Mar. 7, 2014

The Wrong Way to Address Sexual Assault in the Military

Senate bill to remove the chain of command fails, but damage has been done.

As if the proposed Pentagon budget cuts announced last week weren’t enough, the Left continues to chip away at the foundations of one of our nation’s last bastions of exceptionalism. After latching on to a widely publicized – but highly suspect – study last spring, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been working to remove military commanders from the decision-making process in cases involving allegations of sexual assault.

Citing deeply flawed statistics and employing the standard Democrat tactic of using victims as props, Gillibrand’s proposed legislation questions all commanders’ integrity and their ability to maintain good order and discipline within their formations. While her overt purpose may be to “level the playing field” and seek justice for victims, the net result and likely real purpose is to continue to tear down the institution whose meritocracy and character are anathema to modern liberalism.

She argues, “[T]he reason why I want to take the decision-making out of the chain of command is because we need to hold these commanders responsible.” Military leaders, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, strongly oppose her legislation and point out the gaping hole in her “logic.” Hagel warns, “[I]f you disconnect the commanders … then you [are] taking away a certain responsibility of that commander on not only knowing what’s going on in his or her command, but actually having some responsibility. I don’t want to do that. I want more responsibility put on our commanders, not less.”

Gillibrand’s bill failed Thursday – the Senate instead prepared to vote Monday on Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill’s alternative that would keep the command chain intact – but her politicization of military justice is already being used against one of those she presumably seeks to protect. In a high-profile case at Fort Bragg, Brig. Gen. Jeffery Sinclair, a former Deputy Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, faces a number of charges related to an affair with a female subordinate. A significant part of his defense will be that Army senior leaders overreacted and over-charged out of fear they would be accused by Gillibrand’s cronies of being weak on sexual assault.

Given the attention Gillibrand’s crusade has received and the way she has brought commanders’ integrity and impartiality into question, it’s not hard to envision Sinclair’s defense attorney arguing – convincingly – that military leaders are spineless sycophants incapable of impartially executing their duties. The fact that the lead prosecutor resigned shortly before the trial began, citing “politics and outside pressures,” will reinforce that perception. In short, when you attempt to manipulate the justice system to achieve a desired outcome, it’s highly likely that the law of unintended consequences will ultimately punish those you sought to protect while offering a survival line for the truly guilty.

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