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Posted: 5/10/2003 8:54:37 PM EDT
Bush backs women in combat

Today's Washington Times[url]http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20030509-69566484.htm[/url] reports that President Bush has decided to defer to military judgment on the issue of women in combat. Conservatives, such as Elaine Donnelly with the Center for Military Readiness, had decided to raise the issue after images of PFC Jessica Lynch and SPC Shoshanna Johnson in captivity hit the airwaves during the war. But today, the President said he was not ready to reverse a decade of gender integration in America's military since the first Gulf War, which has resulted in thousands of women in front-line positions.

Although Mr. Bush did not address the issue of women in combat during the 2000 presidential campaign, he came out against coed training in the military.

"The experts tell me, such as Condoleezza Rice, that we ought to have separate basic training facilities," Bush told American Legion Magazine. "I think women in the military have an important and good role, but the people who study the issue tell me that the most effective training would be to have the genders separated."

Now that he is president, Mr. Bush is deferring to the Pentagon on the question of whether the sexes should be separated between combat and noncombat units.

"As with all matters in the military, the president wants to hear first from the experts," Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said. "And then if there is anything beyond this hypothetical, he might have more to say, if that even happens."

Mrs. Donnelly called that a cop-out.

"The president has to show the same leadership here that he did in taking on the forces of Saddam Hussein," she said. "I know sometimes feminist advocates seem even scarier, but I think this president could do it and he should."

Analysis: I wrote in December 2002 [url]http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0212.carter.html[/url] on this issue, predicting that thousands of American women would fight on the front lines if we went to war in Iraq. Several policy changes in the 1990s meant that more women would fight further forward in Gulf War II than in Gulf War I, and that this would force a renewed debate on the role of women in the military. Unfortunately, my predictions came true. I also wrote that their performance in combat would shape the public debate on this issue for years to come.

No one is quite sure how Americans will respond if significant numbers of women are killed in Iraq. "The real issue is, if greater numbers of women get captured, how will the country react?" asks Donnelly. "We would have to desensitize the entire nation to violence against women. Endorsement of women in combat means an endorsement of violence against women at the hands of the enemy." Perhaps. But even when women have died in combat, the public hasn't questioned their reasons for being there. The nature of public grief for soldiers like Marine Corps Sgt. Jeannette L. Winters, a radio operator who was the first female military casualty in the war against Afghanistan, may indicate that Americans will accept female casualties if they believe in the cause they're fighting for.

In the end, what will really determine public reaction is how well women perform their jobs under fire. On the ground in Afghanistan, women did not participate in the main actions of Operation Anaconda. But since the fighting died down, female MPs have gone out on long infantry patrols with the 82nd Airborne Division, and by most indications perform-ed well. To be fair, they have not seen combat, and haven't performed the most physically demanding tasks the military has to offer. But women have covered 10 to 20 miles of very hard country per day carrying loads of up to 75 pounds, all while living in close quarters with male infantry.

And so far, as in the Gulf, the worst predictions have not come true--no reports of mass pregnancies or other issues have come to light in Afghanistan. "I'm learning what grunts do, [and] they learn what I do. As MPs, we search people and look for weapons ... I never thought we would be walking for hours or be on the front," MP Sgt. Nicola Hall told a reporter in Afghanistan after the mission. "[The 82nd Airborne soldiers] have been nothing but respectful to us; as long as you walk, carry your own weight and don't whine, you're respected."
All indicators point to women performing exceptionally in combat -- from PFC Lynch to the unknown women who flew deep into Iraqi territory as Army, Navy and Air Force pilots. Thousands of women served in the Army and Marines as MPs, engineers, chemical-warfare specialists, medics, fuelers, and in hundreds of other jobs. Like their warfighting brethren, they performed well under fire. At the end of the day, they proved their case by doing their jobs. In war, that's about all you can ask of a soldier.

Ms. Donnelly and others hoped that the social conservatives in the Bush Administration would back them on this issue, given the high-profile captures of two women by the Iraqis. They made a great miscalculation. President Bush has lauded his military for its strategy, its tactics, and its people -- he's not going to second-guess them on an issue like this, particularly when it's an issue where he can actually win moderate votes by appealling to women. (Can you think of many other issues where President Bush can appeal to moderate female voters?) Ms. Donnelly and other critics ought to see the performance of women in Iraq for the success that it was, and focus their efforts on improving opportunities for military women instead of destroying them.
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Link Posted: 5/10/2003 10:24:10 PM EDT
Why not I got one there,how about you?

 Bob   [:D]
Link Posted: 5/11/2003 6:18:10 AM EDT
A "ban" on women in combat would not have changed the story of the two who were captured during the Iraq War. They were in a Combat Service Support unit of a type that have been regularly staffed with women for almost three decades. Unless we completely pull women out of any role that has even the slightest chance of ground combat, like things were in the 1960s and earlier, we will still see this typr of incident in future conflicts.

Women are too deeply integarted into the force structure to pull them out, and while there are certainly problems, those can mostly be attributed to weak leadership and commanders who empower the slacker females to get away with things that they shouldn't, and crap they would never tolerate from a male soldier. Beyond that, somthing needs to be done to address the whole pregnancy vs. deployability arguement, and the whole "female" issue in the armed forces will be a non-issue.

Currently, females are barred from direct ground combat jobs; Special Operations, Infantry, Armor, Cavalry, and I think FA, though I do vaguely remeber (possibly incorrectly) seeing a female wearing crossed cannons a few years back. They (females) would probably do fine in some of those jobs, and poorly in others, but I don't see any changes in that any time in the near future, and nothing in the article suggests that the president is going to change any of that.
Link Posted: 5/11/2003 2:06:34 PM EDT
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