The Right Opinion

Obama Ignores Deadly Risks to Women in Combat

Gender radicalism's attack on the military claims another victory.

By Arnold Ahlert · Jan. 24, 2013

It didn’t take long for the Obama administration to advance a pernicious piece of its promised radical agenda. Two days after the president laid out his far-left vision during the inauguration, senior defense officials announced that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat. The move overturns a 1994 provision that prohibited them from being assigned to ground combat units. Panetta has given the various service branches until 2016 to come up with exemptions, and/or make any arguments about what roles should still reman closed to women. Thus, another bit of gender radicalism has been shoved down the nation’s throat through executive fiat – and this one is sure to have deadly consequences.

It is precisely those deadly consequences – especially for servicewomen – that are irrelevant to feminists and their enablers, who have long pushed the idea that men and women are essentially interchangeable. Nothing could be further from the truth, and combat is where those differences could produce deadly results. Ground combat is arguably the most physically grueling activity in which one can be engaged, and despite what the feminists would like Americans to believe about equality, science says otherwise: men have almost twice the upper-body strength as women.

This is a critically relevant consideration. According to a 2009 article in National Defense Magazine, a soldier on a three-day mission in Afghanistan carries approximately 130 pounds of gear, and efforts to lighten that load have not succeeded. This is primarily due to the reality that the essentials of food, water, and ammunition cannot be replaced with lighter items. Other equipment, such as sensors, tripods, cold weather clothing, boots, sleeping bags, flashlights, and protective eyewear, have all been made lighter. But the fact remains that the average soldier is expected to carry enormous amounts of weight, simply to better ensure his chances for survival. Furthermore, a soldier must carry that weight even during periods of intense fighting. The overwhelming majority of women are not capable of meeting such standards.

What is the Pentagon likely to do? In New York City, when most female applicants to the Fire Department were unable to meet the strength requirements, feminists filed a successful lawsuit, altering the standards so that a number of otherwise unqualified women could pass the test. Thus it is likely the Pentagon will pursue a similar strategy of “gender-norming” for the entire service that is already part of the Army Physical Fitness Test. That test requires proficiency in push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run. For sit-ups both genders have the same requirements. For push-ups and the run, the grading scale for women is easier.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, illuminates the folly of pursuing such double standards. “Revised ‘warrior training’ programs sound impressive, but gender-normed standards emasculate the concept by assuring ‘success’ for average female trainees,” she wrote in 2005, when the Army began a surreptitious program of putting women in smaller, direct ground-combat units. Donnelly then added the critically proper perspective to the mix. “Soldiers know that there is no gender-norming on the battlefield,” she explains.

There is also nothing that will eliminate the natural differences between men and women that play out in a number of other ways. Few things are more important for enduring the rigors of combat than morale and combat unit cohesion. It is ludicrous to believe that mixed units will be immune to the potentially de-stabilizing effects of sexual attraction. And as night follows day, sexual attraction leads to pregnancy. In 2009, Major General Anthony Cucolo, running military operations in Northern Iraq, was forced to deal with the serious downside of that reality. As a result, he initiated a policy under which troops who got pregnant – and the men who got them pregnant – faced a court martial and  possible jail time. Cucolo issued the directive because he was losing too many women with critical skills. “I’ve got a mission to do, I’m given a finite number of soldiers with which to do it and I need every one of them,” he contended.

Yet consensual sex is only part of the problem. A military report released in January 2012 revealed a stunning 64 percent increase in violent sex crimes within the U.S. Army since 2006. The most frequent sex crimes for 2011 included “rape, sexual assault, and forcible sodomy.” The report further noted that while only 14 percent of the Army is comprised of women, they represent 95 percent of all sex crime victims.

It stretches the bounds of credulity to believe that sexual tension, regardless of the legitimate or illegitimate motivation behind it, would be lessened under front line, life-threatening combat conditions. Nor is it inconceivable to think that close personal relationships of a sexual nature would make some soldiers take the kind of unnecessary risks to save a lover that might not only endanger themselves, but their entire unit.

