"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." - George Washington
Friday, January 25, 2013
By RALPH PETERS
Last Updated:10:57 PM, January 24, 2013
Posted:10:11 PM, January 24, 2013
Listen up, men at arms: Stop whining. You sound like a bunch of girls.
Our military is not going to collapse because more combat-related jobs will be opened to women. I’ve heard instant griping from old vets and talk-show pundits since this story broke, but the fact is that the gals with guns are already in the fight to a far greater extent than yesteryear’s rules foresaw. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s decision largely recognizes existing reality.
Anyway, it’s going to happen, like it or not.
So those of us who care about our military and its combat effectiveness need to stop wailing and start working to make sure the admission of women to more combat-focused military specialties is done right.
Because thereisone serious danger, as well as a number of lesser concerns, that could do real damage if we screw this up.
First, it’sessentialthat physical standards not be lowered to allow women to qualify for point-of-the-bayonet positions. And not all of the women who apply will measure up.
Some of our trigger-pullers hump 120 pounds as they scale those Afghan ridges. You can’t give some soldiers a special dispensation to carry half that weight, or the other members of the squad or team have to lug even more. Want fairness? Start here.
The integration of women into our military to date has been overwhelmingly positive, but there have been undeniable downsides that we should learn from. One example: When the Army integrated basic training a generation ago, physical requirements were lowered for everybody (we pretended otherwise). We now have the chubbiest, tubbiest military since Sgt. Bilko. Physical toughness should be requirement No. 1 foreverysoldier or Marine.
(The gender integration of basic training also destroyed the folk-poetry tradition of magnificently obscene, hilariously inventive marching and running cadences — political correctness killed those wonderful “jodies.”)
On the other hand, the Neanderthals among us have to recognize that more than a few women in uniform have not only participated in combat, but performed heroically. In the Military Police Corps, convoy escort duty often led to ambushes and firefights in Iraq. No-nonsense female NCOs won medals for bravery leading men in combat.
What ultimately matters is who can fight. This can’t be about gender above all. It has to be competence-driven.
Which brings us to another potential problem: Our military already has barely disguised promotion quotas for women and minorities. And while our military should be (and long has been) about equal opportunity, it suffers when used for politically driven affirmative action.
Not only do promotions made for the sake of political correctness cheat competent soldiers, they also cast an unfair shadow over the many first-rate officers and NCOs who just happen to be women or minorities. Nor should we prolong a system in which a male soldier is fired and gone, but a female soldier has recourse to endless protests. That’s not fairness — that’s bigotry.
A last issue is that activists who want the world their way demand impossibly perfect behavior from those in uniform. Sorry: If you put physically rambunctious young people in prolonged intimate proximity to one another during their peak years of sexual energy, the platoon isn’t going to pass for a Baptist seminary. Sexual abuse cannot be tolerated, but we do have to show some understanding for stupidity and oafishness among 19-year-olds.
And the guy isn’t automatically the guilty party.
Back to the first point: Don’t lower standards, physical or ethical. If standards are maintained with rigor, the force will be OK. The services have until 2016 to pound out the details. Senior generals and admirals will have to show some backbone on this issue — and backbone hasn’t been their salient characteristic in recent years.
Who’s going to be disappointed? Some women will measure up, while others will do their best and fail (as men do). But the truly crestfallen are apt to be the activists who expect women to flock to combat-related positions in huge numbers.
They won’t. Surveys of military women show that, although dedicated, they don’t long to join the Infantry.
But to that GI Jane who proves she can hump her own gear plus the mortar base plate: You go, girl.
Ralph Peters is a retired Army enlisted man and officer.