You see, Americans love to look at the world in terms of America, and many of those who have never traveled outside of this country and “smelled the dirt” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, have no idea what the mentality is like there, yet love to make assumptions of what’s the best way to operate. Most of our current politicians can fall into this category, because landing at Bagram for an hour photo-op doesn’t count as “combat credit.”
It doesn’t matter how “progressive,” “PC” or “forward-thinking” we are; our enemy is not, and even our friends and allies over there are not. When you are a guest in a house, you follow the rules of that house, and if we are not there as occupiers then we are breaking the rules of the house. The locals became very upset when they were forced to speak with clean-faced American soldiers, and considered it an insult (we had a rather large loss of rapport ourselves in Afghanistan when our command forced us to shave our beards), and I can only imagine their reaction to this.
My second point has not to do with the toughness of women, but the hard-wiring of men. Unless we are going to make a 100% switch overnight to all-women in combat, I can tell you that this will end badly on the battlefield.
As a Combat Medic, one of your highest priorities when soldiers are wounded in combat is triage. It’s rare that only one person is hit, but not so rare that there is only one medic. If you’re in a situation with 5 casualties, just one medic and at least a half-hour until the MEDEVAC arrives, your priority is triage; save those you can, pray for those you can’t.
Israel has seen this before, yet we’re choosing not to learn from their lessons. They found that time and time again, in the situation I mentioned above, if there were both women and men injured in combat, the men (medics and Infantry alike) would spend all of their time focusing on the women, even when they were long gone. Time and time again the “savable” men would die because the others would try to save the woman even after she was far gone.
Again, it doesn’t matter how much you brow-beat the PC and progressive ideas into us, we are hard-wired as men to protect women….if you’re any sort of decent man, that is. We will focus all of our efforts on saving and protecting women, even to the dire consequences of losing others, sacrificing security, or neglecting other men that are injured with the “suck it up bro” mentality.
In closing, I just want to re-iterate that I’m far from anti-female, not saying that they can’t hack it, or are inferior in any way. I’m just saying from my experience, and the experience of other combat-tested troops, that this will not end well.
We have too many politicians focusing on polling data and progressive ideals, forgetting to ask the people who will be affected and who have played these games before. Open your eyes and ears, ask questions of soldiers on the battlefield, not those in the Pentagon focusing more on political gain that what’s going on downrange.