A Modest Proposal
Both Bush and Clinton emphasize the need to discourage abortions and to reduce the number of abortions performed. These positions are consistent with those of the general American public, which views abortion as morally wrong whether or not it is legal.
Amherst Professor Hadley Arkes, a CRISIS contributor, has drafted a proposal which seeks common ground between pro-choice and pro-life factions. His proposed legislation seeks to protect infants born alive during attempted abortions. The essence of the bill is to establish that the child delivered from the womb is a human being deserving of protection, whether or not it is wanted. If passed, the legislation would be an amendment to the “Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.”
Supporters of the idea think that this amendment will disarm the so-called pro-choice movement. If the pro-choice supporters contest the legislation, they will be supporting infanticide, and if they agree with the legislation, they will be asserting that a child has a right to life which is not dependent on whether someone wants him. Logically, the pro-choice argument will be undermined, for the distinctions between an infant inside and outside of the womb are minimal.
While Arkes’s proposal may seem like a small first step, it is a serious way to address the abortion issue without being caught up in the typical jargon of personal rights and freedom of choice.
Romero Lauds Escriva.
On May 17 of this year, Spain’s ABC newspaper reprinted the following letter from El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero to the pope, originally written in Santiago de Maria on July 12, 1975: “Most Blessed Father, I regard the still-recent day of the death of Monsignor Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer as contributing to the greater glory of God and to the well-being of souls, and I am requesting of Your Holiness the quick opening of the cause for beatification and canonization of such an eminent priest.
“I had the good fortune of knowing Monsignor Escriva de Balaguer personally and of receiving from him support and fortitude to be faithful to the inalterable doctrine of Christ and to serve with apostolic zeal the Holy Roman Church and this land of Santiago de Maria, which Your Holiness has entrusted to me.
“I have known, for several years now, the work of Opus Dei here in El Salvador, and I can testify to the supernatural sense that animates it and to the fidelity to the ecclesiastical magisterium that characterizes the work.
“Personally, I owe deep gratitude to the priests involved with the work, to whom I have trusted with much satisfaction the spiritual direction of my life and that of other priests.
“People from all social classes find in Opus Dei a secure orientation for living as sons of God in the midst of their daily family and social obligations. And this is doubtless due to the life and doctrine of its founder.
“In this stormy world overrun by insecurity and doubt, the superb doctrinal fidelity that characterizes Opus Dei is a sign of special grace from God.
“Monsignor Escriva de Balaguer was able to unite in his life a continuous dialogue with Our Lord and a great humanity; one could tell he was a man of God, and his manner was full of sensitivity, kindness, and good humor.
“There are many people who since the moment of his death are privately entrusting him with their needs.
“Most Blessed Father, I humbly repeat my petition for a quick opening of the cause for the beatification and canonization of Monsignor Escriva de Balaguer, for the greater glory of God and for the edification of the Church.
“With filial affection and submission, I kiss Your Ring.”
Goodbye, Mr. Boff
Once again, socialism makes a retreat. In a letter to his “fellow travelers” published in the Sao Paulo newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, Leonardo Boff announced his intention to leave the Franciscan order and the priesthood.
Boff, a leader in the liberation theology movement, made his decision after fighting with the Church for over 20 years. His exit from the priesthood teaches us two important things: first, that liberation theology, like Marxism, is intellectually bankrupt; second, that discipline from the Vatican can and does work. As one Vatican official noted, “The world is big and Father Boff is only one theologian—he is not the Church.”
It is only fitting that Boff’s leaving the priesthood should come barely a year after the Soviet Union fell. As millions awaken to the birth of freedom around the globe, Boff was destined to fall from grace. His “liberation” theology was not about liberation. If anything, it called for greater state power over the lives of individuals, a prelude to totalitarianism. In his writings, Boff praised the Soviet Union for having “eradicated misery.” The Church wisely distanced itself from his dubious theology and pro-Soviet leanings.
Once Marxism-Leninism fell, Leonardo Boff was out of place in the post-Soviet world. With a free Russia repudiating its past, Boff was left in the unenviable position of being an apologist for a failed experiment. Boff has not left the Church, but having left the priesthood he has definitely retreated from his once visible role. Poor people everywhere can now breathe a sigh of relief.
