Oh hey look, it’s Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general, saying women aren’t fit for close combat!
I am not a military or combat expert, but I have reasons for thinking that nobody is truly fit for close combat. I understand that killing is necessary in war. But to be fit for killing? To be the best killer you can be?
Close combat units, says Scales, are “made up of soldiers whose purpose is to kill the enemy directly.” What can truly prepare for someone for becoming non-anonymously, face-to-face deadly? Except practicing death, which soldiers do. In combat. As far as I know (again, no expert here) the close-combat arms of the Army, Marines and special forces aren’t actually killing people in training.
So why do men so obviously belong in close combat, while women do not?
Well. First, to be fair, Scales generously thinks female soldiers can serve in the artillery, because we disruptive, distracting vagina-ed creatures won’t be in REAL combat in the artillery.
I have no problem with integrating women into the artillery. … Artillery is okay for women because the purpose of the guns in battle is to deliver firepower against a distant enemy, not to engage in close combat.
His argument devolves from there. While Scales concedes that diversity is good for the military, the line has to be drawn at including women in combat.
Contemporary history suggests that U.S. infantry units fight equally well when made up of soldiers of different ethnicities, cultures, intelligence and social background. The evidence is also solid that gays make just as good infantrymen as do straight men.
So you can be black or gay or “differently” intelligent, and that is good for the infantry, because that will better prepare you for killing someone and helping others kill people than having a vagina.
I’ve been studying the band of brothers effect for almost 40 years and have written extensively on the subject. We know that time together allows effective pairings — or “battle buddies,” to use the common Army term. But the human formula that ensures successful buddy pairings is still a mystery, and that’s the key stumbling block in the debate. Veteran SEALs, special forces, Rangers, tankers and line infantrymen will swear that the deliberate, premeditated and brutal act of intimate killing is a male-only occupation. But no one can prove it with data from empirical tests because no such data exist from the United States. They just know intuitively from battlefield experience that it’s true
To be sure, women soldiers may be fit, they may be skilled and they may be able to “hang.” Many have proved with their lives that they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. But our senior ground-force leaders, as well as generations of former close combat veterans from all of our previous wars, are virtually united on one point: The precious and indefinable band of brothers effect so essential to winning in close combat would be irreparably compromised within mixed-gender infantry squads.
So. Women shouldn’t be in combat despite the fact that we are fit, skilled, trained, are willing to die for our country AND can “hang” (that’s so important, guys) because men just know that women will ruin everything.
No one can prove it. Not the most highly trained specialists in the military, and not Robert H. Scales, retired Army major general, can prove that including women in close combat will destroy military unity. But they know! Generations of experienced (male) leaders, they know! Just like they knew that letting women vote would ruin politics! Just like they knew letting women get jobs would destroy the social fabric of this country! Just like they knew letting women get an education would kill the birth rate and knock America from its place in world domination! (Er, Ross Douthat is still working that one out.)
Ultimately, Scales’ argument boils down to not letting women into the elite forces of the military because it’s not a woman’s place to be in the elite forces of the military. His argument is so traditionally sexist and old-fashioned as to be almost boring. I’m no supporter for anyone becoming a killer. But Scales has produced zero evidence to argue that women, if they want to fight for their country, shouldn’t.