Women Should Not Serve in Military Combat

By Phyllis Schlafly

The push to repeal the laws that exempt women from military combat duty must be the strangest of all aberrations indulged in by the women’s liberation or feminist movement. The very idea of women serving in military combat is so unnatural that it almost sounds like a death wish for our species.

Has our nation sunk so low that we are willing to send our daughters and young mothers into battle? Is chivalry completely dead? Breathes there a man with soul so dead that he will not rise up and defend his wife, his sweetheart, his mother and his daughter, against those who want to wound or capture them, whoever they may be?

Most Americans were shocked to learn that at least one American woman is a Prisoner of War in the clutches of Saddam Hussein (and a couple of other servicewomen are missing), but the feminists see this as proof that women are advancing toward equality with men on the battlefield. In point of fact, women under Saddam Hussein are not equal, whether they are Iraqi women or U.S. POWs.

Shoshana Johnson, age 30, of El Paso, Texas, the single mother of a two-year-old daughter, was part of a U.S. Army maintenance unit ambushed and captured after the convoy made a wrong turn. She had signed up to be an Army cook and never dreamed she would be sent into a situation where she could be captured by an evil regime.

This is not only a tragedy for Shoshana, it's a humiliation for America and a step backward for civilization. No crisis or threat requires our government to send mothers of two-year-old babies across the seas to fight the most brutal terrorists in the world.

The feminists, however, view Shoshana as a pioneer for women’s rights. A New York Times editorial brags that Shoshana’s capture shows how the American military has “evolved” and “the case for equal footing is gaining ground.” But, the Times bemoans, the military is “a laggard on the topic of women in combat” and still retains “glass ceilings” that bar women from direct combat. That is the kind of equality the feminist movement has always sought.

Army regulations have always exempted women from direct ground combat, but the Clinton feminists opened up more “career opportunities” for women in 1994 by getting the Pentagon to eliminate the then-existing “Risk Rule,” a regulation that had exempted women in non-combat positions from assignment where they faced the “inherent risk of capture.”

There is no evidence in all history for the proposition that the assignment of women to military combat jobs is the way to advance women’s rights, promote national security, improve combat readiness, or win wars. Indeed, the entire experience of recorded history teaches us that battles are not won by coed armies or coed navies. Of the thousands of books written about World War II, no one ever wrote that Hitler or the Japanese should have solved their manpower shortage problem by using women in combat.

Every country that has experimented with women in combat has abandoned the idea. The notion that Israel uses women in combat is a feminist myth. Women are treated very differently from men in the Israeli armed forces. They serve only about half as long; they are housed in separate barracks; they have an automatic exemption if they marry or have a baby. Commenting on the sex-integration practices of the U.S. Armed Services, one Israeli general said, “We do not do what you do in the United States because, unfortunately, we have to take war seriously.”

Women, on the average, have only 60 percent of the physical strength of men. This truism, so self-evident to those with eyes to see, has been confirmed by many studies, but under pressure from militant feminists, the brave men with medals decorating their chests are defensive about the obvious. The U.S. Comptroller General reported, “If as the Air Force Surgeon General has concluded, females are only 60 percent as strong as males, it seems there are some jobs that males, on the average, can do better than females.” (emphasis added)

When General Douglas MacArthur delivered his great “Duty, Honor, Country” speech at West Point on May 12, 1962, he gave it to them straight. “Your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable. It is to win our wars.” MacArthur explained that defending America requires real men who, whether they are “slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads, . . . blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain,” or in “the filth of dirty foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts,” in “the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails,” can be relied on to muster the strength and courage to kill the enemy.

Weapons have changed, but the mission of the U.S. Armed Services is the same. It is a mission for tough, tenacious and courageous men who can endure the most primitive and uncivilized circumstances and pain in order to survive in combat against enemies who are just as tough, tenacious and courageous, and often vicious and sadistic, too. The armies and navies of every potential enemy are exclusively male and no women diminish their combat readiness.

Another reason for the unanimous verdict of history that the armed forces demand different roles for men and women is that women get pregnant. When young men and women in the age group of 18 to 25 are required to live in close proximity, often doing unpleasant tasks and suffering from loneliness away from home, the inevitable happens. The pregnancy rate is at least 10 percent among servicewomen. Another five percent have had their babies and brought them back to the post. Why is anyone surprised?

How did we get into our present situation, in which our military officers are issuing maternity uniforms, opening nurseries on army posts, and pretending that women can do anything that men can do? For the answer to that, we must look at two feminist fantasies.

The first is that there really is no difference between the sexes (except those obvious ones we need not discuss) and that all those other differences you think you see are not inherent, but are due merely to cultural stereotyping which can and must be erased by sex-neutral education, laws, and changed attitudes.

The feminists’ chief legal authority prior to Ruth Bader Ginsburg was Yale Law School Professor Thomas I. Emerson. He explained the feminist view in a 100-page, widely quoted article about the Equal Rights Amendment in the Yale Law Journal (April 1971). “As between brutalizing our young men and brutalizing our young women,” he wrote, “there is little to choose. . . Women will serve in all kinds of units, and they will be eligible for combat duty.”

The second false dogma of the women’s liberation movement is that we must be neutral as between morality and immorality, and as between the institution of the family and alternate lifestyles. As the national conference on International Women’s Year at Houston in 1977 proved, the feminists demand that government policy accord the same dignity to lesbians and prostitutes as to wives, to illegitimate births as to legitimate, to abortions as to live births, and that we support immoral and anti-family practices with public funds.

The great and powerful U.S. military has been pretending there is no difference between men and women, even if they are mothers, and that giving birth to a baby is only a temporary disability like breaking a leg. To carry on this pretense, official U.S. military policy has been ignoring common sense, family integrity, and the American culture. The deception appeared to some to be satisfactory in the peacetime military when women were pursuing their career opportunities for upward social mobility, as the feminists like to say. Then came a real war.

The politicians have brought this embarrassment on our nation because they allowed themselves to be henpecked by the militant feminists. The whole idea of men sending women, including mothers, out to fight the enemy is uncivilized, degrading, barbaric, and embarrassing. It’s contrary to our culture, to our respect for men and women, and to our belief in the importance of the family and motherhood. No one respects a man who would let a woman do his fighting for him.

We hear the constant refrain that “times have changed,” but there is no change whatsoever in obvious facts of human nature such as that men and women differ in so many important ways, that healthy young women are apt to get pregnant, and that there is a profound difference between male-to-male bonding and male-to-female bonding — a factor that can make the difference between life and death on the battlefield. No matter what social changes are alleged to have taken place, the policies of our U.S. Armed Forces should respect the dignity and value of marriage and motherhood.

Women serve our country admirably, both on the home front and in many positions in the U.S. Armed Forces. But they should not be assigned to military combat or to “combat support” areas where they have the “inherent risk of capture.”

Phyllis Schlafly has been a national leader of the conservative movement since the publication of her best-selling 1964 book, A Choice Not An Echo. She has been a leader of the pro-family movement since 1972, when she started her national volunteer organization now called Eagle Forum. In a ten-year battle, Mrs. Schlafly led the pro-family movement to victory over the principal legislative goal of the radical feminists, called the Equal Rights Amendment. An articulate and successful opponent of the radical feminist movement, she appears in debate on college campuses more frequently than any other conservative. She was recently named one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century by the Ladies' Home Journal. Her latest book is Feminist Fantasies (Spence Publishing Co).