Scott St. Clair: Women in Combat – Not Your Daddy’s DoD Anymore

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A full-action G.I. Jane is one giant step closer to reality, and this right-winger is down with it. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is proposing to lift the 1994 banon women in the military serving in combat positions, and the White House supports it. As my soldier-son would say, “It’s not your daddy’s defense department anymore.” Roger that.

Why, you ask through clenched teeth while shaking your fist at me for selling out and siding with Obama?

Fair enough. As Thomas Jefferson said in 1776 when he poked a stick in the eye of the British lion, “A decent respect to the opinions of mankind” compels me to offer two reasons, one practical and cultural and the other quite political.

The inevitability of women in combat was fixed the day they got the right to vote. Once given political power, it was a matter of time before they insisted upon the whole nine yards economically, educationally, socially and now militarily. If you want to keep women out of combat, repeal the 19th Amendment. But consult your mother, your wife or your daughter first —then duck.

Since the Panetta announcement, social media has gone ballistic on how the proposed policy change means the destruction of America’s military and the end of Western Civilization.

My personal military expert is my oldest son, an army senior non-commissioned officer with 12-years of service and four deployments, most recently to Afghanistan. Commenting on a Facebook thread of mine, he endorsed women in combat:

“Well DADT (Don’t ask, don’t tell) went the way of the Dodo without a hitch, and ‘standards’ change all the time. This will be a hard sell to many, particularly those in line units who have only known or worked with men their entire careers. The problem is not that there are no women who can hold their own versus whomever, the problem is that they’ll make it, be promoted into leadership positions, and take huge amounts of biased s*** from idiots who can’t get with the program. The Department of Defense knows what it’s doing, and like Oldsmobile’s, this is not your father’s DoD. It’s fast-paced, quick-reaction all the time. Yes, it will be hard on women’s bodies. Yes, field sanitation and billeting are concerns, but I know male soldiers out there that are 122 pounds and 5’3″, and the difference is not all that much. Also, any woman brave and tough enough to do this has more moxie than the vast majority of men she’ll train and serve with. This is a good decision for the military as a whole. It shows progressive thinking in the one area of government that could use a whole lot of it.”

I’m inclined to give a serving soldier with first-hand experience far more credence on this issue than I would someone who says we shouldn’t do it because we’ve never done it before and it might unduly arouse male soldiers, which is the gist of a lot of the argument against it.

But “experts” bombard us with statistics, data and upper-echelon assertions that it will be a failure resulting in more casualties and despair – many of the same arguments that were used to keep women out of American military academies.

But experts were once convinced that the earth was flat now warming then cooling or both at once. And when it comes to military experts, who gave us the Maginot Line and court-martialed Col. Billy Mitchell, they’re eager to prepare for the last war rather than the next. Arguments about how tough it will be for women because they might be killed, tortured, wounded or captured don’t take into account how tough it is for men who are likewise threatened. War is hell irrespective of gender. 

The young black woman we see on TV advertisements for the Wounded Warrior Project who lost a leg while serving might quibble with hers being considered a “non-combat assignment.”

Soldiers and Marines no longer go to war – war comes to them. Given what we see daily of modern warfare, there are no real “front lines.” If you’re an American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine anywhere in the world, wherever you are is a potential combat zone. Fort Hood, TX, where three military women were killed and three wounded, was no less a battlefield than any forward outpost in Afghanistan.

Finally and perhaps most compelling is that in our current all-volunteer military, nobody goes into combat unless they made the first move by enlisting. If our military was still a conscript force maybe the argument for women in combat might not hold, but that’s not the case. Instead and for whatever reason, the women who serve our country in uniform do so because they choose to serve. Pro-choice in action.

It goes without saying that there shouldn’t be lower, softer standards for women combat soldiers than for men. They should be able to do whatever it is their male counterparts can do, with the recognition that not all men are equal either. So far, nobody has proposed ladies’ tee-equivalenttraining standards.

And mandatory Selective Service registration ought to go hand-in-hand with combat assignments. Currently, all men between the ages of 18 and 25 must register for what used to be called “the draft.” If women are going to be in for a combat-penny, then they should be in for a draft-registration-pound. Full equality isn’t without its downside. Young ladies should register before getting a pedicure and wax.

 It’s also stupid politically to stand in the way of women in combat.

Want to know why Republicans can’t get traction with a lot of voters, particularly women? Making a stink over issues like women in combat will anger more women than get them to listen to how low taxes, economic liberty, constitutional freedom and limited government create growth and opportunity for all Americans.

President Obama received 55 percent of the female vote in 2012, about the same as his 56 percent in 2008. Among unmarried women, those who would be most inclined to join the military, he received 67 percent of their vote in 2012and 70 percent in 2008.

If Republicans are going to win anything on the national stage ever again, they will have to cut into those substantial Democratic majorities. They won’t do it by continuing to have a tin ear on not just women’s issues, but women’s intelligence, character, courage and ability to serve their country.

Like Sen. Marco Rubio’s respectful effortsto reach out to Latino voters by developing a common-sense immigration-reform proposal, gracefully accepting what is the growing reality of women in combat makes good political sense.

It’s no longer the 1950s, and trying to pretend that nothing has changed from June Cleaver-then until Lady Gaga-now gets the right nowhere. Some fights are best left un-fought – upon some hills it’s a bad idea to die. Women-in-combat is one of those fights and just that hill. 

A year ago on these pages, I commented on a gay marriage bill in the Washington State Legislature saying that social conservatives had nobody to blame but themselves for its passage. They hadn’t been out in the hustings doing the political things necessary to prevail. That ship sailed because they never bothered to go to the dock in numbers or energy sufficient to urge it not to.

I was criticized by some who said no state had ever supported gay marriage at the ballot box.

In 2012, Washington state voters authorized gay marriage by a comfortable 53.7 percent of the vote. While I missed other election predictions, I got that one because I could see that the attitude of the voting public on the issue had changed. Rightly or wrongly, they were in an accepting mood.

My sense is that it’s in the same place on women in combat. Looking at how women voted during the last two election cycles cements that.

The social construct has changed. Women are heads of households, run major corporations, become rich in their own right and get elected to office. One of the toughest leaders on the world stage in my lifetime was Margaret Thatcher. I’d be glad to have her in my platoon any day.

Seventy-nine percent of Americans expect a woman president in the next 25 years. Unless conservatives get a lot smarter about addressing issues such as women in combat, it will be considerably sooner than 25 years and probably someone who has lived in the White House already, but who has political persuasions not of our liking.

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