William F. Tell
It’s often claimed that in the 1980s “the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.” But such clichés of class warfare are belied by the latest Treasury Department study on income-group mobility for the years 1979-1988. Rather than creating rigid castes based on income, the last decade demonstrated the remarkable financial mobility citizens have in the United States. Most of the poor do not stay poor, and the rich do not always get richer. There remain groups of rich and poor, but the people who make up each change every year.
The Treasury study found that 85 percent of those who were in the bottom fifth of all taxpayers in 1979 had moved up. Of this group, 65 percent moved up to the richest three-fifths by 1988. All but 14 percent of the poorest fifth were upwardly mobile in the ’80s. The income climbs by members of this poorest fifth break down as follows: 2.i percent moved up one fifth, 25 percent moved up two (to the middle fifth), 2,5 percent moved to the next richest fifth, and 14 percent reached the richest fifth of taxpayers in 1988.
A similar pattern of upward mobility appears in the data for the next poorest fifth. Only 29 percent stayed put, while 60 percent climbed to the middle fifth and beyond. Just II percent were downwardly mobile.
Eighty percent of the middle fifth either moved up or stayed put (33 percent remained in the middle fifth and 47 percent reached the two richest quintiles).
Of those within the second-richest category in 1979, 35 percent achieved a position in the richest fifth, 38 percent held steady, and 27 percent suffered a decline.
Many members of the richest income groups were downwardly mobile. For example, 35 percent of those in the top fifth fell into lower income groups, 60 percent remained in place, and 5 percent climbed to the top one percent. Of those in the richest one percent, 47 percent stayed put, but 53 percent fell. In other words, most of the richest got poorer.
As this study indicates, the U.S. economy hardly creates a caste system; instead it allows its citizens to use their creative energies to change their income status. These statistics of low-income upward mobility support the claim that economic opportunity exists. The economy is not static. Indeed, the evidence of the Reagan era suggests just the opposite.
William J. Fidurko
Therefore Choose Life
In 1987, my wife Joyce was pregnant with our first child. Like any expectant parents, we were excited and full of plans. We had a stack of “how-to” books, some of which included illustrations and descriptions of the baby’s development. Our favorite pastime was discussing the baby’s progress, how big it was, whether its heart was beating and fingers and toes were fully formed, and the like. It was a time of special joy. Every night I sang my college fight song (Notre Dame) to Joyce’s swollen midsection and, of course, gave the baby early updates on the pending football season.
In July of 1987, when Joyce was five months pregnant, a nurse suggested that she have a small lump in her breast removed, “just to be careful.” We figured it was a good idea, but really did not think much about it. It would only take about an hour in the doctor’s office—just a small inconvenience in our busy schedule.
A few days after this minor surgery, I was at work, shuffling papers. Joyce called. She was about to call the surgeon’s office because she had learned from a very anxious nurse in the obstetrician’s office that there was “something wrong” with the biopsy on the lump she had had removed. I sat at my desk, stunned. At once the papers cluttering my desk seemed ridiculously unimportant. When my phone rang again, all the news was bad. The lump in Joyce’s breast had been malignant. She had cancer. I went home to hold her through a long, tearful night.
The next morning, we sat, shaken, in the surgeon’s office. He had been through this drill many times before, sometimes with worse news and less hope for his patients. We had two options, but quick action was critical if Joyce were to have a reasonable chance of surviving the cancer. The first option was a mastectomy, removal of the breast. The second option was a lumpectomy, removal of only the area immediately surrounding the tumor, followed by radiation treatments. The lumpectomy, although less disfiguring, would not be possible during the pregnancy because of the danger to the baby from the required radiation treatments. Chemotherapy, which would be imperative following either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy, also could not take place while Joyce was pregnant. It quickly became clear to us as the surgeon spoke that Joyce’s pregnancy, besides eliminating the option of a lumpectomy, seriously decreased her chances of surviving the cancer. The second shoe quickly fell. “Well, you can terminate the pregnancy.” The surgeon told us, approvingly, about a previous patient of his, in a roughly similar position, who had saved her breast by having an abortion followed by a lumpectomy and radiation treatments.
