Ray Smith served our country admirably in the Vietnam War where he earned the Silver Star for his actions in the Tet Offensive and a Navy Cross during the 1972 Easter Offensive. He deservedly reached the rank of a two-star general and in 1998 he had an interview with then-Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton, for his third star.
Before he entered the room, he was given some advice by a good friend. “They are going to ask you a series of questions,” he said, “but there is one question which, depending on the way you answer, will make or break your career.” That question had to do with women in the military.
Gen. Smith subsequently entered the room and, as if scripted, the Secretary of the Navy asked a series of “innocuous questions he read from a clipboard.” He then put down his prepared text and asked the question: “Gen. Smith, what is your personal opinion about the direction we are all going with regard to women in the military?”1 Gen. Smith, known for his outspokenness, did not mince words.
“Mr. Secretary,” he said, “I come from a large family. I have four sisters [and] my sisters are capable of fighting as I am. But I sure don’t want them to. I don’t believe the most powerful nation on earth should want to send its women to war. In my honest opinion,” he concluded, “only losers send their women to war – countries in such desperate situations that they have to send their women.”2
It was a very psychological argument, which could very easily have been followed up with, “What next, Mr. Secretary, our children?”
This interview took place at a time when there was still some notion of chivalry in which true manliness meant defending the gentler sex and keeping them out of harm’s way. Those days are long gone. Society has suffered a very subtle, unperceived, ideological transformation. People now think it completely normal for women in the military to train alongside men.
We are now suffering the consequences.
Pentagon Report 20,500 Sexual Assaults
A May 2019 Pentagon Task Force Report estimates that “20,500 service members across the military branches—about 13,000 women and 7,500 men—were sexually assaulted in the 2018 fiscal year.”3 The Marine Corps alone saw a 20% increase since the last report in 2016, which was the highest increase among all the services.”4
During an NPR interview, the current Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, said it best: “We cannot truly be loyal to our nation without first being loyal to each other.”5 To be loyal to each other means that leaders provide an environment that not only assists individuals to achieve their greatest potential, but also removing obstacles to those goals. It means a return to good order and conduct, which used to be a hallmark of our military.
When this loyalty is gone, we should not be surprised with misconduct. On the contrary, we should even expect it to be much worse than what is reported. Thus, Gen. Neller believes that such disgraceful behavior is “underreported” and proffers that “the numbers are going up.”
“I would have thought,” he concluded, “after talking about this for the last five or six years we would have seen a decline in the behavior.”6
Perhaps the problem stems from the way the issue has been debated. Besides the psychological argument, like that of Gen. Smith, there is the often touted “equality argument,” which affirms that a woman can do anything a man can do. However, the argument one never hears is the one based on human nature.
Common-Sense Argument: Human Nature
This “common-sense argument” is centered around the undeniable fact that men and women have a mutual attraction for one another. This shows the wisdom of the Creator. If not for this natural attraction, the human race would go extinct.
After the fall of our first parents, this became exponentially complicated and all children of Adam share the consequences in the form of disordered passions. Human nature was weakened and led to the tendency to abuse the procreative act and practice it exclusively for pleasure (even in unnatural ways) while ignoring its primary end, the propagation of the species.
In light of these disordered passions, mixing young men and women—as is now done in the military—is not a good idea. These young people are in the prime of their life with all the accompanying hormonal changes in a stressful environment.
When homosexuals, lesbians and transgenders are included, this festival of disordered passions is a recipe for disaster. We should not be surprised with the scandalous cases of sexual assault, promiscuity, and the underreported cases of the family-shattering sins of adultery within our Armed Forces.
Some might counter-argue that all those involved need to practice self control. Such a simplification denies both the above mentioned common-sense argument and a very important rule of spiritual combat.
The Forgotten “Occasions of Sin”
One basic principle for combat is to avoid engaging a stronger enemy. This is because the likelihood of being killed grows in proportion to the strength of the adversary. Thus a wise commander would never think about sending his men into avoidable situations in which they were more likely to be killed.
The spiritual battle is the same. That is why the Church teaches us to avoid “near occasions of sin.” This means we should not go where we will be tempted beyond our means to resist. Thus a man with a gambling problem must avoid a casino, while an alcoholic is wise to steer clear of a bar.
This caution is especially needed in the case of safeguarding purity. Those who want to be pure must avoid situations that are realistically beyond their strength. These are called “near occasions of sin” because the individual runs a much higher risk of falling. Thus, just telling young people to control their bad inclinations is not enough. They must avoid situations of risk and close contact that puts them at risk of spiritual death.
Today it Is Voluntary, Tomorrow it Will Be Obligatory
Those reading this article might be inclined to point out the apparent futility of even discussing the negative aspects of a mixed-sex military. We can almost hear them saying that the train has already left the station, and there is no turning back.
This is a defeatist perspective since bad decisions can be reversed. More importantly, it fails to consider what the next stop will be on this “train’s” path: Today a woman serving in the military is voluntary, tomorrow it will be obligatory. Indeed, there is already talk about the unconstitutionality of a future draft that would exclude women.7
Feminists will not have a problem with this mandatory draft, but what about the woman who just wants to be a lady? Pardon the personal example, but I can’t help thinking about my beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed niece. She is a picture of femininity and modesty. She wants to be a wife and mother one day. She simply has no aspirations to be a GI-Jane, and she certainly does not want to be thrown into the manly profession of arms alongside virile young men, lesbians, homosexuals and transgenders.
To even think about forcing any young lady into such a situation is simply shameful. One wonders why those promoting such ideas do not blush when doing so.
What is lacking today are men like Gen. Ray Smith who, as Gen. Patton once said, “Say what they think,” and are willing to sacrifice a much deserved promotion in rank to do so. What is lacking is basic common sense. What is lacking is the chivalric spirit that defends the honor of a lady.
- Charles Jones, The Boys of 67, (Mechanicsburg, Penn.: Stackpole Books, 2006) p. 357.
- Tom Bowman, “The Marines’ Top General Talks About A Changing Corps,” NPR, June 4, 2019.