Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced earlier this month that they were opening all combat positions to women, including those located at the most dangerous command posts. The move opens up over 200,000 new jobs to women that were previously unavailable. In the weeks following this announcement, debates have returned over the role of women in combat, and whether or not they should be included in any potential drafts in the future. While some laud the move as progressive, other are concerned about having women in the most dangerous of positions in the military. 

The concerns are not based in a belief that women are inferior to men, nor that they are inherently incapable of defending themselves for the country they love. Rather, hesitation comes from what it projects to the world if a nation is willing to place its women at the forefront of the battle while some of the men stay back. Some may indeed see this objection as the last vestiges of a chivalrous age, but the point is not that “men should be doing the heavy lifting.” Rather, the issue is that men are structured in such a way as to be defenders, protectors, and fighters. Unsurprisingly this is played out in the evidence. For example, a recent Marine Corps study indicates that all-male squads were more efficient than mixed groups.

However, the discussions demonstrates a broader concern about how conversations like this occur. Generally, objections to disallowing women in combat place the onus on a classification of society based on gender stereotypes that speak to halcyon days of old. Since those monikers no longer apply to society writ large, they say, it should no longer apply to our national defense. But this mistakes equality under the law and in the eyes of God with equality in societal roles. Men and women are equal under the law and the eyes of God, but we have distinct roles. That does not take away from the very essence of men and women, it only accentuates it. But when equality without any kind of qualification is the goal, then distinctions like this are lost—forever. 

Nations that send their women to battle signal to the world it does not cherish the highest and most important role any human being can ever play: child bearer, mother, and quite literally the hope of the nation. For without women we have no mothers. Without mothers, we have no children. Without children we have no nation. Sending women, mothers, wives, etc. to the frontline let’s an opposing nation know we do not care about our continued existence. That is not a sign any nation wants to place before the world.