Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Women in combat (again)

So, this has been in the news on a low key basis for a few weeks. What I'm wondering for any of you military people out there (both male and female) what your thoughts are on this change. Apparently the change is happening under the radar screen based on a loophole from former SecDef Aspin. Note: I've selected certain pertinent paragraphs from the article. I'm interested in honest opinions and not what's PC.

What has raised concerns is a Nov. 29 briefing by a senior Army officer responsible for Army personnel issues at the Pentagon along with a civilian. The briefing by these two people was for Lt. Gen. James Campbell, director, Army Staff. It included a phrase, "The way ahead: rewrite/eliminate the Army collocation policy." Collocation is military-speak for deploying mixed-sex non-combat units alongside all-male fighting units. The official Army policy prohibits female soldiers in units specifically designated as combat units. But some Army officers think they see a loophole large enough to drive through their social agenda.

The linguistic questions revolve around a policy memorandum written on Jan. 13, 1994, by then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin. After "restrict(ing) women from direct combat on the ground," Aspin wrote: "The Services may propose additional exceptions, together with the justification to the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness)." (emphasis mine)

The language choice is significant. In Aspin's 1994 memo, the word "may" appears after the four restrictions on women in combat. The word "propose" follows "may." Aspin did not say the Army has the power to act unilaterally, as the Nov. 29 briefers apparently contended when they claimed Army policy is "silent on dropping restrictions on women in combat." Adding weight to Aspin's memo is a July 28, 1994, letter from Aspin's successor, William Perry, who said he "approves" of the Army's "proposal."

For all of the reasons argued against such a policy in the past, including unit cohesion, increases in sexual harassment, rape and pregnancy, and the social revulsion most feel about seeing women wounded or killed in combat (or tortured or beheaded by the enemy) - not to mention that these are policies that should be set at the top and not by lower ranking military and civilian authorities - overturning restrictions on women in combat will weaken our military and weaken its effectiveness in fighting and winning wars.

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