How many things are wrong with this picture? More U.S. military women edging closer to combat positions in preparations for Iraq war . The young woman grabs her M-16 and leaves her husband and 2-year-old son to go off to war. It’s played rather as a human interest story, because it’s not the sort of thing that inspires patriotism or confidence in anyone.
The article mentions three arguments for doing this to the military, and to social understandings about men, women, children and war:
- The equal civic participation argument: “There is no distinction between men and women. We feel the same way about wanting to go over there and serve.” That argument makes sense if adding women to the military is otherwise beneficial on the homefront and in the field. If it’s not beneficial then it’s not a service for them to go.
- The equal-opportunity bureaucratic-rationality argument: “It’s a level playing field because now any service officer can do the same job, can compete … Whoever is best will rise to the top, be promoted and do well.” This argument might make sense in peacetime to people who like tidy systems that ignore issues they don’t know what to do with. In time of war, though, it’s good to deal with realities before they kill you.
- Which brings us to the it’s-here-and-we-have-to-deal-with-it argument, the one used to silence discussion in wartime: “[W]omen are embedded in the functioning of the entire military. You can’t just pull people out on the basis of gender anymore. It’s a different way of thinking about war.” And that’s the usual strategy in social engineering: first you ignore, deny or obfuscate the issues, and then you say it’s the new reality that can’t be changed.