I just heard one Elaine Donnelly from the Center for Military Readiness describe, for NPR listeners, exactly why it’s important that Congress pass a bill codifying Defense Department policy which excludes women from units which participate in direct armed conflicts.
Before we get to Ms. Donnelly, why is this happening now? Pentagon policy also excludes women from units which “collocate routinely” (that is to say, move) with combat units, and apparently there’s a sense that in Iraq, units including women were supporting combat units a little too closely–getting around the policy creating forward support units which didn’t technically collocate or participate, but were certainly right out there. This bill doesn’t out and out say no women in forward support units (although an earlier version did), but everyone would know what it meant. It would make it harder for the military to chip away at the policy through practice. (Thanks to Slate’s Explainer for that one.)
A woman soldier who testified before the house today essentially shrugged off these terms as distinctions without meaning, saying, in essence: You’re in Iraq, you’re going to get shot at. There’s no such thing as combat units anymore. Get over it.
Ms. Donnelly, the face for the Center for Military Readiness (a “non-partisan” group whose website prominently praises President Bush and his policies on this and other issues regarding women in the military, located in that hotbed of combat, Detroit) has a different view. Here, summarized, is her take:
There are lots of single mothers in military, you know, because of the benefits, and if single mothers are killed, that’s very bad, much worse than anyone else getting killed, because they’re single mothers, and it’s the good money and the benefits which get them into the military in the first place, especially the ones who’d be poor otherwise, so it’s like we’re luring them to their doom. Also, you know the ACLU says that women should be drafted, and the only reason they keep losing that case is that we don’t use women in combat, and that’s what the draft is for, so if women can be in combat, they’ll be drafted, which would, of course, be bad, because what about the rest of the single mothers?
I am really just barely paraphrasing.
So, putting aside for the moment any questions which might have popped into your head about exactly why those lower-class single mothers might need good money and benefits, or why the military couldn’t just exempt single mothers (or single fathers, for that matter, the military has its share of them) from combat units–like they were, incidentally, usually exempt from being called up by the draft, what are we left with?
No! Bad! Women being drafted, cats sleeping with dogs, hedgehogs on the loose, madness, mayhem.
Which amuses me because it’s exactly the strategy that defeated the ERA way back when. It looks like they’re bringing out the big guns on this one.
What I’m trying to figure out is, whyshouldn’t women serve in combat units? Why is this such a problem for our country’s social conservatives, and why has it always been a problem? Not, what are the logistical difficulties involved–latrines, foxholes, the ever-present possibility of sexual tension–but underneath all that, why? What, exactly, does the Center for Military Readiness fear?
I can’t come up with anything, other than the general, ever-increasing decay of chivalry and the status quo, and it just seems to me that that ship has sailed.
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