Joyce, in a voice that made it clear that no further discussion was warranted, replied, “No, that is not a possibility.”
Joyce has been called “saintly” by a local priest because of her work as a foster mother to indigent infants awaiting adoption. (This has become a well-worn joke in our family, since Joyce has proven to be particularly susceptible to teasing about it.) She is also heavily involved in other Catholic Charities work and is usually with me at Sunday mass. But Joyce is not a Catholic. She is not even particularly sympathetic to the Church, having grown up in a California farming family that often faced violence from Church-supported labor unions. So her unhesitating decision in the surgeon’s office had nothing to do with Church dogma or religious precepts. It resulted, simply, from her unconditional love for a baby that she had never even seen.
After our meeting with the surgeon, we met with the obstetrician and then the oncologist. Each mentioned the possibility of abortion. The obstetrician had a habit of referring to our baby as “a wanted baby,” as if that were, for some reason, surprising. Joyce’s answer was as immediate and clear as it had been in the surgeon’s office—”No.” In fairness to the doctors, their repeated suggestion of abortion was probably at least in part motivated by fear of a lawsuit. It likely did not help that Joyce and I are lawyers.
Joyce would have a mastectomy. Prayer would just have to substitute for chemotherapy until the baby could be delivered.
Like most families faced with tragedy, ours came together to join the fight. Joyce’s mother and father flew in from California. Joyce’ sisters and my family wore out the telephone lines with calls of support. But we all knew that, in the end, the burden would fall on Joyce alone. Only Joyce could carry the baby, only Joyce could face the surgeon’s knife.
Joyce’s surgery took place a few days later. Although it was of consuming importance to Joyce’s waiting, frightened family, and attracted some attention in the hospital because of the unusual circumstances, it probably was considered by the surgeons to be “routine.”
The most poignant moment of Joyce’s slow, painful recovery came when a nurse came up from the obstetrics ward with a device to monitor the baby’s heartbeat. In hindsight, it is clear that the obstetrician had ordered this not as much out of concern for the baby, as out of concern for the baby’s family. The baby’s heartbeat filled the gloomy hospital room—simple, steady, strong. It reduced a normally poker-faced, practicing “regular guy” to tears.
Matthew Maguire was born a few months later, just one floor down from the operating room in which his mother had saved his life. He was beautiful, completely unaffected by the trauma the pregnancy had brought to his family, and a whopping ten-and-a-half pounds. (Yes, Notre Dame’s Coach Holtz was notified.)
In the five years since Matthew’s birth, Joyce has recovered from her surgery and chemotherapy and has had no recurrences of cancer. Matthew has grown to have a soaring imagination and a genius for scheming, tailormade for driving his parents crazy. I am long since back at my desk, perhaps less gullible now about the importance of the stacks of papers crowding the pictures of Joyce and Matt. But every now and then on my way to work, I drive past the hospital where Matt was born, and remember the summer of 1987, a summer of tears and courage and despair and joy, when my wife risked her life to choose life.
As witnessed by psychologist Judith Becker during the trial of Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal killer adopted a multiculturalist line of defense and insisted it was wrong to judge his crimes by a Western or Judeo-Christian standard of morality. “Maybe I was born too late,” Dahmer reportedly argued. “Maybe I was an Aztec.”
The Family Revives In Sweden
Finally, after 60 years of a welfare state that has tended to replace rather than to assist families, the family is being revived in Sweden.
In the period 1920-33, Sweden experienced a sharp decline in its birth rate. Attributing this decline to the economic disincentives of a market system, Swedish social engineers figured that if society were to bear the costs of child rearing, the birth rate could be restored. Thus the welfare state was created and government took on the primary responsibility for children. Yet in its attempt to assist and strengthen individual family members, the welfare state has tended to supplant the family’s ability and will to care for itself, according to Rutgers University sociologist David Popenoe. The new measures—subsidized day care, child allowances, “parents’ insurance,” and tax incentives designed to end the residual economic gains of marriage—have had stark consequences for the family in Sweden. For example: in 1970 Sweden had approximately 51,000 marriages per year, but by 1980 the rate had fallen approximately 36 percent to 37,770. By 1988 over half of all births were outside of marriage. Sweden also has the highest “couple dissolution” rate in the world, the smallest average household size (2.2 persons) and the highest percentage of single-person households. In addition to these statistical changes, the family as an institution has suffered other, less calculable, but not unpredictable consequences, including a weakening of parental authority (caused in part by the child’s lessened economic dependence on his parents), less economic dependence between spouses, less care for elder relatives.
