There appears to be a growing gap in understanding between civilian society and the U.S. military. If there is such a gap, does it mandate a reduced role for women?
There is considerable discussion about a "gap" between civilian society and the military. There is certainly a gap in understanding between civilians and the American military, but it is more natural and less frightening than some commentators claim. 1 There always has been such a gap, even in wartime, and it always has grown wider in periods of peace. 2 It exists because the military has a unique role, which is often misunderstood, sometimes feared, and regularly questioned by civilians. It also exists because some in the military isolate themselves from the society they are sworn to protect. The gap creates problems, but those problems do not justify either a diminution of civilian control or a reduced role for women, as some have maintained.
American history—and the Constitution itself—shows that this country never has been comfortable with a truly professional military, as opposed to citizen soldiers who serve only in time of need. 3 The gap exists today because today's military, volunteers all, have chosen a vocation with a unique mission: to prepare for and fight the nation's wars. This mission may result in a lack of civilian understanding of and interest in the military, and also in disdain by some of the military for what are said to be the looser, more "modern" values of civilian society. For instance, commentator John Hillen, a former U.S. Army officer, describes the values of today's America as "narcissistic, morally relativist, self-indulgent, hedonistic, consumerist, individualistic, victim-centered, nihilistic, and soft." 4
It is often said that if the gap becomes too wide, Congressmen without experience in military affairs may fail to support adequate military budgets or alternatively may fail to exert the oversight required by the Constitution. Or the military, because of disrespect for the Executive Branch—and in particular the Commander-in-Chief—may fail to obey lawful orders. Long before that happens, the military establishment's loyalty to civilian leadership may begin to disappear, and uniformed leadership may openly question national policy when they disagree with it. Or there could be an increasing use of the armed forces for domestic purposes until the military becomes convinced that the preservation of domestic order and American values as they define them is part of its mission. Militarism would result. 5