Women in Combat: A Distraction From the Real Issue
The Pentagon -- and the United States government in thrall to it -- is congratulating itself on overcoming a hurdle that other nations have long gotten beyond or never faced in the first place. Feminists and progressives sympathetic to women’s rights are expected to be delighted that women can now officially be assigned to combat roles in the US military. The overcoming of this great hurdle follows a long tradition, in that the Pentagon's self-congratulatory run around the field operates to distract Americans from arguably the most critical problem relevant to their future.
America is a hugely powerful nation caught in the headlights of history. We desperately need to forge a new social contract to accommodate an inevitable future of diminishing resources and comforts. But, at the same time, we’re a nation that desperately wants to hold onto the sense of “exceptionalism” preached to its citizens incessantly.
We fear real change like it was some kind of plague.
The fact is, women have served in combat roles since the beginning of time. Many European nations are quite comfortable with women in their ranks; Israel and Canada currently come to mind. Women have certainly operated in harm's way as spies from Mata Hari to Valerie Plame. Muammar Ghaddafi had a special unit of armed women to guard him.
In the so-called developing world, Vietnam is a great example. If we recall, Vietnam won a long, cruel war to overcome an American invasion. They thoroughly employed women as combatants, many of these women now heroes of their nation. I met such a female Vietcong officer in Alaska in 2005. It’s possible a male could have kicked her ass and might have been better suited to haul a 300-pound wounded male comrade from the battlefield, the big test much touted right now by opponents of women in combat. But all that misses the point entirely.
The Vietnamese, of course, used females to kill invading and occupying Americans without any of the self-congratulatory feminist hoopla here accorded the recent Pentagon decision. The Vietnamese had bigger fish to fry. They knew that women are just as capable as men of engaging in lethal combat. What’s key -- and the reason the Vietnamese beat us -- is that the Vietnamese are a more humble and patient people than we are, and they are not burdened with the yoke of empire and the cult of masculine superiority our US empire tends to generate.
What’s actually most critical to killing in war is, one, the self-delusion of exceptionality and, two, the sense of being threatened from outside by some dark, malicious and readily demonizable force. This permits the dehumanization necessary for otherwise good, decent men and women to kill in the name of their clan, their nation and even their God.