Today, though, Sweden is changing, reports Allan Carlson, author of The Swedish Experiment in Family Politics. The tradition of family, is re-emerging in revolt against the state’s socialist mischief with the family as is evidenced in politics by the current “center-right” government that supports the traditional family. The coalition government’s programs work to restrain bureaucratic intrusions into the family and to restore the family’s underlying strength of care and love, in hopes of building a stronger foundation for society as a whole. This revaluation of family is linked to the guiding principle of subsidiarity, derived from Roman Catholic teaching and praised by Prime Minister Bildt: “The subsidiarity principle means that society is built from the bottom up, with a departure point from the individual’s and the family’s need; instead of from the top down, with the departure point in an abstract political doctrine.” God willing, the result of this new vision for Sweden will be a restoration of civil society, where the state will not subsume all of society under itself but rather be limited to its proper functions.
It would seem, then, that socialism has misunderstood human nature. Just as it scorns self-interest and incentives as well as the creativity of the human being, so it has overlooked the family as the most natural foundation of the social order. But since, as Pope Leo XIII once said, “all struggle against nature is in vain,” civil society in Sweden has arisen and reasserted the family’s value.
William J. Fidurko
Ms. Sara Dee Strandtman and Ms. Karen Marie Uminger were married Sunday, July 12, 1992, at the First Unitarian Church of Austin. The Reverend Linda R. Pendergrass officiated.
The publication of this wedding announcement in the Austin-American Statesman has caused public protest against the judgment of the paper in printing the paid announcement. Several church leaders and conservative groups thought the advertisement was destructive to family morals and deceitful to the public, since same-sex marriages are not legal in Texas. Publisher Roger Kintzel replies that the paper has an editorial policy that supports strong family values but asserts that there are different definitions of a “family.”
Dale Gore, executive director of Austin Baptist Association, says that the announcement was an “affront to the men and women whose unions are natural, legal, and scriptural.” Church leaders are demanding a published apology from the newspaper acknowledging that marriage between members of the same sex is wrong.
He’s No Alec Baldwin
Look out, Hanoi Jane, here comes Mel Gibson. While many of Hollywood’s leading names have identified themselves with left-wing causes and candidates, Mel Gibson is a conservative Roman Catholic who has bravely distanced himself from the liberal crowd by advocating traditional morality. Gibson, married for 12 years and the father of six, seems to have the right stuff.
In a recent interview given to Spain’s El Pais, Gibson reiterated his belief in traditional Church teachings and opposed birth control, infidelity, and abortion: “God is the only One who knows how many children we should have, and we should be ready to accept them.” Later in the interview, Gibson repeated his pro-life stand, saying, “One can’t decide for oneself who comes into this world and who doesn’t. That decision doesn’t belong to us.”
Gibson, whose character Murtagh in the Lethal Weapon movies likes to put himself in precarious situations, has not shied away from the risks of condemning homosexual practices. This deviance from Hollywood norms has earned him the wrath of leading homosexual activists. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and Queer Nation have targeted Gibson for being “insensitive to gay issues.” GLAAD also blasted Gibson in 1990 for his mimicking of an “effeminate” homosexual hairdresser in the movie Bird on a Wire.
Heroes vs. Hoodlums
Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis on the Los Angeles riots: “I’ve been hustled by the police. You grow up in this society as a black, you get that. But the greatest menace in the black community is not the police. It’s all these young black men who beat up old ladies and kids. Whenever you elevate hoodlums to heroes, you’ve got trouble. When you look at that looting, by blacks and whites, that wasn’t a protest. They wanted TV sets.”
