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Sally C. Pipes - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute [go to Pipes index]

The “Khaki Ceiling?”
Women in the military...

[Sally C. Pipes] 6/30/05

The endless search for oppression of women has become creative of late. A recent Tribune Media Services column by Robyn Blumner argues that women are warriors on a par with men but a “khaki ceiling” still keeps them down. According to this very column, interestingly enough, this khaki ceiling is rather threadbare.

A full 91 percent of all Army jobs are open to women, according to an Army spokeswoman cited in the piece. There are 17,000 women now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are not baking cookies. Women soldiers patrol the streets as military police, and enter homes to search for weapons and insurgents. They are assigned to dangerous checkpoints “so that female Iraqis can be searched by a woman.” Women also move supplies in large convoys and Blumner notes that women are sometimes the gunners, returning hostile fire. More than 30 women have been killed in Iraq, with at least 23 deaths related to combat, Blumner says.

Blumner is right that this kind of duty constitutes combat, and that in a conflict such as Iraq, what constitutes the “front line” is not always clear. But she is wrong to assume that putting women in combat roles is the best policy for the United States military. She blasts President Bush as “laughingly out of touch” for stating that there should be no women in combat. She accuses Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee of “trying to throw a roadblock in the path of women’s expanding military roles.”

Actually, in late May, House Republicans abandoned plans to curb the role of women in combat. They instead decided to let the military continue determining which jobs women can hold, as long as defense officials advise Congress on changes. That move will not end the debate.

Combat is not only dangerous but includes a lot of heavy lifting. Women’s lack of upper-body strength cannot be compensated for by bullet-proof vests and an M-16, as Blumner argues. She also makes light of the effect of women on unit cohesion.

Here “women must pay the price for male lust,” she says. Again, it’s not so simple. Male gallantry is also a factor. Men can undertake risky actions to protect a female soldier, jeopardizing the lives of others, as well as their own.

It appears to have escaped Blumner's notice that there is no constitutional right to serve in the military at all, let alone in combat. There are age restrictions and various physical problems that keep any number of willing males out of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. To paraphrase Paul Simon, one women’s ceiling is another man’s floor.

In addition, putting a woman in any military post includes no guarantee that she will do a good job. Witness Lyndie England, the infamous prison guard, and General Janice Karpinski, in charge of Abu Ghraib. Karpinski was recently demoted to Colonel and was relieved of command of the 800th Military Police Brigade. In fairness, whoever decided to place women in charge of male prisoners, in an Islamic country, should also be relieved of command.

When a nation goes into combat, it had better deploy the strongest possible hand unless it wants to bluff or fold. That means both equipment and personnel should be the best suited for the task. That task is to win wars, not engage in social engineering or gender quotas at the behest of feminists.

The question for the Pentagon, and for legislators, is whether deploying women in combat makes the United States military the best it can be. Instead of whining about a khaki ceiling, what we need now is a thorough study of whether political correctness keeps us from achieving that goal. tRO

copyright 2005 Pacific Research Institute




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