Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Feminist Fantasy of Women in Combat

My article in today's FrontPage magazine:

The Feminist Fantasy of Women in Combat

By Matthew Vadum

President Obama seems hellbent on forcing the women of the U.S. military into direct combat units at great potential risk both to themselves and their fellow soldiers.

Obama supplicants in the military have been cowed by radical feminist ideology. They are promoting change for the sake of of ideology, not because it is actually needed.

Two years ago the current Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey called for a “critical mass” or “significant cohort” of women to be placed in combat. Standards in excess of what female soldiers can achieve should be questioned, he said. The so-called “Dempsey Rule” holds that if something is too difficult for women, the standards will eventually have to be ratcheted down to “equal but lower” levels.

Under Obama’s leadership the Pentagon is committed to what former Joint Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen dubbed “diversity as a strategic imperative.”

“Diversity,” of course, is perhaps the preeminent shibboleth of the Left today and it has a growing body count.

Diversity and the corresponding fear of making members of particular social groups feel uncomfortable, probably contributed to the enemy’s success in attacking the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. Leading up to 9/11, some government officials noticed Muslim visitors to America behaving suspiciously but they were afraid of connecting the dots. Doing so might have reinforced negative stereotypes about Arabs, which in addition to not being nice, would have constituted a crime against diversity.

Then there was the case of U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an American of Palestinian ancestry who openly described himself as a soldier of Allah on business cards. Hasan was convicted of fatally shooting 13 people and attempting to murder another 32 in his attack at Fort Hood in 2009. Officials were aware of his loud opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his Muslim proselytizing, and his connections to dangerous Islamists. But they decided not to make waves by connecting the dots because doing so might have hurt somebody’s feelings. Move along; nothing to see here.

After the Fort Hood massacre, the clueless now-retired U.S. Army Gen. George Casey continued to stand by diversity as some kind of magical tool that makes America a nicer, better place.

“Our diversity, not only in our army, but in our country, is a strength,” Casey said. “And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”

The same virulent strain of political correctness infects local fire departments across America, some of which routinely induct women as firefighters. Sure, it may be “equality,” but if you need to be carried down the stairs of a burning building, would you prefer to be rescued by a big strong man or a woman who probably doesn’t have the same muscle power or as much endurance? Some women may be drawn to the idea of fighting fires for a living but very few of them can meet the demanding physical requirements to become firefighters.

There is no harm is allowing women to try out for a position but to pursue a policy that forces women onto fire departments through a kind of affirmative action is madness. This focus on equality instead of competence is a recipe for mediocrity and death.

Now the feminist expression of the deadly diversity agenda is ripping through the nation’s military structure like a slow-moving tsunami.

President Obama announced in 2013 that he intended to rescind rules that exempt female soldiers from serving in direct combat units such as the infantry. The move came two years after the Department of Defense’s Military Leadership Diversity Commission released a report endorsing co-ed land combat to advance “gender diversity metrics,” which is another way of saying “quotas.” The goal is to repeal current standards, which stress merit and competence, and replace them with “gender-neutral” standards by January 2016.

“There is no need to push this agenda; for decades women in the military have been promoted at rates equal to or faster than men,” according to Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that reports on and analyzes military/social issues.

“The gender diversity ideology is not about ending discrimination; it is about demographic group rights,” Donnelly told FrontPage.

“Full implementation would have the effect of enforcing ‘gender-neutral’ standards that are equal but lower than before. This would leave men less prepared for combat realities that have not changed, and women subject to resentment they do not deserve.”

Federal lawmakers need to start asking tough questions, Donnelly says.

Parachuting women into combat roles is what happens when fevered left-wing utopianism takes over the Pentagon. Radicals on the Left are animated by a morbid obsession with equality, not by results or even by helping people. To them rigid adherence to politically correct fantasies trumps all other concerns. If soldiers die as a result of nutty policies, left-wingers rationalize that –damn the torpedoes!– it’s just the price that has to be paid for their perverse vision of social justice.

