Thursday, February 11, 2016

Opportunity or Obligation?

Marco Rubio received poor marks for his robotic responses in the last GOP Presidential Debate.

Chris Christie rattled Rubio in that debate that caused him to go into that robot mode.

Jeb Bush was generally considered to have his best performance in that debate.

However, all of these candidates gave what I thought were absolutely loony answers when asked whether young women should be required to sign up for Selective Service in case the draft is reinstated.

This issue has gotten increased attention since Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated last week that all combat roles in the U.S. military were now open to women as long as they qualify and meet the standards.

Rubio, Christie and Bush spent most of their time talking about the equal opportunity aspect of military service. I agree that qualified women should have the opportunity to serve in any role in which they are qualified on equal terms with men.

However, Rubio, Christie and Bush all missed the big point here on the Selective Service draft. The draft is not opportunity, it is obligation.

I have two daughters and a granddaughter.  There is no way in this world that they should have to be obligated to be drafted into military service. That is the height of lunacy, especially for potential ground combat roles in the Army.

Conscription is normally necessary to fill combat positions in the Army.  For example, 95% of all inductees to the Army during the Vietnam War were draftees while the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard were able to fill almost their entire quotas via voluntary enlistments. Of course, the threat of being drafted into the Army becomes a great incentive to volunteer for potentially safer and softer postings in the Armed Services.

I have argued in these pages previously that the drafting of women was the next step in the slippery slope of pushing for more equality on the battlefield. It appears that we have arrived at that point.

It is hard to argue that women should not be subject to the draft if you are going to state they are fully capable of handling any combat role. However, that proposition still is dubious in my mind.

This fact was proven very conclusively by a recent Marine Corps study that looked at combat effectiveness of mixed-gender combat teams compared to all male teams over an extensive period of time.

All-male ground combat teams outperformed their mixed-gender counterparts in nearly every capacity during a recent infantry integration test, Marine Corps officials revealed Thursday.
Data collected during (the) experiment showed Marine teams with female members performed at lower overall levels, completed tasks more slowly and fired weapons with less accuracy than their all-male counterparts. In addition, female Marines sustained significantly higher injury rates and demonstrated lower levels of physical performance capacity overall, officials said.

Based on the data in this study the Marine Corps asked to receive an exception to the Obama Administration's order to the Defense Department to open all combat roles to women.

I fully understand the desire to open up more opportunities for women in the military.  It is a fact that serving in combat roles in the military is often necessary in order to advance to the highest ranks.
Therefore, opening up combat roles for women can be very beneficial for the women seeking those promotions.

However, is it the right decision looking at the military and our country at large? Are we putting the advantages for a few over the effects on the many? Let's consider this question from several perspectives.

From a physical perspective, there are women that are stronger, faster and more athletic than many men. I don't think many men would want to challenge Brittney Griner to a game of one-on-one basketball, Serena William to a game of tennis or Allyson Felix to a 100-meter dash.  There are overlapping bell curves with respect to the physical abilities of men and women.  Some women will always have better physical abilities than some men. However, most men will enjoy physical advantages over most women.

If there were not significant physical differences between men and women why are there men's and women's events at the Olympics?  Why is there a WNBA?  Why is there a LPGA in golf?  It is because there is a difference.  What if it is your son who was left on the battlefield because his female comrade could not drag him to safety? Are we going to just ignore these facts in order to push some type of "equal rights" agenda?

There is also a mental perspective.  I think it goes without saying that women are generally constitutionally stronger than men in many respects.  Women live longer, are more resilient and are much more mature in their late teens and early 20's than men, which are the prime ages for military service.  We also have the whole issue of child bearing.  It is not called labor by accident.

As I have written before, women now make up 60% of all recent college graduates.  They have the smarts and discipline to do anything.  They have the courage and dedication to back it up. However, if it was your wife or daughter, how would their mental state deal with the following example posed by Ryan Smith in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.  Smith was a Marine infantryman in Iraq.

I served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a Marine infantry squad leader. We rode into war crammed in the back of amphibious assault vehicles. They are designed to hold roughly 15 Marines snugly; due to maintenance issues, by the end of the invasion we had as many as 25 men stuffed into the back. Marines were forced to sit, in full gear, on each other's laps and in contorted positions for hours on end. That was the least of our problems.

