The genderless society is just around the corner. Eager to oblige, the Pentagon has ordered a series of “reforms” that will admit women to some 4,000 military positions previously reserved to men. The only restriction remaining is the congressionally mandated ban on women in direct combat, and even that barrier is increasingly porous (“we will now go as far as we can within these legislative constraints,” says the head of the task force that recommended the most recent changes). Women are now to serve as Marine security guards at U.S. embassies, aboard Air Force reconnaissance craft and Navy ammunition ships, and in Army forward support battalions. Polls, meanwhile, show growing numbers of Americans favoring an expansion of the female role in the military, even into combat.

What is left out of this social policy is, of course, the mission of the military—which has something to do with defending the nation and its interests. That mission is seriously complicated when a large number of soldiers cannot perform the most routine tasks. Most Army jobs require lifting at least 65-85 pounds, and many require lifting over 100 pounds. While only 3 percent of women can lift “very heavy” weights (as opposed to 80 percent of men), the Army has assigned 42 percent of its women to jobs requiring just that. The average female soldier cannot lob a grenade far enough or carry a light machine gun at length or drag a soldier from a burning helicopter or even do the push-ups and chin-ups that are the stuff of basic training.

More important are the effects on morale. The presence of women does not, to say the least, enhance discipline. Men resent taking orders from women. In combat, men tend to disregard unit goals in order to protect women. And, of course, men compete for women. As Michael Levin noted: “Conventional military wisdom takes male-female bonding to be a disruptive matter of chemistry, against which regulations are powerless. If so, there is nothing to be done about sexual fraternization beyond eliminating the conditions of its occurrence.” But such notions are for those who think the military’s purpose is to fight; today’s military is more concerned with currying favor among the enlightened classes. The Pentagon has just launched a new campaign—but not against the Russians. “Sexual harassment” is the enemy, and our chief weapon is “sensitivity training courses.”

Until a year ago, the principal opponent of women in the service was novelist and Veterans Affairs Director James Webb. After his appointment as Secretary of the Navy, Webb kept silent about the feminization of our armed forces, apparently in the hope that he could do some good. But the same Frank Carlucei who, as Secretary of Defense, was busy putting women in near-combat situations, was also bent on emasculating the U.S. Navy. Resigning in anger and disgust, Webb was almost the last man to leave a senior post in the administration. (Mr. Meese is still, technically speaking, the Attorney General.)

If the feminization of the service raises questions about our ability to defend the country, the number of Americans who favor women in combat raises the question of whether the country is worth defending. The shortage of articulate opponents of feminism has left many people unable to respond to the most outrageous assertions when couched in egalitarian terms. But there remains an intuitive unease which may yet be tapped. One Lt. Lorrie Hayward tells Time magazine that “the American people are simply not ready for women coming home in body bags,” implying that some day, inevitably, we will be “ready.” If we would prevent that day from coming, we must begin by repudiating the notion that obliterating sexual distinctions is “progress.”