Liberal, uninformed media commentators are excited about another lawsuit filed by liberal activist groups who are determined to force female soldiers into direct ground combat (infantry) battalions.
This is not the first time that the American Civil Liberties Union has tried to misuse the federal courts to impose their own radical agenda on the armed forces. Previously, the ACLU filed lawsuits on behalf of men who demanded that Selective Service obligations be imposed on young women on an equal basis. In every case, the most recent being in 2003, federal courts have correctly deferred to Congress and the Executive branches of government, which have the authority under the US Constitution to make policy for the military.
The ACLU, apparently, does not understand the meaning of direct ground combat, which goes beyond the experience of being "in harms' way." All military personnel and even civilians in a war zone, regardless of occupation, are serving "in harm's way," and some get injured or killed. The female plaintiffs in this case deserve respect for their service and the injuries they suffered, which were recognized by the awarding of Purple Hearts.
Their experiences in war, however, do not fit the definition of direct ground combat. "Tip of the spear" Army and Marine infantry battalions and Special Operations Forces, which currently are designated male-only, engage in deliberate offensive action against the enemy. Examples of direct ground combat are fairly recent in military history: mobilizations to liberate Baghdad in March 2003 and Fallujah in November 2004.
For an even more recent account of real-life battalion-level combat operations in Afghanistan, read Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan, by Sean Parnell. In May 2006 Army Ranger Parnell commanded an elite 40-man infantry platoon that encountered deadly ambushes and repeated attacks by opposition enemy forces using professional infantry tactics. Vivid passages in the book thoroughly discredit the notion that infantry combat in Afghanistan only involves random improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.
According to numerous studies and tests conducted over the past 30 years, in the direct ground combat environment women do not have an equal opportunity to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive. William J. Gregor, PhD, Professor of Social Sciences at the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, KS, has compiled this two-page Information Paper and partial list of such studies:
The armed forces are not subject to civil rights laws like private employers. Nor is there any legal right to serve in direct combat. The armed forces exist to defend the country, and mission accomplishment cannot be subordinated to "equal opportunity" rules that apply in civilian employment.
Contrary to allegations made in the litigation, for decades going back to the 1980s women in the military have been promoted at rates equal to or faster than men. These figures, acknowledged at the Pentagon as recently as February 2012, reflect strong support for women in the military, but also the fact that many women choose to devote time to their families instead of making the career-long sacrifices required in order to rise to three- or four-star rank.
Feminist Irony and Inconsistency
The litigation has four female plaintiffs who are joined by a group called Servicewomen's Action Network, or SWAN. This is ironic, since SWAN is the same group pushing the Department of Defense to stop sexual assaults in the military. The organization is against violence against women, unless it happens at the hands of the enemy.
On their website, SWAN claims to "advocate for all military women." This claim is not justified, since they do not represent the concerns of women who want to serve their country in uniform, but without the obligation to serve in close combat "tip of the spear" battalions where they would be at a severe, unequal disadvantage.
One of these women, Marine Capt. Katie Petronio, rocked the feminist world with her straightforward article taking issue with the feminist women-in-combat agenda, based on her own experience.
In her article Capt. Petronio described medical problems, including infertility, that she suffered as a result of deployments to Iraq. It has taken intense medical treatment to overcome the infertility, and her need for expensive medication will continue for the rest of her life. None of this matters to Pentagon feminists, who have criticized Petronio for speaking up. The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) and the Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) only care about high-level career advancement for a few women at the expense of the majority of uniformed women who serve in the enlisted ranks.
It is very likely that the real point of this litigation is to duplicate what happened when the gay activist Log Cabin Republicans sued the Department of Defense on the issue of gays in the military. After a long delay due to procedural issues that never were resolved, a California District Judge engaged in judicial activism to strike down the 1993 law that Congress subsequently repealed.
If the same strategy successfully eliminates military women's exemption (not exclusion) from direct ground combat, Congress and the American people they represent would be wrongly denied the opportunity to make major decisions affecting military women, most of whom want nothing to do with close combat assignments. Civilian women would be affected too, since the ACLU will have removed the obstacle that the Supreme Court and other federal courts have cited in upholding the constitutionality of women's exemption from Selective Service obligations.
All of this would violate the U.S. Constitution, which assigns policy-making power to Congress and the Executive, not to the Judiciary − the branch of government least qualified to make policy for the military. The fastest way to weaken the finest military in the world is to treat it like just another "equal opportunity" employer. Before this is allowed to happen, Congress must intervene.
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