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.
Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.