Mona Charen

Pfc. Jessica Lynch has won the hearts and the gratitude of a whole nation. If initial reports are accurate, she showed enormous courage when the Iraqis ambushed her maintenance unit. Though she'd been shot, stabbed and sustained at least two broken bones (though it is not yet clear in what sequence), she reportedly fired her weapon until she was out of ammunition.

As one official told The Washington Post, she was "fighting to the death ... she did not want to be taken alive." They're talking about a Medal of Honor for her. This 5 foot, 4 inch 19-year-old gal from West Virginia sure did us proud. God bless her and her family.

But she should never have been anywhere near the battlefield. Women do not belong in combat.

It isn't that one doesn't respect women -- some of my best friends are women, and oh yes, I am one myself -- and I've no doubt that women are as courageous and as cool under fire as men. But far from representing a new frontier in the struggle for women's rights, putting women in combat represents the victory of a few zealots over common sense and right reason.

How did we get here?

Under current regulations, women are not permitted in direct combat units. But they're allowed to get very close. Until 1994, women were forbidden even in units that were "at risk" for contact with the enemy or capture. Under pressure from feminists who seek to erase all sexual discrimination from the military, President Clinton's secretary of defense, Les Aspin, eliminated "inherent risk of capture" from the risk assessments of non-combat units. Accordingly, women now staff many positions that are close to the front lines, and at least three women have been captured in the first two weeks of fighting.

Have you seen the face of Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson? An army cook who likes to make jerk chicken and curry rice for her dad, she, like Lynch, was captured following an ambush. Her terrified face has since been broadcast around the world. The Iraqis reportedly put her on camera just after they had killed some of her companions. At this writing, her status is unknown. She is the single mother of a toddler. The other missing woman is Pfc. Lori Piestewa, a 23-year-old mother of two preschoolers.

Yes, these women are all volunteers, but the question is not whether they are willing but whether we should ask them to take these risks.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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