What's an army for?

Posted: Mar 15, 2002 12:00 AM
If you visit the website of the Center for Military Readiness (cmrlink.org), you will encounter the lovely, smiling face of the delicate Elaine Donnelly. Don't be fooled. She's a tigress -- and she fights ferociously for what she believes in. There is little doubt that if Donnelly were a figure on the left, you would have heard of her. She'd be lionized (we are going heavy on the feline imagery today) as a crusader for progress, fairness and what not. Well, she deserves to be honored for her social activism, even if that activism is on behalf of a stronger, less politically correct United States military. For though she is a tigress, Elaine Donnelly is under no illusions about her sex. She recognizes that, while women have many gifts, superior physical prowess is rarely among them. And while she values the role that women play in the armed services, she -- along with reasonable people everywhere (including most of the women in the U.S. military) -- opposes women in combat. (A 1997 study found that 79 percent of enlisted women and 71 percent of female noncommissioned officers would not volunteer for combat.) That's why she was keen to see the DACOWITS (Defense Advisory Commission on Women in the Services) sent packing. DACOWITS, a mostly civilian advisory panel, was established 50 years ago to advise the Pentagon on matters pertaining to women. It quickly became a vehicle for feminists to push the services toward accepting women in combat. DACOWITS recommended to the Navy, for example, that its new Virginia class submarine be designed to accommodate women sailors. Women do not currently serve aboard subs, since the submariners live in such constricted conditions that privacy is simply not available. Housing women sailors, a Navy report stated, "would require removal of operational equipment, reducing war fighting effectiveness." Oh, gosh, there they go again, those Navy guys. So concerned about winning wars when all women want is a chance to burnish their credentials! DACOWITS ignored the Navy's concerns, saying, as The Washington Times reported: "Current experience indicates it is unreasonable to presume that women will not be assigned to submarines sometime in the next 40 years. ... Redesign now before this submarine class begins full production will avoid even more costly reconfiguration in the future." Have you noticed any women among the special operations forces in Afghanistan? Well, there aren't any. But not because DACOWITS hasn't tried. It has urged the Special Operations Command to permit women to fly helicopters like those in the movie "Black Hawk Down" and those in use in Afghanistan. Also high on DACOWITS's priority list over the years has been sexual harassment, increased funding for child-care and maternity benefits, breast-feeding centers, better maternity uniforms for pregnant Marines, and so forth. Columnist Charmaine Yoest adds this little nugget: DACOWITS has demanded that the secretary of defense collect data on "all violence against military women." Despite the best will in the world, and constant cheerleading from DACOWITS, the military services have not been able to alter the fact that women are still only half as strong as men and have 30 percent less aerobic capacity. And when placed among all those young soldiers and sailors, they have an alarming tendency to become pregnant. As Donnelly reports, "During a recent deployment of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, 45 of 300 women did not deploy or complete the cruise due to impending childbirth." Eleven had to be flown off the carrier after it was underway. Aside from adding costs, this erodes readiness. During the deployment in Bosnia, the Army experienced one pregnancy every three days. Women service members also have twice as many sick calls as men. And yet, when DACOWITS's charter expired, the Bush Pentagon couldn't quite bring itself to let the beast die. It has elected instead to alter its responsibilities and change its focus. That's fine if the officials really mean it. But the history of the past couple of decades suggests that the military is more frightened of being called "anti-woman" than it is of losing its fighting edge. Now that there's a real war on, isn't it time to tell the truth? The United States exists to win our wars, not to serve as the tool of a bunch of noisy feminists.