Women in Combat: A Bad Idea, Just Like Men in Combat
I’ve sat through the making of one, at the state level, and the process is a fascinating mix of wonky parlimentarianism, curmudgeonly back-in-my-dayism, and church-basement coffee. You take your opinionated retirees, your NGO activists, and your Campus Democrats (or Campus Whatevers), which are the only groups that care enough to sit through the most boring part of a convention, and you let them wrangle about semicolon placement.
For hours. By popular vote.
Given the ideological dedication (or morbid curiosity) required to be part of a process like that, it maybe shouldn’t surprise us that party platforms tend to have some weird stuff in them. Molly Redden did a good post for The New Republic online highlighting six of the oddest beasts in the platform drafts being batted about Tampa this week; it’s worth a read in full.
But perhaps the oddest one to me is the on that reads “We support military women’s exemption from direct ground combat units and infantry battalions.”
I realize that the Republican Party platform is not the place to look for ideological consistency. But what is it about the armed services that makes language like that possible? I mean, try to imagine the furor if the plank read “We support financial-sector women’s exemption from direct trading,” or “We support female teacher’s exemption from lunchroom duty,” or any other kind of sex-specific division.
The only way to justify a position that openly biased is to say that there’s something unique and special about either the duty (direct ground combat) or about women that makes the two incompatible. I don’t think you can make much of a case for the latter (not that that will stop the Todd Akins of the world from trying), so what is it about the former that so chills the heart of the Republican Party?
If it’s that direct ground combat makes you more likely to die, and that we feel that’s a bad thing, it’s hard to wrangle your way into a justification for why men should be doing it. Really, if you plumb the depths of this one you come to one of two sticky bottoms almost immediately:
- Either A, the Republican Party officially believes that ground combat duty and infantry battalions are bad things and we should have less of them,
- or, B, the Republican Party officially believes that women aren’t as good as men at the duties involved in ground combat and infantry battalions.
The former seems difficult to reconcile with the party’s overall hawkish foreign policy. The latter is offensive in the extreme and unsupportable by any kind of logic or evidence.
My heart of course hopes for the former. I’m personally of the opinion that killing people is always a bad idea, and that we shouldn’t be asking anyone to do it, much less to risk their own lives in the process, but I somehow doubt that’s what’s underlying this party plank.
And if it’s not, I’m amazed that it can pass with so little challenge, given how heinous a sex-specific prohibition on certain jobs would sound if you proposed it for any other governmental office.