First, it was a lame duck, Democrat-controlled Congress, in December 2010, that allowed homosexuals in the military. Now it's a lame duck secretary of defense -- a onetime liberal Democratic congressman -- who decides unilaterally that women in combat will likewise make for a better, stronger military.
What is it, exactly, about lame ducks and liberals that make them view the military as little more than a petri dish for their liberal social
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta appears to have lost sight of the fact that the military's raison d'etre is not to be just another governmental jobs-training program, much less a crucible for liberals' equal-opportunity utopianism.
So, it is left to Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel to mitigate the damage this incredibly shortsighted idea will have on the world's premier military, whose job at root -- as Rush Limbaugh only half in jest says -- is to kill people and break things. As such, Mr. Panetta's move is a far more troubling parting shot than having to replace the W's on keyboards of White House computers vandalized by smart-aleck Clinton administration operatives as they headed for the exits in 2001.
It raises numerous questions, which have been met with shocking silence from Congress, the defense establishment and the chattering class in Washington:
Why has Mr. Hagel, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, who should know better, not raised his voice in doubt about, if not in outright opposition to, this extremely unwise decision?
Why have the Pentagon brass not spoken out against it, and why have no generals or admirals resigned their commissions in protest?
Why have few if any members of Congress' Armed Services committees raised any objections?
Lest there be any doubt, no one questions the devotion to duty of the women in the military, nor their willingness to sacrifice for their country. That does not mean they belong in combat roles.
In the 1970s, when it was made illegal for jobs to be categorized in "help wanted" listings as sex-segregated -- "help wanted, male" and "help wanted, female" -- there was an exception made for something called "BFOQ"--bona fide occupation qualification. It would seem to be common sense to all but the most fanatical feminist egalitarians that if any jobs must necessarily stipulate a bona fide occupation qualification -- in this case, read: "help wanted, male" -- it would be ground infantry combat and Special Forces, such as the SEALs, Green Berets and Rangers.
Put in civilian terms, why has no one seriously suggested that there be women in the huddles at this weekend's Super Bowl? Moreover, as far as I know, no one has called for the WNBA to forgo its upcoming season and instead register its players for the NBA Draft.
Speaking of the draft, Congress would do well to remember that it was only because of women's exclusion from combat that the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in 1981 in Rostker v. Goldberg that women could be legally exempted from the draft. If Congress allows Mr. Panetta's ill-advised edict to stand, that exemption is gone if the draft ever needs to be reinstated. Now that would be a real "war on women."
The Pentagon's assurances that the military's physical standards won't be lowered are anything but reassuring. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has suggested that those standards might be lowered if they are judged too difficult for the actual task. Since Gen. Dempsey said that all combat standards will be gender-neutral, that means the standards would be lowered for both men and women.
"If we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn't make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high?" Gen. Dempsey said last week. "Does it really have to be that high? With the direct combat exclusion provision in place, we never had to have that conversation."
Actually, we have had that conversation, in a manner of speaking. Shannon Faulkner famously forced The Citadel to admit women in 1995, only to drop out a week later, but the damage was done. The Citadel's demanding physical-fitness standards were permanently lowered -- as those of the service academies had been years earlier -- to accommodate its new female cohort.
Mr. Panetta's move could be viewed as a pre-emptive bow to a Faulkner-style lawsuit filed recently by four military women who said the combat exemption was hindering their career-advancement prospects -- a brass ceiling, so to speak -- as if this were just another case for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If the beaches of Normandy, the shores of Iwo Jima, the Battle of the Bulge, the reservoir of Chosin, the jungles of Vietnam and, more recently, the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, have taught us anything, it is that war is not an equal-opportunity employer and that close-quarters infantry combat and Special Forces missions are no place for women.
Peter Parisi is an editor at The Washington Times.