There is another reality that feminists and their enablers fail to acknowledge. As it currently stands, there is little appetite demonstrated by women themselves for serving in combat units. Army Research Institute (ARI) surveys taken from 1993-2001 revealed that the majority of military women were strongly opposed to combat assignments – so much so that the ARI dropped the question from its survey the following year. Less than a month ago, a Huffington Post article regarding interviews with “a dozen female soldiers and Marines" revealed that they had "little interest in the toughest fighting jobs,” contending “they’d be unable to do them.” When the Marines asked women to go through their infantry training course last year, only two women volunteered. Both of them failed to get through it. No one volunteered for the next one. Army Sgt. Cherry Sweat, who did a tour in Iraq installing communications equipment, reveals a sentiment that most military women apparently share. “The job I want to do in the military does not include combat arms,” she said. “I enjoy supporting the soldiers. The choice to join combat arms should be a personal decision, not a required one,” she added.

Lory Manning of Women’s Research and Education Institute thinks women’s interest in assuming combat roles will be higher than anticipated. “If you asked someone in 1985 about going to sea, she would have been thinking: `Girls don’t do that and so I don’t want to do that,‘” Manning contended. “But when push came to shove, they did it, they loved it." That is a ridiculous comparison. Going to sea is hardly the same as front-line combat. Moreover, when "push comes to shove,” it is highly doubtful that there is more than a microscopic number of soldiers who “love” being in the mortal danger that combat engenders.

Unfortunately, such realities are no match for those who champion diversity. Putting women in combat units “reflects the reality of 21st century military operations," said Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), in announcing his support for the program. No doubt he and others see it as the next logical step following last year’s announcement, opening 14,000 combat-related positions to female soldiers. At that time, the Pentagon still insisted on keeping women out of direct combat roles, even as they noted they were committed to lifting such barriers eventually. At the time, they claimed that making such sweeping changes would be difficult in time of war. Another factor was the lifting of the "don’t ask, don’t tell” policy allowing gays to serve openly. Allowing women to serve on the front lines at the same time was considered one big social change too many.

No longer. The new policy expands the number of military jobs available to women from last year’s 14,000 to more than 230,000 positions. Part of the impetus for the change may have been two lawsuits filed last year challenging the combat ban, but according to a senior military official familiar with the discussions by the Joint Chiefs, the ultimate conclusion was that this is the time to “maximize women’s service in the military.”

Writing for the Washington Post three days ago, Elaine Donnelly reiterated her position that putting women in combat is a terrible idea, presciently noting that “even the if the results of the Marines’ research do not support unrealistic theories of feminists who consider land combat to be just another career opportunity, administration officials might press their egalitarian agenda anyway.” She further noted that the “Pentagon-endorsed Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) has called for an end to women’s land combat exemptions, based on a new definition of ‘diversity.’”

That egalitarian agenda, like so many other progressive agendas, may produce an unintended consequence. The 1981 Rostker v. Goldberg Supreme Court case exempted women from being part of the nation’s Selective Service System. America no longer drafts civilians into the military, but as Donnelly notes, the elimination of such combat exemptions will involve civilian women registering with Selective Service. She then makes a recommendation, not only anathema to the Obama administration, but one that only three days later was ultimately ignored. “Congress, which represents the American people, should not be shut out of this decision-making process,” she wrote. If the draft is re-instated, one wonders how the American public will take to having their daughters every bit as vulnerable as their sons to forcible conscription. A rising tide of Islamist terror in the Middle East and now in Africa could provide the answer.

Once again, elections have consequences. Barack Obama has made it clear that part of his progressive agenda includes forcing gender radicalism down America’s throat, absent any input from Congress. Once, the United States military was all about projecting lethal power around the globe to protect America’s interests. Now, it is all about promoting diversity, inclusion and equality of outcome, irrespective of military readiness and cohesion. For progressives, who have elevated political correctness above all else – national security included – such radical egalitarianism is cause for celebration. For Donnelly and countless other Americans, it is anything but. “No one’s injured son should have to die on the streets of a future Fallujah because the only soldier near enough to carry him to safety was a five-foot-two 110-pound woman,” she contends.

Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.