An­other bur­den for Willie and Joe

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

The Army and the other mil­i­tary ser­vices can do a lot of things, and never flinch when the na­tion calls. Now, Don­ald Trump to the con­trary not­with­stand­ing, the ser­vices have been “tasked” to make women and trans­gen­dered peo­ple feel bet­ter about their place in so­ci­ety. Isn’t that what an army’s for?

The joint chiefs, look­ing for a new source of re­cruits in a so­ci­ety that prizes fun, games, leisure and ease above all, are dream­ing of mak­ing sol­diers of the softer stuff, led by of­fi­cers who are ladies by act of Congress. It’s not go­ing to be pretty for any­one, male, fe­male or other. The chiefs are pushed by the cul­ture to get with the pro­gram, and say things they may not be­lieve.

The Marine Corps, ad­ver­tised as the tough­est of the tough guys — it’s the lore of the corps — re­sisted as­sign­ing women to com­bat for as long as it could, and the com­man­dant of the corps now has set a goal that 10 per­cent of all re­cruits be women.

Re­cruiters are tar­get­ing fe­male ath­letes in high school — every re­cruiter cov­ets the women’s field-hockey team — and re­cruit­ing ad­ver­tise­ments try to make close com­bat glam­orous and ro­man­tic. Willie and Joe, those un­shaved and ver­min-in­fested grunts im­mor­tal­ized by Bill Mauldin’s car­toons of World War II, might be wait­ing in the fox­hole.

Some re­cruit­ing has been aimed at trans­gen­dered men, who, though sur­gi­cally emas­cu­lated, re­tain much of the up­per body strength that orig­i­nal women don’t have. Re­con­sti­tuted women won’t be sub­ject to many of the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the fe­male body, which can be nice to look at but are not indicative of the abil­ity to carry a hun­dred pounds of dead weight.

But mi­lady must be served, even when bi­ol­ogy trumps so­cial jus­tice. The pres­i­dent’s tweet that the trans­gen­dered must be ex­cused from mil­i­tary ser­vice — so far it’s only a tweet, and he may for­get about it — has been roundly con­demned by those who put sen­ti­ment and feel­ings above all. Why should prej­u­dice pre­vent the brave, black, white, gay, straight and the sur­gi­cally al­tered, from serv­ing their coun­try in any way they choose?

The mil­i­tary ser­vices have al­ways been able to re­cruit whom they think fit, even in wartime when the draft takes in ev­ery­one. The gen­er­als and ad­mi­rals have never be­fore been re­quired to abide any­thing or any­one to frac­ture unit co­he­sion, or cod­dle the weak and un­fit, or take un­ac­cept­able risks for the sake of ap­peas­ing pol­i­tics.

Some se­nior of­fi­cers know that the ser­vices are ly­ing to women, ei­ther by com­mis­sion or omis­sion, about the risks of com­bat that are unique to women. Julie Pul­ley, a West Point grad­u­ate, for­mer Army cap­tain and vet­eran of com­bat in Afghanistan, and Hugh P. Scott, a re­tired rear ad­mi­ral, Navy med­i­cal of­fi­cer and a rec­og­nized author­ity on med­i­cal phys­i­cal stan­dards, write in the Los An­ge­les Times that “it’s not at all clear that young women, or the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion in gen­eral, un­der­stand the unique, dis­pro­por­tion­ate health risks women face in com­bat roles.

“The dan­gers, which have been known for decades, will un­doubt­edly be ex­ac­er­bated as women serve in the most phys­i­cally de­mand­ing units. Although the Pen­tagon has pub­lished stud­ies de­tail­ing these gen­der dif­fer­ences, no such in­for­ma­tion is read­ily found on the Army or Marine Corps re­cruit­ing web­sites. The neigh­bor­hood re­cruiter isn’t likely to fill you in, ei­ther. But avoid­ing hard truths isn’t a le­git­i­mate way to at­tract new vol­un­teers to the mil­i­tary. At best, it’s ma­nip­u­la­tive. At worst, down­right ex­ploita­tive.”

Dis­pro­por­tion­ate in­juries and phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity are facts of life for women, they say, and cite rea­sons why and how, un­fash­ion­able as it may be in cer­tain par­lors and precincts, men and women are dif­fer­ent. “On av­er­age, an adult male pro­duces 10 times more testos­terone than an adult fe­male, which dou­bles his muscle mass. (The av­er­age woman pos­sesses only 55 per­cent to 58 per­cent of the up­per body strength of the av­er­age man.)”

Testos­terone does many things in the male body, de­vel­op­ing a heaver, stronger skele­ton and shapes the pelvis to add strength for bear­ing heav­ier loads and en­abling swifter run­ning, and greater en­durance.

With this, the mil­i­tary chiefs say — though what they say must be taken with con­sid­er­able salt — they’re ea­ger now to take on the trans­gen­dered, with their own unique phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics and psy­cho­log­i­cal con­fu­sion. One new sur­vey of trans­gen­der men­tal health cited by Na­tional Re­view mag­a­zine finds, among re­spon­dents be­tween 18 and 25 — just the age group cov­eted by mil­i­tary re­cruiters — more than half re­port se­ri­ous psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress (com­pared to 10 per­cent in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion), 40 per­cent have at­tempted sui­cide, 29 per­cent take drugs.

They can also serve who are as­signed to places other than the bat­tle­field, where there is no jus­tice, so­cial or oth­er­wise. Just pain, filth and death. Why make it worse for those who fight there? Wes­ley Pru­den is ed­i­tor in chief emer­i­tus of The Times.

Willie and Joe

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