- - Wednesday, August 28, 2013


By Robert L. Maginnis
Regnery, $30.50, 244 pages

So, besides exposing women to battlefield slaughter and their children to trauma, degrading military effectiveness, undermining the war-winning military spirit, compromising training standards, raising the probability of sexual assaults and deepening societal confusion over the differences between manhood and womanhood — other than all this, what is it our country wants to achieve by throwing women into combat?

Ah, yes — greater cultural diversity, with more jobs and higher military ranks available to women than now. It’s a wonderful century we live in, with reversals right and left of wisdoms maintained for more-or-less-civilized centuries — among those wisdoms, the assignment of military duties to the sex better fitted to it by nature, meaning males.

Robert L. Maginnis‘ decisively argued study of feminism’s latest goal — ensuring the eligibility of wives, sweethearts and mothers for battlefield butchery, as if they were men — offers further proof that Euripides may have had it right after all: “Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.”

What could be madder — crazier — screwier — than the thirst of politicians and political generals to throw over all existing knowledge about the nature of war and the nature of humanity in order to broaden job opportunity?

Mr. Magginis’ crisp and carefully argued book is a drag in certain, purely nonliterary ways. He may be right in everything he contends. Many readers will believe so upon weighing his evidence and arguments. The fact, nonetheless, is that our present Congress is about as likely to hold hearings into the question, then aggressively “address the defects of the armed forces’ [new] personnel policies with legislation,” as it is to remount the 7th Cavalry. Opinion surveys show the public at large heavily to favor the general idea of assigning combat roles to women. Why so? Back to Euripides’ searing pronouncement.

There is always, to be sure, the prospect of quick and startled recovery from bad mistakes. Provided there is time. “Nothing,” insists Mr. Maginnis, on considerable authority, “restores common sense as quickly as a bracing encounter with reality.” The common sense of the matter is found in various corners of experience, not least, as Mr. Maginnis emphasizes, in particular undeniables: Men are stronger than women; men have a higher propensity for aggression than do women; “Men feel the need to protect women in dangerous situations.” Some things are the way they are. Have the politicians and political generals any evidence for their conclusion that after 3,000 years of human warfare, the human race is busy devising new patterns for dealing out death on the battlefield? A lot of women are going to get killed very unpleasantly if the new sages of the combat experience are wrong.

At “the country’s senior military leadership” Mr. Maginnis levels the charge of cowardice through silence. And, well, as he acknowledges, “feminist political power” is “intimidating.” It makes facts — in Old Testament imagery — stubble for the sword. Facts contradictory to the feminist goal of rendering men and women interchangeable turn out (on a feminist reading) not be facts at all. Unless they’re malleable facts, ready for melting down and reshaping in more culturally acceptable forms.

Mr. Maginnis, a West Pointer and retired Army lieutenant colonel, undertakes the sensible job of reminding readers how modern ground combat looks to the combatants: hardly different in savagery from that which Homer described, only performed with high-tech weaponry. He quotes harrowing first-person accounts of two American battles in Iraq and Vietnam. No reader, male or female, would thirst for the joy of taking part in either.

An even more potent chapter is titled, “What Kind of Country Are We?” — what kind, that is, to contemplate the voluntary butchery of women? He asks: “What kind of society sends its women into combat? Do we want to be that kind of society? Is sending our daughters, wives, and mothers into combat good for women, for men, or for children?”

He goes on: “People who have blinded themselves to the profound and wonderful differences between the sexes are not open to a discussion about the consequences of those differences, and perhaps there is nothing more to say to them. But those people should not set the terms of the public debate. The American people need to stop pretending that sending women into combat involves questions no deeper than how far they can carry a seventy-pound rucksack.”

As public debates go, this hasn’t been much of one, with few expressions of anxiety over the idea of unwinding a cultural understanding coeval with civilization itself. Mr. Maginnis may fare no better than the handful of others who have tried to get the discussion going. What he has achieved, unmistakably, is the production of a book to which many will likely resort when the expected “bracing encounter with reality” strikes with the noise and force of a .50-caliber machine gun.

William Murchison is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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