Women will be allowed to serve in frontline combat roles after the Gillard government ordered the Australian Defence Force to bring forward the removal of bans that have stopped women from applying for the most dangerous and demanding military jobs.
Given that liberalism is the state ideology this is not an unexpected development. According to liberalism, we are human because we are self determining. We do not determine our own sex; therefore, our sex must be made not to matter when it comes to life choices.
So, if you accept liberal first principles, the decision to allow women to serve in combat will seem moral and just. It will be thought sexist and discriminatory to maintain the combat ban.
The liberal position was described well enough in an editorial in the Brisbane Courier Mail some years ago. The editorialist considered a number of objections to women serving in combat roles but concluded:
Yet all of these objections, however practical and well-meaning, represent a denial of the right of women to choose for themselves what roles they will fill in time of war.
The highest good, according to the editorialist, is that women self-determine their own role in life. So much so, that he thinks it progressive and liberating for women to be exposed to combat:
Yes, this issue might well appear to some to be a case of social engineering gone crazily immoral, but the irrefutable fact is that society has changed since the dark days of WWII.
Women have chosen to throw off the limitations imposed on them, even those limitations intended for their own protection.
It isn't difficult to predict where the state ideology will take society. But for those of us who don't see autonomy as the sole, overriding good in society, the decision to put women into combat will appear to be wrong in principle.
Why? Those who oppose women in combat often limit themselves to practical objections. They argue that women don't have the physical strength for combat roles, or that the presence of women will disrupt male esprit de corps, or that the protective instincts of men means that men will interrupt their combat missions to help wounded female soldiers.
These are all good arguments. We should, however, be arguing at the level of principle. Why do we really think it wrong for women to serve in combat? Isn't it because we perceive that women embody an important feminine principle in life, one that is oriented to the nurturing of new life, which is physically more vulnerable, and ideally gentler?
Training women to kill in combat and placing them on the front line in wartime denies the feminine principle as a significant good in life. It sends the message that men and women are essentially interchangeable. Which means too that it will be more difficult for young men to look on military life as a distinctly masculine service to society.
If you think that manhood and womanhood are meaningful to human life, and that men and women are created to live in a complementary relationship with each other, then you are likely to be dismayed by the decision to place women in combat roles.