The invasion was a blitzkrieg. The goal was to move as fast to Baghdad as possible. The column would not stop for a lance corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or even a company commander to go to the restroom. Sometimes we spent over 48 hours on the move without exiting the vehicles. We were forced to urinate in empty water bottles inches from our comrades.

Many Marines developed dysentery from the complete lack of sanitary conditions. When an uncontrollable urge hit a Marine, he would be forced to stand, as best he could, hold an MRE bag up to his rear, and defecate inches from his seated comrade's face.

During the invasion, we wore chemical protective suits because of the fear of chemical or biological weapon attack. These are equivalent to a ski jumpsuit and hold in the heat. We also had to wear black rubber boots over our desert boots. On the occasions the column did stop, we would quickly peel off our rubber boots, desert boots and socks to let our feet air out.

Due to the heat and sweat, layers of our skin would peel off our feet. However, we rarely had time to remove our suits or perform even the most basic hygiene. We quickly developed sores on our bodies.
When we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.

Yes, a woman is as capable as a man of pulling a trigger. But the goal of our nation's military is to fight and win wars. Before taking the drastic step of allowing women to serve in combat units, has the government considered whether introducing women into the above-described situation would have made my unit more or less combat effective?

Finally, there is the emotional perspective. We have a culture that has traditionally given women and children special status in our society.  Sure, we can pretend it doesn't exist and ignore thousands of years of history and tradition.  We could even start now and train our soldiers to ignore how they were raised.  Tell them that is doesn't matter whether Jessica or Jeff is captured.  They are both soldiers.  Forget everything you learned growing up.  Jessica will be able to handle herself with her male captors just as well as Jeff.  Forget those old stories of soldiers raping and pillaging.

Oh, maybe there are other things that we need to worry about with Jessica that we don't have to with Jeff?

There is also the basic biology involved between young men and women.  It is already a huge problem in the military but one that you don't hear a lot about.  When you put men and women together stuff happens.  And it already is happening a lot in the military as it is. For example, just over ten percent of women in the military said in 2008 that they'd had an unintended pregnancy in the last year according to story I read.  That number is significantly higher than in the general public.

The U.S. Navy seems to have had an ongoing problem with pregnancies in maintaining their force readiness.  As much as 34% of the billets of shore commands are "manned" by pregnant sailors who are not available for sea duty.  This causes problems both at sea and on the shore as the Navy must adjust assignments and staffing to deal with pregnancies of which almost 3/4 are unplanned.

Opportunity for women who are truly qualified and who meet an overall general standard (not a watered down female standard) who want to serve in combat roles is fine. However, we should not be sacrificing combat effectiveness for political correctness.

We also need to draw the line between opportunity and obligation.

We have indeed fallen very, very far as a society if we are contemplating subjecting our women to the obligation of serving in combat roles in our Armed Forces.

Rubio, Bush and Christie really missed the point last Saturday night.

One candidate did not miss the point.

I was pleased to see that after the debate Ted Cruz weighed in on the issue this way.

Ted Cruz on Sunday said he opposes requiring women to register for a potential draft, breaking with Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, all of whom indicated support for opening up the Selective Service to women during Saturday night's debate.
“I have to admit, as I was sitting there listening to that conversation, my reaction was, ‘Are you guys nuts?’” Cruz said Sunday, speaking at a town hall here. “Listen, we have had enough with political correctness, especially in the military. Political correctness is dangerous. And the idea that we would draft our daughters to forcibly bring them into the military and put them in close combat, I think is wrong, it is immoral, and if I am president, we ain’t doing it.” 

Rubio must now realize that he made more than one mistake in the last debate. Today he announced that he is joining Cruz on a bill sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) that would make clear that requiring women to be eligible for the draft could only be done by Congress.

You would not think this legislation would be necessary but all bets are off any more when it comes to our President and the Supreme Court these days. After all, one of the enumerated powers of Congress in the Constitution is "to raise and support Armies".

However, it is of particular concern with the Supreme Court right now as in 1981 the Court upheld the all-male draft based on the fact that women could be excluded because they were not considered fully combat capable. Of course, that reasoning is no longer valid with the recent rulings by the Administration.

A slippery slope indeed.

And, in my opinion, three Presidential candidate slipped on it last Saturday.

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