“I wish that every politician would read this book,” retired Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin said at the Family Research Council (FRC) on September 4, 2013 (event video here). Boykin was introducing his FRC colleague and fellow army veteran, retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Maginnis, to discuss the recent release of Deadly Consequences: How Cowards are Pushing Women into Combat. In it Maginnis clearly and comprehensively demonstrates the “insanity” of assigning women to ground combat units.
The January 24, 2013, Obama Administration decision to open ground combat units to women “is contradicted by science, all empirical data, the experience of other nations, and common sense,” Maginnis writes. While there is “no question” that “American women have served the nation honorably,” Obama’s policy “is immoral and un-American.” “Radical feminism…at war with human nature itself,” not combat efficiency, is the reason for Obama’s policy.
Along with a “bankrupt political class,” America’s “senior generals are showing moral cowardice” by not speaking out against this dangerous agenda. Maginnis criticizes that these senior officers, who, surveys indicate, stay in the military after the best officers have left, are “agreeable bobblehead dolls” as shown by the American military’s about-face on homosexuality. Additionally, none of the current Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) accepting female fighting is a ground combat veteran.
Commanders and politicians are responding to opinion polls showing 75% support for “women as gladiators” in the “most violent environment known to man—direct ground combat.” A “naïve American public” is “blindly acquiescing in this violence against women in the name of equal opportunity.” This largely derives from “two generations of men with no military experience” whose only knowledge “about war and the military comes from movies and video games.” “To livelong civilians, G.I. Jane is ‘fact,’” Maginnis sneers in reference to the 1997 Demi Moore movie about a female SEAL.
In such entertainment women are “groin-kicking, karate divas and wannabe special-ops killers.” In tandem, “captive to feminist ideology, the media portray women as dominant, powerful, and ready for combat.” Thus Americans are willing to entertain an “androgynous” view of the American military as in the 1978 television series Battlestar Galactica.
Yet real veterans like the former SEAL and Montana state senator Ryan Zinke warn that military reality “is not a Demi Moore movie.” Multiple war veteran and Marine Corps Commandant General Robert H. Barrow testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1991 that ground combat is “uncivilized and women can’t do it.” West Point graduate Brigadier Edwin L. Kennedy concurred while thinking of his hand-to-hand death struggles in Korea, saying that “absolutely no woman that I have ever seen or known…could handle this.”
Basic gender strength differences preclude a policy of women in ground combat. Drawing upon a football analogy in the book, Maginnis at FRC argued that putting women into ground combat is “like putting women in the gridiron.” In contrast, military efforts to equate the genders physically will require “gender norming.” In this “plain stupidity,” women will receive the same performance evaluations as men while meeting much less physically demanding standards (e.g. three pull-ups by a woman counts as 20 by a man).
Maginnis assembles considerable data to prove that women in ground combat will not only weaken their units, but also suffer considerable injuries from trying to make female bodies perform like male bodies. “Women are going to suffer tremendously,” Maginnis said at FRC. Not only physical exertion, but also poor hygiene greatly stresses female bodies.
Marine Corps combat engineer Captain Katie Petronio agreed with Maginnis in the book. After a combat tour each in Afghanistan and Iraq, the former college hockey player Petronio wrote in the Marine Corps Gazette that “we are not all created equal.” With various injuries including infertility arising from her constant exertions, Petronio concluded that the “bottom line is that the enemy does not discriminate, rounds will not slow down, and combat loads don’t get any lighter, regardless of gender or capability.”
Female bodies will also introduce sexual issues into previously all-male ground combat units. Maginnis’s discussion of soldierly sexuality in Afghanistan and Iraq shows that the “war zone was also a sex zone” while he also finds the “similarity of the isolated military community to dorm life…striking.” This sex is going to have negative effects, such as the 12% of 40,000 military women whom a 1996 study concluded were pregnant during the Gulf War, a figure extrapolated across the military today that would equal 9,203 non-deployable women or 14 battalions. From his own experience as an Inspector General investigator, Maginnis furthermore knows that illicit sexual liaisons “are terribly damaging” to units. Sexual assault is also a growing problem in the military, such that the Department of Defense (DOD) has more sexual assault response coordinators (25,000) than recruiters (19,000) and DOD’s Sexual Assault and Response Office has gone from $5 million in 2005 to $23 million in 2010.
