It isn’t clear which attractions Boykin is worried about: the men’s interest in the women, or the women’s interest in the men. But a survey just released by the Department of Veterans Affairs finds that 49 percent of women who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or nearby countries say they were sexually harassed there, and 23 percent of women say they were sexually assaulted. It’s pretty obvious whose behavior is the problem. So the complaint about “attractions” and “sexual tensions” is basically an argument that women have to be kept away because men can’t control themselves.
5. Integrating women will make it harder to segregate them. “This decision to integrate the genders in these units places additional and unnecessary burdens on leaders at all levels,” Boykin warned in a Family Research Council statement. “While their focus must remain on winning the battles and protecting their troops, they will now have the distraction of having to provide some separation of the genders during fast moving and deadly situations.”
Is Boykin suggesting that troops will die because somebody hung a blanket in front of a defecating soldier? If he’s simply pointing out that integration makes segregation more difficult, that’s obviously true. It’s true not just in combat but throughout the military. It’s true for female cops and firefighters, too. How far does he want to roll things back?
6. Women will require lower standards. “If current physical standards are maintained, few women will be able to meet them, and there will be demands that they be lowered,” Boykin predicted in USA Today. OK, you can believe that if you want to. But here’s what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said when he rescinded the combat ban: “If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job—and let me be clear, I'm not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job—if they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation.”
7. Women won’t be protected from combat. In his CNN article, Boykin wrote:
I worry about the women who are currently in the military. They have to know that the lines keeping them from infantry and Special Forces battalions will get blurrier and blurrier. What protections will they have against being thrown into front-line infantry units as organizational dividers soften and expectations change? Very little protection, I am afraid. Will they leave the military? This policy change may have the ironic effect of forcing women to reconsider their place in the armed services. If true, that would be tragic.
You can almost feel the general’s tears of sorrow. Women who have voluntarily joined the armed forces—that would be 100 percent of them—might run away, tragically, if their unofficial exposure to mortal risk, unshowered men, and outdoor urination becomes official.
8. Women might be drafted. “I certainly don't want my daughters registering for the draft,” Boykin said on Fox News Sunday. “And I'd like for them to have more of a choice than a man would have in a national crisis.” That crisis might take a while: It’s been 40 years since anyone in this country was drafted. But the important thing is to protect your freedom of choice, by denying that freedom to women who want to serve in combat.
Why are Boykin’s arguments so weak, overwrought, and confused? Because his case is collapsing, and he knows it. “Women are in combat, and women need to be given opportunities to serve in other combat roles,” he conceded to Wallace. “I am no longer against that.” Boykin thinks the honorable course now is to fall back and defend the combat ban for infantry and Special Forces. He’s wrong. It’s a bad war, General. Stop fighting it.
William Saletan's latest short takes on the news, via Twitter: