American women have been cleared for combat, but the generals at the Pentagon only think they are the very model of the modern major general.
Women have been locked in combat since Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Men and women have been fighting the unending war between the sexes since, giving no quarter, but happily taking each other prisoner. It's a war nobody can win, as Henry Kissinger observed, because there's too much fraternizing with the enemy.
But when a helpful Amazonian warrior tries to shorten the odds for her side, someone invariably makes a federal case of it. The other day, an innocent volunteer at the Defense Intelligence Agency offered her sisters in the struggle a few tips on how to dress for success at work -- and in love and war.
The suggestions were unexceptional enough: Makeup makes you more attractive. Don't be a Plain Jane. A sweater and a skirt is better than a sweater with slacks. No flats. Paint your nails. Don't be afraid of color. Brunettes have more leeway with vibrant colors than blondes or redheads.
The result was indignation, not gratitude.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the director of the DIA, apologized, as any government official in his position would. He seemed to be aware that he was playing out of his league. He sent a public affairs officer out with the agency's regrets.
"I'm not going to deny that (the briefing) exists," she said, "and it was bad. It was inappropriate for sure. Neither the agency nor the leadership has condoned anything that was in that briefing." The clear message, as reported by U.S. News & World Report, is that Jane is free to be as plain as she likes, with neither makeup nor painted nails.
Innocent or not, such advice was guaranteed to offend someone on the scout for something to be offended by. Even now, a lawyer without a client is nosing about the offices of the DIA, looking for business.
In his apology, Flynn called the hints intended for advantage in male-female combat "an unnecessary and serious distraction" and labeled the presentation "highly offensive." He hopes the intentions were "pure of heart and intended to help, but even smart people do dumb things sometimes. No one is going to be taken to the woodshed over this. They'll require some counseling (to be sure) on what it means to think before you act."
Still, when President Obama assumes responsibility for providing birth control help for the women of America, you have to wonder why a few beauty tips is such a big deal. Who can say anything is off the table (or under the bed)?
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