Women At War

By: Lessa Leigh

What are the justifiable, morally correct reasons to go to war? Aside from defending one’s country from grave and imminent threats or responding to an attack upon one’s soil, war isn’t a moral good. It’s costly by every possible metric, whether you measure loss of life, damage to the environment, diversion of capital from civilian programs to aid the war effort, or actual outcomes. Someone will lose. Someone will win, though most victories are Pyrrhic. In short, though the history of humanity is one long ode to the lures of battle, we have very little to show for our bellicose tendencies.

Who chooses to go to war? Almost always, it is the men in charge. Aside from the morally acceptable reasons mentioned above, the justifications for war are often selfish, though couched in terms that appeal to the masses. Patriotism, religious fervor, land or resource expansions, and pure hatred are all government excuses for state-sponsored militancy. Political careers for men are made at the tip of a sword. Patriarchal structures value strength and competition and dominance over diplomacy, collaboration, and equality. Women are left sending their fathers, brothers, lovers, and sons off for the honor of killing in their country’s name while still lamenting the losses of those same loved ones. The matriarchal voice rises in anguish or falls in relief, not jubilation.

Let’s dispel the tired notion that women are incapable of combat. There is a rich record, both historical and current, of women fighting valorously and successfully in wars. It’s well known that women are better at shooting rifles than men. Once militarized, women are dangerous, fierce, and deadly. As Margaret Mead famously said, “I do not believe in using women in combat because females are too fierce,” and if you look at the animal kingdom, certainly the deadliest hunters are the females. Women are a military force all to ourselves, yet we usually only take up arms as a defensive last resort. It’s an action often borne from necessity. We’re the rebels, the militants, the revolutionaries, the protectors more than the instigators, the greedy, the war-mongers. We’re known as the peacemakers, and diplomacy is scoffed at in military circles because it’s considered soft. The implication being that diplomacy is women’s work, and it’s better to leave the fighting to the men.

If we women don’t want to be complicit in our military industrial complex and the horrors it wreaks through the world, we must act. Whether we divest, strike, protest, or build strength through independent political action, we can no longer sit on the sidelines and hope for better. Our world and our future depend on us.

This on-going war that the United States has had with various oil-producing countries in the Middle East has me thinking about what our country hasn’t accomplished in fourteen years of near-constant “nation-building” and military “actions.” We haven’t achieved peace or anything close to it. In fact, we’ve destabilized a region to the point where civilians are caught in the cross-hairs between rebel groups, terrorist insurgents, state armies, and our shiny, patriotic military. Nothing says “love” like bombing women, children, and non-combatant men just to score popularity points at home, and if it’s a drone strike, we can all pretend that no-one really had a physical hand in the death and destruction.

Yet, here we are again, with President Trump wallowing into Syria with all the precision of a rhinoceros. He did warn the Russians of his air strike first, which would be nice, if Russia weren’t still considered a diplomatic enemy of the state. As of right this instant, there doesn’t appear to be any more noise about getting involved in Syria, but who is to know for certain? I left for my book club at 7pm on Thursday and there was no inkling that our country was going to act. By 9:30pm, we were getting texts from our husbands about Tomahawk missiles hitting an airfield. By Saturday, everyone seemed to have forgotten all about the incident, though it did serve the purpose of distracting us from the House investigation into the Trump Administration’s ties with Russia.

I’d also argue that whether we had President Trump or President Clinton, we would be in the same mess regardless. A President Clinton might have been more measured and seemingly diplomatic in her approach, but there’s little doubt that she would have taken military action against Syria. In fact, she encouraged Trump to act. Her hawkishness is not a surprise, but coming from Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, we all have to wonder where his mercurial gut instincts will lead us next.

Nothing I’m saying here is radical, yet it needs to be said and repeated until everyone, even those who view the world through the most stars and stripes lenses, understands that we are reaping what we sow. We can’t terrorize an entire region in the name of peace and safety and then expect everyone to applaud us. There have been no military actions that we’ve taken since WWII that have been morally justifiable, but that hasn’t stopped us. At some point, forgiveness for our various geopolitical sins will wear thin, and we’ll see what our media calls terrorism here in the US. Quite frankly, we have our own terrorists under the guise of white nationalists and Christian Dominionists, but very few people are willing to stand up and actively denounce what is right in front of us when they can instead point their trigger fingers over toward the distance.

I am tired. My children are ten and eight. Their entire lives, we’ve been bombing the Middle East. We’ve achieved nothing good, aside from finally killing Osama bin Laden, who wasn’t entirely wrong about the United States as an evil empire. Our actions, carried out under the guise of “keeping us safe”, have done nothing except make us less safe, less secure, more at risk from terrorists. Think about it: If your home and family are destroyed, who are you going to blame; your government or the entity who ruined your life?

I will not be complicit in killing innocent people. None of us should be. Stand up and say, “Enough.”

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