Remembrance Day: Teenagers and War

PoppyEarlier this year, Lieutenants Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate from the US Army’s Ranger School. Not surprisingly, this prompted a lot of talk about women in combat. Retired US Admiral Eric Olson’s remarks were widely quoted:

I think that we need to ask ourselves as a society if we are willing to put women in front-line combat units to take the first bullet on target. Are we willing to cause every 18-year-old girl to sign up for selective service? Are we willing to cause women to serve in infantry units against their will as we do men?

Today is Remembrance Day in the UK. I think it’s an excellent time to consider Admiral Olson’s points. Personally, I believe that he is mistaken to focus on the gender of the person being asked to take a bullet. I believe the question should be “Are we too willing to send teenagers to war?” Even that is something of a euphemism, hiding the true question. War means death. When a country decides to go to war, it decides that a cause is so important that people should die for that cause. Some of those people will be teenagers. So, what we should be asking is, “Are we too willing to send teenagers to die?” In many cases, I think the answer is yes, and that is the problem.

We should not be so eager to send young people to die.