Sexual assault can come from military foes as well as friends, as army soldiers Major Rhonda Cornum and Private Jessica Lynch later revealed following their captivity in Iraq in the first and second Gulf Wars respectively. “The same people who decry sexual harassment in the barracks,” Maginnis noted, “shrug their shoulders at the prospect of American servicewomen falling into the hands of the world’s most depraved misogynists.” American Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs), meanwhile, have testified before Congress that their own torture would have simply been worse with knowledge of women POWs simultaneously undergoing torture.
Not just physical, but also spiritual aspects of women in ground combat concern Maginnis. In ground combat a “warrior spirit” is the “intangible but decisive factor in the fight” and the “men who embody that spirit can be an otherwise unsavory lot.” “These warriors seek violence and love a good gunfight,” Maginnis stated. “These rough-hewn men with their often alarming characters win the hard-fought victories.” Such personalities derive from male abundance of testosterone, “nature’s risk-taking, fear-suppressing, aggression-enhancing wonder drug.”
Ground combat units are indeed “hypermasculine,” a term once defined in Maginnis’s view “like a description of a combat infantry unit.” To wit, hypermasculinity in this definition entails “normative standards of masculinity that emphasize aggressiveness, dominance, and independence, and that minimize sensitivity, gentleness, and other stereotypically feminine characteristics.” Worrying for women in any such environment, such characteristics correlate with “heightened propensity to commit rape.”
According to studies cited by Maginnis, the “more ‘masculine’ the culture of a unit is, the lower the chances are of successfully integrating women into the unit.” Women in such units lead to a less masculine culture and less unit cohesion. Additionally, the “longer a unit is deployed, the more ‘hypermasculine’ it becomes.”
Buttressing Maginnis’s arguments, he searches the past “in vain for stories of women’s superiority in war or even their equivalence to men in combat.” Through “three thousand years of recorded history, no country has thought sending women into battle is a good idea.” Only the Soviet Union fighting for national survival in World War II used women “in sustained conventional combat” but never returned to this practice, as it was shown to be inefficient. Feminists also like to call the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq where American women have served “high-intensity combat,” but “counterinsurgency is best compared to high-intensity police work, not high-intensity conventional combat.” The daily death rate for the American military in Iraq was 1.8 compared to 260 for World War II.
Maginnis’s survey of militaries around the world shows very few women actually coming forward to exercise theoretical opportunities to become land combatants. A 1992 presidential commission, for example, studied how 103 Canadian women had applied to join their country’s infantry, but only one woman completed the training, merely to be reassigned. In the American experience, Marine Corps officer courses both ended in 2012 and 2013 with two female candidates dropping out. Similarly finding that only 1% of women could meet the same physical standards as men, the British government retained its female ground combatant ban in 2010. Various American allies decried by Maginnis for their military inadequacy, meanwhile, do not consider fighting needs when integrating women into combat forces. “Combat readiness is not an overarching concern of the Danish military,” a Danish briefer told the 1992 commission when discussing his country’s lifting of its female combat exclusion.
The result of such thinking in America and elsewhere is a “gender-normed job corps, in which multiculturalism and radical feminism have replaced readiness as a strategic imperative.” There could easily be more of this to come, as female ground combatants void any legal justification for excluding women from conscription. Yet the 154 American women who died between September 11, 2001, and May 2013 serving in Afghanistan and Iraq indicate that female ground combatants fail to serve not only military needs but societal as well. Even though “sending a two-year-old’s mother to war is worse than sending the child’s father,” 19 of these women returned “home to their children in body bags.”
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