A Note on Using the Military for Social Agendas

What I am about to write is such common sense that it makes almost no sense that I have to write it. But I feel I must: The military’s only purpose is to defend our nation.

Further, the job of our military is a very difficult and dangerous one. Soldiers put their lives on the line so that the rest of the country can be free. Whatever support we can give them we absolutely should. All advantages that we can give to our military should be employed. However many lives it saves is worth it.

With that said, here is a logical conclusion: The only factor in weighing one military policy over another is how well it aids our troops.

This means that whatever social agenda is being pushed on the military: be it women in the military, gays in the military, or using the military to “give men good values” is in submission to one criterion and one criterion only: does it maximize troop readiness?

Let’s take the issue of women in the military. The issue should be framed in the following way: does the presence of women in the military aid or hurt the strength of our military? If the data shows that having women in the military aids in the strength of our military, then so be it. If not, then also so be it.

As far as answering this question, let me first say that I am speaking as a woman who is former military. Also, I am not trying to disparage women in general or women in the military. I have been told by soldiers that women soldiers have made very valuable contributions, particularly as medics. But these were my observations of how women performed in the military:

Literally none of the women were able to go over a 6 foot wall. Not only is the standard lowered for women about how many pushups they have to do but the definition of a pushup is lowered. The women fought constantly. There was never unit cohesion. They ostracized and mercilessly made fun of one soldier who could never qualify with a rifle and who was eventually sent home.

The issue is not just about physical strength. Warrior skills extend beyond this. It is also aggressiveness, dexterity with your hands, and an ability to do physically painful and courageous things such as falling and hitting the ground hard. Most importantly, it is unit cohesiveness.

There is a book that came out in 2006 that made similar arguments based on data rather than my anecdotal evidence: Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn't Fight the Nation's Wars.

I am not necessarily for or against women in the military. I find it plausible, for instance, that women aid the military but only in specific roles. What I am for is a strong military. Objective metrics about military readiness should be in place to measure it.

I do not think this is the goal of those who are fighting for women to be combat in the military. Instead, it is 100% gender politics. It is also possible that those involved want to decrease the effectiveness of our military.

Some have made the argument that soldiers get certain benefits, such as college tuition, and thus service should be open to everyone. I would submit that anyone who joins the military with this entitlement mindset is not going to make a good soldier. Serving in the military is not a right. It is an honor. Benefits given to soldiers are perks that are given to thank them for their very brave service. If you want entitlements, consider working for the federal government as a bureaucrat.

Let me emphatically state that I am in complete favor of the success of women and I, again, do not want to disparage women in any way. There are many talented women doing extraordinary things in a variety of careers. My observations of women in the military should not be construed as a bias or hatred of women, because nothing could be further from the truth.

The issue of gays in the military is similar. Again, the issue has absolutely nothing to do if one is for or against homosexuality. The issue should strictly come down to evaluating if having homosexuals in the military aids or hurts the strength of the military. The issue should be decided by military officers solely.

Finally, some conservatives argue that all men should join the military for 2 years in order to turn them into responsible adults. This also defies the one and only criterion that should govern military policy, which is military readiness. The military is not a place to make hippy Bob or anarchist Mike become an upstanding citizen. The military wants to attract the best candidates and put them to use. It should not be saddled with raising children whose parents failed them.

Service in the military will not create upstanding citizens anyway. The military tells people what to do during their service. Soldiers of poor character don’t have to make good decisions on their own as their superiors will do it for them. They will not necessarily develop self discipline. What will happen is the person will cut their hair and wear clothes that are more conservative. And this is what conservatives are responding to. It is a concrete bound mentality at its worst: if someone is dressed and groomed in a certain way, they think the person is disciplined.

Living on your own and having to pay your own bills is a much greater accelerator of good character. I could almost get behind a “Get Johnny to stop living off of mom and dad by the time he is 25” bill. (OK, not really, but the idea is fun.) I will never get behind forced military servitude.

Our nation’s military’s only purpose is to defend our nation. Whether or not a policy is employed should be decided solely by military leaders, whose only criterion is how well it maximizes troop readiness. Everyone else, leave your social agendas at the door.

Amber Pawlik
April 21, 2011


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