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Babes at Arms   Print Friendly Format
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By Jed Babbin
Published 4/29/2003 12:05:00 AM

It has taken less than a month for poor Jessica Lynch, the West Virginia gal captured by the Iraqis and rescued by the spec ops guys, to be captured again, this time by the feministas. That PFC Lynch has neither participated in -- nor apparently even consented to her new role -- is irrelevant to those who want to finish the job Billy and Hilly began: feminization of the American military, without regard for the effect on its ability to fight. As predicted cynically here only three weeks ago, the feministas have already proclaimed it's time to eliminate the last vestiges of discrimination against the women in the military and allow women into the combat arms.

The first shots of the new fusillade were fired last week by Robin Gerber, a senior scholar at the University of Maryland's "Academy of Leadership" (?), and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Ms. Gerber argued in USA Today that Lynch's experience (emptying a couple of M-16 mags at some Iraqis with unknown results and then surrendering) is proof that women should have "equal opportunity" in the military. To Gerber baby, that means women should serve as front-line combat soldiers, on submarines and as special forces operators. But Gerber's arguments only serve to prove -- beyond any reasonable doubt -- that she is totally clueless about the subject.

Kristof is a bit more clever. He argues that women in an occupation force are even more intimidating to Arab adversaries than men are. His three reasons to make women eligible for combat arms are other-worldly. First, Kristof contends that there is -- particularly in the Muslim world -- a chivalric reluctance to kill women. I guess that's why Palestinian suiciders choose restaurants, shopping malls and buses packed with women and children for their favorite targets. Next, he claims that "wars these days are less for territory than for hearts and minds, and coed military units appear less menacing." Wars are today what they've always been about: inflicting the maximum amount of damage and death in the least amount of time, destroying the enemy's ability and willingness to fight on. McClellan would've loved Kristof. That's why Lincoln fired him and put Grant in command. Finally, Kristof says that military units need women to search female prisoners. In an occupation force, that is true. That's why we have female military police, not female combat soldiers. In combat, there's no time for fussiness like that.

Kristof almost sells me on the idea of women soldiers to fight in the Middle East. Our guys can beat their guys any time. It would be a great blow to Arab martial pride (of which there should be nothing left after Afghanistan and Iraq) for our girls to defeat their guys. Maybe they could, but unless you form the First Amazon Division and let them fight alone, you'll never know.

This debate has to be moved -- forcibly -- back to reality, to the only issue that counts. Liberals debate the women in combat issue on "gender equity" and other sociological grounds. As if the only thing that mattered were promotion opportunities that combat vets gain before others. Conservatives argue against women in combat on moral grounds. Should America let its mothers change from nurturers to soldiers? Should women be exposed to the horrors of war? Neither side is talking about the only aspect of the issue that really matters: the effect of introducing women on combat effectiveness.

Since the Tailhook scandal over ten years ago -- no one has taken an honest look at the issue in this country, and no one seems likely to. Instead, we have created a military doctrine based on the idea that women should be made equals of men. In doing so, we have denied the obvious truths. Women -- thank Heaven -- are built much differently from men, and thus cannot do what men can. Instead of simply recognizing this, our services -- even the military academies -- set different physical performance standards for men and women. The guys put up with this bad joke because they know the truth, and because the times and places where you have to be able to rely on the man next to you are reserved for men.

Women can now fly combat missions in Air Force and Navy aircraft. But they cannot -- as Gerber points out -- serve in infantry, special ops, or on submarines. And they must not be permitted to. For those who still doubt that, the British "Combat Effectiveness Gender Study," eventually released in May 2002 under the title of "Women in the Armed Forces," should settle the matter. But it won't, because a truthful debate is not in the cards.

The study begins with a statement of today's military reality: forces need to be able to intervene in any type of conflict at short notice. Forces deployed in operations other than war may have to engage in combat without warning. It says, "There is, therefore, an ever-present risk of involvement in high intensity combat."

Because of these unpleasant truths, there is a constant need for unit cohesion, a key part of combat effectiveness. "The physical capacities demanded of personnel serving in close combat roles are necessarily high. Any reduction in standards would pose unacceptable risks to the operational effectiveness of our forces, and must therefore be avoided…only approximately 1% of women can equal the performance of the average man." As the study points out, the only two nations to use women in combat (WW2 Russia, and 1948 Israel) both stopped the practice after the one war they had engaged in it. That the two nations that have the most experience don't allow it any longer would be a convincing argument in an honest debate.

The Brits have made an even more important finding. Because the basic fighting unit -- the infantry squad -- is replicated in all the forces, "cohesion amongst team members is a vital component in sustaining combat effectiveness." The report says that the learned papers disagree on the subject, but that:

"…the studies reviewed were not based on combat situations and there is no evidence to show whether this remains true under the extreme conditions of high intensity close combat. The reality of warfighting is that the combat team must function effectively over an extended period in conditions that are characterised by extreme danger, confusion, fatigue and noise. There is no way of knowing whether mixed gender teams can function as well as all-male teams in close combat environment. Empirical evidence on this subject cannot be obtained, as there is no way to replicate the conditions of close combat by any means other than risking our forces in battle."

Indeed, there is not. And there is no reason to try, because to do so will cost the lives of real warriors.

I hope PFC Jessica Lynch does not become a pawn in this dishonest game. She has served well, and suffered much. For that she should have our gratitude and whatever it takes to heal her wounds. But to say that her experience proves that women should serve in combat arms is simply illogical, and a lie.


Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and is the author of the novel, Legacy of Valor. He now often appears as a talking warhead on the Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
 
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