Truth or Dare
Score one for truth-in-advertising. The Motion Picture Association of America has decided to provide disclaimers for movies with the PG and PG-13 ratings. The disclaimers will give more information to parents about the movies their children might see. For example, a future movie might say “rated PG-13 for scenes of drug use and nudity.” PG, of course, stands for “Parental Guidance Suggested.”
Unfortunately, the new policy falls short in a crucial way. The additional information will not appear in 30-second television commercials or in print advertisements. Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association explained that the disclaimers would take too long for a television spot and that any warning messages in print ads would be too small to read. Instead, concerned parents will most likely have to look to the movie reviews which carry this information.
Armageddon For Christic
The Christic Institute, a left-wing, self-proclaimed “public interest law firm,” will most likely be closing the doors of its Washington office for good because of expenses incurred from a recent “frivolous” law suit. In the past several years the Christic Institute has become a major source of information for many organizations of the Left. Many religious groups, Catholic and Protestant, have depended on the Institute for its research, especially on Latin American issues.
In 1986 the Christics filed allegations in a Florida federal court against 27 members of the Nicaraguan democratic resistance, including a retired U.S. General, a CIA officer, and the resistance leader Adolfo Calero. The suit claimed that a “secret team” of military and intelligence officers ran U.S. foreign policy and had gained their power through drug and arms deals and murder.
Judge Lawrence King dismissed the suit in 1989 and invoked a rule against “frivolous” law suits, which permitted him to assess the Christics’ for the defendants’ legal expenses—slightly more than $1 million. The defendants have consequently moved to receive an additional $250,000 for legal expenses which, with interest, will accrue to $400,000. The IRS may also be ready to end the Institute’s tax-exempt status, which would force the Institute to pay taxes on the millions of dollars of donations they receive annually.
Sara Nelson, the Christic’s executive director and wife to Christic president Daniel Sheehan, indicated that the Institute would not be able to pay the unexpected taxes and has begun to try to sell its Washington townhouse, computer, and office equipment. Clay Reiner, a lawyer for some of the defendants, expects to see the Christic Institute back in business under a new name if they formally fold. He believes their mailing list will enable them to “pump out another fundraising letter and rake in more dollars from the gullible.”
You know something is amiss when the keynote speaker at the Democratic convention invokes a nineteenth-century French sexist who believed a woman’s place is in the home.
On the opening night of the convention, former Texas Representative Barbara Jordan encouraged women to challenge the white male power structure in politics. To hammer her point home and end her speech with a flourish, she quoted Alexis de Tocqueville: “The source of the strength and prosperity of the American people is the superiority of their women.” This received hysterical cheers from Democratic delegates, the hard-core liberals of the party.
Yet, Tocqueville himself never encouraged women to enter politics or business. To him, the superiority of American women had nothing to do with how well they could compete with men in public life. His views on the nature of men and women actually run contrary to those of Barbara Jordan and other leaders of the women’s movement.
Traveling through America in the 1830s, the French aristocrat came to believe that American women were superior to European women because they never confused equality with being like men. They understood their separate and distinct spheres and relished the differences. In the same passage in Democracy in America from which Barbara Jordan quoted out of context, Tocqueville wrote approvingly that Americans believe that “improvement does not consist in making beings so dissimilar do pretty nearly the same things.”
Many American women would still agree. They do not think that devaluing the roles of wife and mother is an improvement. Nor is being expected or forced by economic circumstance to work outside the home “liberation.” As a group, women have voted for the GOP over the Democratic Party for the past three presidential elections, despite a Democratic platform that offered them new rights and prominence in political life. Walter Mondale failed miserably in 1988 as a presidential candidate, despite sharing his ticket with feminist Geraldine Ferraro. Then and now, the radical feminists who attend the Democratic convention do not represent the interests and desires of regular American wives, mothers, and daughters.
Impervious to the disdain of women like Hillary Clinton, many women stay at home with their children. And other mothers work because they have to, not because they want to challenge male “dominance” in society. With the government absorbing an increasing portion of the family income, many women are forced to work outside the home. Polls show that two-thirds of the mothers employed full time would prefer to work fewer hours in order to devote more time to family life. A 1988 USA Today poll shows that 73 percent of two-parent families would prefer to have one parent remain home full time to care for the children. Most Americans know the importance of mothers having enough time to spend with their children.
