Women In Combat

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta reportedly will announce today that the long-time ban against allowing female soldiers to participate in combat operations will be ended.  The move is being made upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The decision would overturn a 1994 edict that barred women from participation in ground-combat units.  It also recognizes the reality of what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the turmoil of terrorist-oriented wars has caused female soldiers operating in “combat support” roles to become involved in combat itself.  In those chaotic situations, women have performed coolly, competently, and with valor — like the well-trained, capable soldiers they are.

The primary objections to women soldiers in combat have been that they could create a sexually charged atmosphere that might detract from performance of the mission and might not be physically capable, from a strength standpoint, of performing all tasks that could be necessary on a particular operation.  The first excuse seems antiquated, and in any case can be addressed by proper training of soldiers of both sexes and attentive leadership.  The answer to the second concern is easy — establish the physical capabilities that actually are needed and see whether individual women, as well as individual men, can meet them.  If so, they should be permitted to participate.  What is the point of arbitrarily excluding professional soldiers who want to serve and can do their duty?

I’m all for knocking down exclusionary barriers — particularly those that arose from outdated cultural and social mores.  I’m glad we are discarding the lingering, Victorian era notions about the delicate conditions of women and giving them the opportunity to fully serve their country and pursue a military career, if that is their choice.

Lipstick on a Pig

This week marked the end of the Iraq war and I am in agreement with Bob’s post earlier this week that the president should not be touting this war as a foreign policy success.

During the time prior to March 20, 2003 when we initially invaded Iraq we were told that this would be a quick war, that we would be greeted as liberators, that the war would be paid for in full by Iraq’s oil revenues, that Iraq had connections to al-Qaeda and that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

What ended up happening was the war lasted almost ten years, we were considered occupiers by many in the Arab world, we ended up paying $2.7 trillion in conflict spending ($4.4 trillion if you add in obligations to wounded veterans and interest payments on the money we had to borrow to fund the war), there were no connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda and Saddam’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons were discontinued in 1991.

It’s not surprising that John McCain came out against the president’s decision to withdraw having said in the past that it was fine with him if we were in Iraq for one hundred years since we have been in Japan for sixty years and in South Korea for fifty years. It’s this kind of thinking that I voted against in 2008.

Below is a brief exchange between Senator McCain and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta about a month ago regarding the Iraqi withdrawal that shows a stark contrast between the current administration’s foreign policy and McCain’s had he become president.

I particularly liked Panetta’s comment where he says “we need to stop telling independent nations what they need to do”. The Iraq War turned out to be a pig and putting lipstick on it just isn’t pretty.