Politics & Policy

An Army of Janes

Democrats and women at war.

The leading Democrats running for their party’s presidential nomination would do something radical: They would send America’s daughters to war.

During a Democratic debate this summer, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama indicated that they would require all female United States citizens to register for the Selective Service.

Neither candidate was as ridiculous as former Alaska senator Mike Gravel, who said, when it comes to men and women in the military: “What’s the difference?” But in its radical and dangerous implications, the frontrunners’ policy is not that far from Gravel’s.

The attitude the Democrats have on this issue has already caused harm to the military. Elaine Donnelly for the Center for Military Readiness has been watching the feminization of military personnel policy for decades. In a new article for The Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, she explains that “gender-integrated basic training is based on the unrealistic assumption that men and women are interchangeable in all military roles. The concept tries to circumvent or disguise physical difference with gender-normed training standards that reward equal effort rather than equal results.”

To give you an idea of how there is, in fact, a difference, here’s but one of Donnelly’s many examples of the different scoring of supposed equals: The Navy has male trainees do a minimum 42 pushups to achieve a certain score; women must do 17. To get the highest score and ratings, a man must do 87 pushups. But a woman only has to do 48 pushups.

Yes, there are differences.

The radicalism of the Democratic desire on women in the military can be seen when considering the law. In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the male-only requirement for Selective Service registration, reasoning that the whole point “was to prepare for a draft of combat troops.” Women are currently banned from combat. Would Hillary Clinton like to require women to sign up for the Selective Service in preparation for mandatory combat duty, if we needed to draft Americans? Would you conscript America’s daughters?

It’s the direction we’ve been headed in. When the number of women who died in Iraq reached two dozen, retired Air Force brigadier general Wilma L. Vaught welcomed the milestone event for women. “There’s been an acceptance of the fact that women . . . are in harm’s way and they are being killed,” she told “USA Today” in 2004. “That is defining to me.” Under the Clinton administration, a Pentagon “Risk Rule” was eliminated, opening 80 percent of all American military jobs to women. That Risk Rule prevented women from being assigned to units that posed a risk of attack or capture. The Risk Rule would have spared the life of Lori Piestewa, a 24-year-old single mother of a four-year-old boy and three-year-old girl, who, like her best friend, 19-year-old Jessica Lynch, was a supply clerk who should have not been anywhere near the convoy they were in that was ambushed in Nasiriyah (southern Iraq). Her brother told USA Today that she felt that “she wasn’t going to be anywhere near any type of dangerous situation.” But it was some kind of feminist victory that she was?

Senator James Webb, a Democrat from Virginia, would be doing his nation a service if he made a realistic view of women’s role in the military his pet cause. I don’t agree with Webb on everything (including involving the military — he’s been opposed to the Iraq war), but the senator has written at length about the fundamental flaws with the military’s acting as if men and women were the same. In 1997, writing about sexual misconduct in the military, he explained the impossible position of military leaders who simply cannot deal with the problems that politics and law have forced upon a “system that throws healthy young men and women together inside a volatile, isolated crucible of emotions.” Generals and admirals have surrendered to political pressures and refused to confront ideologues, with the result that “many junior leaders [have been] forced to deal directly with impossible, ethically compromising positions.”

He should call Elaine Donnelly to the Senate and have her talk about her recommendations for treating men and women differently — in the interest of the safety of our troops. As a Marine serving in Fallujah e-mailed her: “No soldier or Marine should die because his buddy couldn’t get him to safety because she wasn’t strong enough.” We shouldn’t be drafting women; we should be drafting a realistic vision of women’s role in the United States armed forces.

© 2007, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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