Tocqueville observed that American women have the intelligence and energy of men, yet they retain feminine refinement and happily fulfill their traditional roles in society. They have great confidence in their own separate nature and a love of their responsibilities. “In the United States it is not the practice for a guilty wife to clamor for the rights of women while she is trampling on her own holiest duties.”
Neither did Tocqueville think that American women needed to be empowered. Indeed, he was well aware of the extraordinary influence they have over men. He even appreciated their great virtue in not taking advantage of men’s vulnerability in submitting to the “despotic sway” of women—unlike European ladies he thought more calculating—to the detriment of both sexes. He appreciated the natural power women have over men, unlike feminists who often seem oblivious to it.
At the Democratic convention, Barbara Jordan set out to do much more than express support for male presidential candidate Bill Clinton. Indeed, she didn’t even bother to mention his name. She was apparently more interested in the “overdue change” in the number of “women challenging the councils of political power dominated by white-male policy makers…. What we see today is simply a dress rehearsal for the day and time we meet in convention to nominate… Madame President.”
Perhaps Bill Clinton was under the “despotic sway” of Barbara Jordan and another woman near to his heart. The day after Jordan’s speech Clinton avowed that America needs a “new gender of leadership.” He said he didn’t mind riding on the coattails of Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and reminded the women that he is the “grandson of a working woman, the son of a single mother, the husband of a working wife who makes a lot more than I do.”
And what about the women who stayed home and tended to their families? Or the ones who wish they could? In the world of Barbara Jordan and Bill Clinton, they don’t matter.
Tocqueville would have found Clinton’s shmoozing to special interest no surprise. After all, he had predicted that attempting to make one sex identical to the other would produce “weak men and disorderly women.”
Gays and the Vatican
An office of the Vatican has recently called for Catholic Bishops to scrutinize gay rights legislation that may condone or encourage homosexual activity. The statement from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith essentially repeats a 1986 statement that called homosexuality “not a sin… but an inclination that must be seen as an objective disorder.” Of greatest concern to the Vatican is that “domestic partnership” laws may be used to grant homosexual couples the same rights and benefits of married persons.
The New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group (and the organization which released the Vatican’s statement to the press), calls the Church’s position an “embarrassment” because it specifies that sexual orientation can be taken into account in adoptions, placement of children in foster care, military service, and employment of teachers and athletic coaches.
Nuns on the Run
The Vatican has given canonical approval to the new Council of Major Religious Superiors of Women in the United States, an organization of nuns wishing to maintain traditional religious life. By this action, the Vatican has given strong support to women who wish to preserve traditions of the faith that more liberal groups have called into question. For example, some orders have relaxed dress requirements and have even allowed nuns to take pro-choice views on abortion.
Not surprisingly, the Church’s decision has met with opposition from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which has said that the separate council “will open old wounds” and will hurt the “diversity” of opinions that currently exist under the umbrella of the LCWR. Nevertheless, with the endorsement of Pope John Paul II, the new council will include 84 religious orders totaling 10,000 sisters, and more are expected to join.
The presidential commission investigating the prospect of women in combat is finally beginning to draw a bit of hostile fire. While the very existence of such a commission would have seemed ludicrous to saner generations of Americans, the radical feminist agenda of our day has left very little outside the realm of credibility. This particular feminist stratagem, however, defies the standards of reason and decency on so many levels that it could never be embraced by a thinking citizenry, even if a politically-pressured commission comes out in its favor this November.
The simplest and most obvious argument against assigning women to combat duty appeals to efficiency: men are better at killing than women, and killing the enemy is the function of the armed forces. Despite feminist arguments to the contrary, men remain physically and psychologically better prepared for the rigors of combat. Proof of this may be found in the statistics surrounding the military’s “gender-norming” of physical fitness standards, a practice which frequently reduces the physical requirements demanded of women to less than half that of their male counterparts. Gulf War reports support this point: female soldiers proved “non-deployable”—unfit even for “non-combat” roles—at rates three to four times that of males.
