EDITORIAL: What warriors know

Tweaking physical standards for combat is an assault on women

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The military services now have only a month until May 15 to submit plans for integrating women into all ranks, including in ground combat. The go-along-to-get-along generals and admirals essentially are trying to find a way to fit the women into places they don’t belong. Women can do many things as well as men, some things better than men, but killing people and breaking things, the fundamental purpose of the military, is not one of them.

Yielding to political pressure, the Pentagon announced in January that it had lifted a ban on women serving in direct land combat jobs in infantry, armor and special-operations units. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said then that “if women can’t meet any unit’s standard, the Pentagon will ask: ‘Does it really have to be that high?’” This is a question that would never have occurred to the likes of Stonewall Jackson or George S. Patton Jr., fighting generals of the rich traditions of the services.

The implications in Gen. Dempsey’s remarkable question are not universally shared in the ranks. The Marine Corps, the closest we have to a warrior caste, are particularly resistant to the idea that one size fits all. “The Marine Corps‘ high standards cannot be lowered, nor can we artificially lower them to ensure a certain percentage of females will qualify,” the Corps said in a message to Congress. “Conversely, we will not artificially raise standards.”

Lowering the bar makes no sense and invites battlefield catastrophe. For those who will be doing the actual fighting, it’s only about what works, not the politics. Last week, two female Marine lieutenants failed to complete the Infantry Officer Course. Two other female officers failed the course last October. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, California Republican, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine officer, is expected to attach an amendment to the 2014 defense budget to prevent lowering standards for political reasons when the House Armed Services Committee takes up the bill in May.

The committee should review the words of Katie Petronio, a Marine Corps officer, who wrote in the Marine Corps Times last year: “I am here to tell you that we are not all created equal, and attempting to place females in the infantry will not improve the Marine Corps as the nation’s force in readiness or improve our national security.” She asks the question the admirals and generals studiously avoid. “Who is driving this agenda? I am not personally hearing female Marines, enlisted or officer, pounding on the doors of Congress claiming that their inability to serve in the infantry violates their right to equality . This issue is being pushed by several groups, one of which is a small committee of civilians appointed by the secretary of defense, called the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service . I certainly applaud and appreciate [their] mission; however, as it pertains to the issue of women in the infantry, it’s very surprising to see that none of the committee members are on active duty or have any recent combat or relevant operational experience relating to the issue they are attempting to change.”

This is not a skirmish in the war between the sexes. Many young second lieutenants at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., heading into infantry positions, say they support women in combat if, but only if, they meet the physical standards required of their male counterparts. This is only common sense, and it is the common sense that should be applied in the interests of women as well as men. Nobody gets a pass on the battlefield.

The Washington Times

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