Allen B. West

The BEST argument you’ll ever read for not having women in combat

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Disclaimer: This article was written by a woman, NOT Col. Allen West. Awhile back I wrote on the subject of why women shouldn’t serve alongside men in combat. In that particular article, I focused on the matter of relaxing physical standards to accommodate women on the ground which I personally believe is wrong.

But there is another even more important issue. Yes it is true that a very small percentage of women will indeed be able to fulfill the same physical requirements as men. It just happened. Two women graduated from Army Ranger School, as we reported here.

But that still doesn’t mean it makes sense to have men and women serve together on the front lines. This article, “What Tempers The Steel of an Infantry Unit” by Gregory Newbold, is quite possibly the best argument you’ll ever read for completely rethinking this whole social engineering experiment.

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Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold (U.S. Marine Corps, ret.) is a former infantryman, who has commanded units from the platoon through the 1st Marine Division. Most recently he was Director of Operations, the Joint Staff. He knows his stuff.

According to Newbold, “the current debate about women in the infantry takes place in an artificial context, because it nearly always self-limits the discussion to physical capabilities. Within these incomplete parameters, the argument is then set, and the preamble is that physical standards and performance are measurable and what is not measurable is subjective and probably unfair.

Once physical quantifications are set as the only requirement that matters, it then stands to reason that if you can define infantry requirements in terms of, for example, a number of pull-ups, a hike with 60 to 80 pounds of extra weight, or carrying a 180-pound simulated casualty to safety, then you can assess whether females are suited to infantry units.

Honest and informed observers will acknowledge that medical science indicates that, in the physical domain, the two genders are an unequal match. Even a very fit woman is not generally the equal of a fit man. The competition is no competition in aerobic capacity, load bearing, reach, body fat percentage, and other germane measures of combat fitness. But (the informed argument proceeds), even if it is only the top 5 percent of women who can replace the bottom 5 percent of men, why not allow the 5 percent to integrate and thereby improve the combat efficiency of the unit? For example, it has been argued Ronda Rousey — the accomplished and undoubtedly tough mixed martial artist — could be an excellent addition to an infantry unit.

The falsity of this debate is found in its restriction of analysis to its physical context. Why is the debate limited to physical capabilities? For two reasons. First, supporters of full integration will not accept what cannot be irrefutably proven (and sometimes not even then). Second, practitioners of infantry warfare have great difficulty describing the alchemy that produces an effective infantry unit, much as it is difficult for those of faith to explain their conviction to an atheist. Try that by quantitative analysis. But allow me a poor effort to explain what tempers the steel of an infantry unit and therefore serves as the basis of its combat power.”

Newbold’s over-arching theme is that there is an intangible “alchemy” that binds a platoon together and generates the warrior spirit “to endure what we think is unendurable, to participate in the inhumane, and to thrive in misery.” Newbold says, “the characteristics that produce uncommon valor as a common virtue are not physical at all, but are derived from the mysterious chemistry that forms in an infantry unit that revels in the most crude and profane existence so that they may be more effective killers than their foe. Members of such units deliberately reduce the individual and collective level of humanity and avoid all distractions so that its actions are fundamental, instinctive, and coldly efficient. Polite company, private hygiene, and weakness all step aside. These are the men who can confront the Islamic State, North Korean automatons, or Putin’s Spetsnaz and win every time. Believe me, you will need them, and we don’t get to choose when that will be.”

“Nineteen-year-old males everywhere are from Mars. They, and their early twenty-something brethren, are overloaded with testosterone, supremely confident about their invincibility, and prone to illogical antics. This sometimes produces intemperate behavior in everyday America, but the same traits are, by the way, nearly ideal for direct ground combat.”

Liberals are going to hate this, because even in our hyper-sexualized culture, male-female dynamics are supposed to be ignored, but as Newbold says, they cannot be. “The issue we’re now debating has to include a recognition of cohesion and the cost of sexual dynamics in a bare-knuckled brawl, amidst primeval mayhem, in which we expect the collective entity to persevere because it has a greater will and fighting spirit, and not because it is bigger, faster, or more agile.”

Research seems to bear Newbold’s theories out, as a new study says women fall short of combat skills and all-male units perform better than mixed gender ones.

In his book, The Athena Project, spy novelist Brad Thor wrote about an elite cadre of fearsome, deadly, and incredibly skilled female operatives of Delta Force. In my (civilian) opinion, why not have all-female combat units? I agree with Newbold that mixing up genders (and that includes trans versions) in the combat zone creates an unwanted tinderbox.

But a cohesive group of butt-kicking chicks? That’s a “social experiment” I would love to see.

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