Sunday, May 30, 2010

On Memorial Day, columnists consider the role of women in combat, and their sacrifices

Robert McCartney has an interesting column in the Washington Post Metro section Sunday May 30, “An equal opportunity to sacrifice: Women have equal opportunity to serve in the military – and to sacrifice their lives”, link here.

The column is timely because of recent events, such as upcoming accommodation of females on submarines, as well as, at least tangentially, the move to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” for gays in the military.

It also calls to mind the history of conscription, before 1973, which applied only to males. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of male-only conscription on 1981 in Rostker v. Goldberg (American University Law School copy of opinion here ).

The idea of equal exposure of women to the risks in combat challenges our ideas about individualism (and modern experiences with self-sufficiency) when compared to moral arguments about the essential nature of human socialization, including that by gender, for roles in the family. These latter arguments force human citizens to accept the idea that in some situations the welfare of the group is more important than that of an individual, or else a sustainable democracy could not be possible. That is certainly counter-libertarian.

On CBS "60 Minutes" on May 30, 2010 Andy Rooney sounded a bit cyncical as he said that our honoring of fallen veterans this weekend is a bit hollow; their lives were taken.  It's only that by accepting the idea that sometimes the group comes first that the pain of an otherwise potentially shameful notion of sacrifice is averted.

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