Women in Combat! A Response to New US Military Policy
Mark Chanski, who teaches hermeneutics for Reformed Baptist Seminary, responded to our government’s recent decision to remove the ban against women serving in combat roles in the military. He evaluates this new policy and highlights several concerns. With his permission I’ve posted this brief response below.
Women in Combat! New US Military Policy!
The U.S. Military is lifting its ban on women serving in combat. This is one of the biggest policy changes in Defense Department history.
Wise or foolish?
Here is a summary analysis excerpted from my book Womanly Dominion: More than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit.
1. There are biblical concerns.
The Bible presents a comprehensive picture of differentiation between men and women that certainly extends to the battlefield. Men are to protect women and children who are, generally speaking, not as physically strong and militarily brave.
“Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, until the LORD gives your brothers rest” (Joshua 1:14-15a, emphasis added).
“Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies” (Numbers 1:2-3, emphasis added).
Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, . . . and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman (1 Peter 3:6-7a, emphasis added).
“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots . . . Then the officers shall speak further to the people, and they shall say, ‘Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart’” (Deuteronomy 20:1a, 8, emphasis added).
In that day the Egyptians will become like women, and they will tremble and be in dread because of the waving of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which He is going to wave over them (Isaiah 19:16, emphasis added).
The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting, they stay in the strongholds; Their strength is exhausted. They are becoming like women (Jeremiah 51:30a, emphasis added).
2. There are physical concerns.
The Center for Military Readiness states: “Female soldiers are, on average, shorter and smaller than men, with 45-50% less upper body strength and 25-30% less aerobic capacity, which is essential for endurance. Even in current non-combat training, women suffer debilitating bone stress fractures and other injuries at rates double those of men.”1
This is relevant considering that the equipment a soldier carries into combat can easily approach 100 pounds (flak jacket, rucksack, weaponry, etc.), and that every soldier should have the capacity to carry his comrade (of 200 lbs.?) out of harm’s way. Private Jessica Lynch, the soldier who was injured and captured in Iraq during 2003, was “five foot three and a wispy 100 pounds.”2 Furthermore, menstruation cycles and pregnancy are also delicate facts of life.
3. There are psychological concerns.
Do women have an adequate killer instinct? Does the presence of women with men damage a combat unit’s esprit de corps? Do budding romantic relationships between men and women disrupt a unit’s fighting capability? Does a man’s natural protective instinct toward women suspend a soldier’s ability to make wise battlefield decisions? After 1948 Israel Defense Forces policy for many years withdrew women from combat after observing a male infantryman’s rage when he witnessed a wounded woman. His uncontrollable, protective, instinctual aggression could have caused a massacre.3 Real men instinctively run to a woman’s rescue, potentially endangering the larger military unit.
4. There are POW concerns.
Combat assignments place women at high risk of being captured, tortured, and sexually assaulted. Unlike their male counterparts, women are almost always subjected to sexual abuse of varying degrees upon capture. According to the American doctors who examined Pfc. Jessica Lynch after her 2003 rescue by Special Operations forces, she was brutally raped by Iraqi thugs during the three to four hours following her ambush and capture.4
5. There are moral concerns.
It is not prudent to order married men and women to live in close quarters where they are tempted to adultery. The same can be said about singles and fornication.
I believe that women should be removed from all combat situations and employed militarily only in non-threatening support roles. This is not sexual discrimination. It is privileged exemption. Our nation should honorably dignify and exalt women by protecting them from cruelty and carnage. Women should fight only as a last resort, when survival demands it, i.e., “when the Indians are circling the ranch and the men are dead and wounded.”5
My hearts beats with John Piper’s on this theme:
If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying that no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.6
- “Women in Combat,” Center for Military Readiness, 22 Nov. 2004, 27 Feb. 2008 [↩]
- David Lipsey, NY Times. [↩]
- Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Bel Air, CA: Back Bay Press, 1996), p. 43f. [↩]
- R. Cort Kirkwood, “What Kind of Nation Sends Women into Combat?” 11 Apr. 2003, 27 Feb. 2008. [↩]
- “Women in Combat.” [↩]
- John Piper, World Magazine, “Combat and Cowardice,” 10 November 2007, p. 43. [↩]