It is a fact that women service members are disproportionately more likely to suffer serious injuries in combat. Why should the military adopt policies that will increase the number of physically-disabled female veterans, Donnelly wants to know.

She notes that the U.S. Marine Corps began a multi-stage research project to figure out if women could meet male physical standards.

Since 2012, 29 female Marine officers have tried but flunked the Infantry Officer Course. Only four even made it past the first day on the extraordinarily difficult course that prepares soldiers to lead others in battle.

Upwards of 90 female volunteers made it though the easier infantry course for enlisted personnel, but the Corps had to wave a requirement to perform three pull-ups because more than half of the women couldn’t do it. And the Army conducted a survey in which more than 90 percent of women indicated they did not want to serve in combat.

Donnelly cites a study unveiled by the UK’s Ministry of Defence this past December that laid bare the problems inherent in female participation in combat operations. Though it may not have been the goal of its authors, the 29-page Review Paper makes a convincing case against co-ed combat, and explains what actually happens when a military force “close[s] with and kill[s] the enemy.”

Ground close combat (GCC) involves “the requirement to deploy on foot over difficult terrain, carrying substantial weight, to engage in close quarter fighting, recuperate in the field and then do the same again repeatedly over an extended period.” The report states that:

“The nature of conflict is immutable; GCC will remain an intense, visceral and unavoidably physical activity [involving] violent death, injury, all-pervading concussive noise, horror, fear, blood and high levels of emotion . . . Combat exposes inadequacies and applies manifold stresses [that] . . . are likely to occur repeatedly throughout combat operations and require high levels of both mental and physical endurance.”

Experts in Great Britain studied what bearing the mixing of the sexes on the battlefield had on 21 factors that affect combat effectiveness. Eleven of those factors were thought to have “negative” effects on combat effectiveness and of those only three “cannot be mitigated by changes to structure or training.” These three unisex categories were “Survivability & Lethality, Deployability, and Morbidity.” (Donnelly describes the latter as “vulnerability to injury or illness.”)

The report notes that “[W]omen have smaller hearts, about 30% less muscle, and a slighter skeleton with wider pelvic bones resulting in less explosive power and upper body strength.” These differences in physiology “disadvantage women by 20 to 40%; so for the same output women have to work harder than men.”

“Output,” Donnelly explains, refers to “survivability and lethality,” or as she puts it, “staying alive and killing the enemy.” Shortcomings in strength and endurance are likely to lead to “early onset of fatigue [and] a distinct cohort with lower survivability in combat … Similar research points to a reduced lethality rate; in that combat marksmanship degrades as a result of fatigue when the combat load increases in proportion to body weight and strength.”

Women are hit disproportionately with injuries, the report says. “[T]he rate of trauma and overuse lower limb MSK (musculoskeletal injury) remains two-fold higher. . . and the rate of hip and pelvic stress fractures is ten-fold higher in women.”

“Some female athletes can outrun men,” Donnelly adds, “but not with 83 pound combat march loads on their backs.”

The risk of musculoskeletal injury shoots up in the first 12 months after a woman gives birth and in the more intensive combat roles “potential chronic risks may include irreversible bone fragility and infertility,” the report states. Although female “physical elites” may be strong, they remain “more susceptible to acute short term injury than men.”

Should we be sending all these women to die or get horribly maimed for the sake of equality? And how many other soldiers of either sex will be killed or crippled because a female recruit wasn’t up to the task?

Some may say that this is the price of the feminist-driven enforced equality of the sexes. There are no doubt some men (and women) who will say there is no problem. Women campaigned for decades for equality and now they’re getting it so they should stop complaining. Besides, women, unlike men still aren’t required by law to register with the Selective Service.

But these objections miss what’s really important here.

What we should be concerned about is whether forcing women into combat is good for America, not about effectuating someone’s political ideology.

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