Thomas Sowell

The headline on the front page of the New York Times said it all: "Women in the Senate Confront the Military on Sex Assaults."

In a triumphalist article showcasing the growing numbers of women on the Senate Armed Services Committee, "one of the Senate's most testosterone-driven panels," the story line presents female Senators attacking male military officials over charges of sexual assaults against women in the armed forces.

Us-against-them stories are great for generating excitement in the media and in politics. But whether any of this political theater will actually reduce sexual assaults against women in the armed forces is a totally different question.

For thousands of years, people around the world had the common sense to realize that putting young men and young women together in military operations was asking for trouble, not only for these young people of both sexes, but for the effectiveness of military forces entrusted with the fate of nations.

Yet, in these politically correct times, civilian leaders who increasingly have no experience whatever in the armed forces are far more willing to try to micro-manage the military than back in the days when most members of Congress and most Presidents had served in the military.

There seems to be something liberating about ignorance and inexperience. You are free to believe whatever you want to, unencumbered by hard facts and, if you have political power, to impose your headstrong ignorance on those with first-hand knowledge.

If sexual assaults in the military are taking place in our own country, far from the scenes of battle, what do you suppose is going to happen when men and women are in the same tents or trenches at night on battlefields thousands of miles away?

We don't have to ask what will happen on warships at sea. The number of Navy women who already get pregnant in such places tells us more plainly than words.

How much of this country's military resources do you think should be diverted from preparing for, and fighting, battles involving life and death to adjudicating conflicting stories about who did what to whom, and whether it was consensual or not?

Such issues have plagued college campuses with coed dormitories, where there are no bullets or bombs to complicate matters. Why would we imagine that "he said, she said" issues are going to be any easier to deal with in a military context?


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate