Wars are won despite the generals. Every historian knows that. Combat is no place for a woman. Every grunt knows that. So do most women. Only generals are confused.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have finally succumbed to the pressure of the ladies who can’t imagine ever getting close to a gun, registered or otherwise, but who think it would be nifty if some of the cannon fodder for America’s wars could be “service members” of the female persuasion. This would make the ladies on the sidelines feel brave and good about themselves.
You’ll notice that soldiers are no longer called soldiers, or Marines Marines. They’re “service members” now, as if they were waiters, filling-station attendants or bedpan orderlies. You wouldn’t expect to find the likes of Stonewall Jackson, John J. Pershing or George S. Patton Jr. at the Pentagon, but there are plenty of generals and admirals lined up to get their tickets punched and promoted to the next rank. The only shots many of them have ever confronted were shots of Jack Daniel’s at the Officers Club.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, seeks a kinder, gentler service member, with none of the excessive testosterone that has afflicted warriors over history’s many wars and centuries. With a little work, the Joint Chiefs expect to squeeze all those deadly hormonal influences out of the male libido.
“The time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service,” the general said in echo of Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s announcement that the Pentagon will field a gender-neutral military to fight the nation’s wars. The general wants to “move forward with the full intent to integrate women into occupational fields to the maximum extent possible.”
“To implement these initiatives successfully and without sacrificing our war-fighting capability or the trust of the American people, we need time to get it right.”
But “war-fighting capability” is not what this is about, of course, as the general’s language of mush and mushy peas makes abundantly clear. It’s about deferring to the stamping of little feminist feet and the noise of pious liberals who have no understanding of warfare and who only want to stay as far away from guns as they can. Gen. Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs certainly understand this, and as well the ancient Washington maxim that “to get along, go along.”
About 14 percent of the active duty force of 1.5 million is composed of women; 152 women have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one questions their courage, intelligence and dedication to duty. They do many things as well as men and some things better. Combat is not one of them, nor should it be. What kind of man sends a woman to do the fighting work of men?
We’ve got a different kind of man in Washington now, a man who may well reflect the attitudes, assumptions and prejudices of the people who sent him here. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, likes sending a woman to fight for him because “it reflects the reality of 21st century military operations.” He couldn’t bear to call “war” by its rightful name. Mr. Levin had to miss the war of his generation; he was at Harvard learning to be a lawyer. But he made up for missing the Vietnam War with duty on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“I had never served and I thought there was a big gap in terms of my background,” he once told an interviewer, “and, frankly, I felt it was a way of providing service.” Life is hard among the silk and satin ease of the Senate, with many aides to fetch and carry, but it beats by a mile getting shot at.
Lifting the ban will theoretically open up 238,000 positions now closed to women. Barack Obama can (and probably will) say these are 238,000 jobs he created. Most women, including women now in the service, know better than to take one of them.
Sending women into combat, however, to kill people and break things along with men, might shut up the noisy feminists and their enablers. If, in actual practice, it gets a lot of young men — and young women — unnecessarily killed, well, that’s just a risk the generals will take. They might even get a medal for it.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.