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By Lieutenant General Gregory S. Newbold, USMC (Retired)
Spoiler Alert. While the issue of women serving in the infantry of our Armed Forces is still officially open to review, the fix is already in and the issue has been decided. The outcome is revealed below, but first some background…
In 2012, Leon Panetta (who served only nineteen months as the Secretary of Defense), announced just before his departure that all military occupations – including those which involve direct ground combat – would be open to women, thereby reversing not only 240 years of U.S. policy, but the lessons derived from thousands of years of warfare.
Importantly, but almost as an afterthought, Secretary Panetta offered a caveat -- “If we find that the assignment of women in a specific position or occupation is in conflict with our stated principles, we will request an exception to policy.” The stated principles included, “Ensuring the success of our Nation’s warfighting forces by preserving unit readiness, cohesion, and morale.” The tone of the edict, though, was clearly opposed to this option, and the burden of high proof placed on those whose long experience might suggest another outcome.
A matter of such consequence to the security of our country deserves more engagement than by a single political appointee, even if endorsed by a President. In fact, the Constitution of the United States (in Article I, Section 8), stipulates that it is the legislative branch that shall have the power, “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces.” This latter body, though (other than some whose shrill voices belies their lack of military experience), has been notably quiescent and has deferred to the judgment of this longtime politician and transitory occupant of the Defense Department.
The American people -- largely informed by Hollywood fantasy and outlets biased in favor of Panetta’s measure -- are perhaps tone deaf, because they have been deceived by clever re-crafting of the issue. To them, the issue has long been resolved because, “Aren’t women already in combat?” (Yes, and performing very well, but the issue is women in the infantry. Think “hand-to-hand combat,” and you’ll have a better title). And, “If they can meet the physical standards, why not?” (Physical requirements are well less than half of the important ingredients in the fighting power of a unit. Fighting spirit is far greater in importance, and cohesion sapping sexual dynamics will be compounded exponentially in the remote and incredibly harsh environments of the infantry. If Ivy League campuses can’t control these dynamics, how it can it be less so in the most primitive of human conditions?). Or, “Warfare has changed, and it’s largely technology that will determine how we fight” (A statement repeated since the time of chariots, and refuted emphatically through today’s conflicts). And, finally, “Other countries are already doing it, aren’t they?” (Grossly exaggerated and not relevant to a nation with global commitments. Beyond the hyperbole of these claims, they also don’t accommodate the emerging insistence by the issue’s champions that “fairness” [an odd word when applied to infantry combat] requires that integrated units must contain at least 20% women.) Marketing wins over truth, and volume over logic.
Think of this. While the American public would rise in outrage and incredulity if the government were to require the NFL to lower standards to force inclusion of women to 25% of their favorite team, they sleep through an issue whose outcome will have such grave influence on our national security.
The clock for seeking theoretical exemptions is ticking down, and while the two services most relevant to this issue faithfully test for quantifiable evidence of the impact of inclusion, the fix is already in. The fix is in, because the decision has nothing to do with the readiness of the Armed Forces, but is solely about politics. And politics on this issue is intimidated by those with the loudest voices and least experience or measured by those who count votes over principle and national security. Pogo was right…“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Kid again: If you're not convinced, read this short take by Ryan Smith - The Reality That Awaits Women in Combat from the WSJ
In case the article disappears, here it is.
Women in military - Yes, Infantry? No.