If such statistical evidence fails to convince, one need only look to the example of Israel, which once worked arduously to develop an army in which women would fight alongside men. Yet in the first few days of the 1948 war, the presence of women on the front lines resulted in such inefficiency and high casualties that all females were immediately removed from combat—permanently. Israeli military historian Dr. Martin Van Creveld explains, “When war breaks out, the first thing the IDF does is take all women out of the combat zone…. The whole point of having women [at all] in the IDF is to free men for combat.” This holds true for Israeli ground and air forces alike, and today the Israeli Air Force, one of the most efficient in the world, has no female combat pilots. Dr. Creveld also candidly comments of the presidential commission’s study of women in combat, “The very fact that this issue is being discussed… shows that you really don’t take the military seriously.” Israel, too, has feminists, he added, but “I am not aware of any of these groups demanding that women be put into combat because Israeli women know what combat is.”
There are also good reasons for excluding from combat even that scant number of women who could measure up physically. The presence of any females in a combat unit introduces an erotic element which is detrimental to the discipline and order essential to a unit’s survival. (This is the same reason homosexuals are banned from military service.) The Israeli experiment showed that men in combat will behave differently when women are present; for example, taking extreme risks to defend female soldiers. Studies of former rows similarly show that male soldiers experience severe demoralization from hearing women tortured and thus become more likely to cooperate with the enemy. The Pentagon takes this danger so seriously that it has already begun programs to desensitize men to the screams of women under torture. Finally, the proximity of women inhibits the male camaraderie that combat veterans insist provides the group cohesiveness essential in combat. Anyone who thinks men and women can serve together in close quarters on a disciplined, asexual basis need only consider the USS Acadia, which returned from Persian Gulf service with one in ten of its female crew members pregnant.
These practical considerations provide quite sufficient grounds for barring women from combat duty, but a deeper moral rationale underlies them, namely, the simple, but these days incendiary, belief that men and women are different and that because of this difference there exist roles appropriate to each. Among the male roles is that of protector, which naturally obligates men to the duty of combat. Such natural gender roles undergird our society and its vital institutions of marriage and family. Sending women into combat helps to break down this natural ordering that holds society together.
Indeed, this is precisely the feminist agenda. The feminist activists view the assignment of women into combat as a crucial step in dismantling cultural gender roles and moving closer to their goal of an androgynous society. And they are correct in their assumption that when women (including mothers) are sent to fight while men stay home, institutions such as marriage and the family, derived from natural sex roles, will not long stand.
What makes this feminist vision particularly perverse is not simply the ignoble end it pursues, but also its self-seeking and amoral attitude. Proponents of women in combat show no concern for what is best for the military, or for the country. They exhibit complete disregard for the women—wives and mothers included—who will be drafted and die in combat, or for the men whose lives will be lost due to the inefficiency of a sexually integrated military. Uninterested in what is morally appropriate, they have in mind only their own self-obsessed political and social agendas; Nietzsche himself would be impressed by this misologistic triumph of the will over reason.
Interestingly, the most vociferous advocates of a combat role for women are themselves well beyond draft age. In essence, they are demanding that others serve, fight, and die for the ultimate end of advancing the feminist chimera. This use of human beings as mere means to an end clearly violates any reasonable formulation of the moral law, and it is all the more corrupt when human lives are at stake.
Feminist activists seem to view the military as simply one more federal jobs program, aimed at providing opportunities and equality for all people. But the fundamental fact remains that the military is not a democracy; it exists to preserve democracy. It accomplishes this by placing combat efficiency and readiness as its ultimate priority. In asking the military to compromise its efficiency in combat, the feminists are asking the nation to compromise its security. For, as Phyllis Schlafly trenchantly observes, “there will be no ‘gender-norming’ in a real combat situation.”
It is a chilling prospect to follow the broader feminist agenda in this election year to its logical conclusion: a draft-dodging President Clinton ordering women into the same combat which he himself refused to face. One might question whether such a nation would even be worth fighting and dying to defend. Let us hope that this question remains purely rhetorical.