A Slap in the Face

by PETER FARMER February 8, 2013

On 24 January, 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rescinded Department of Defense rules barring women from the combat arms, thereby overturning regulations which have been in effect since 1994. As noted by this writer in his previous column, Panetta's actions did much more than change a specific set of regulations; they overturned more than two hundred years of military tradition and precedent.

Panetta's administrative fiat was bad enough, but the matter does not end there.

Any grunt worth his salt will tell you that women can't cut it and have no business being in the infantry, special operations, or the other ground combat arms such as armor, artillery and combat engineers - regardless of what rigged Pentagon opinion surveys may say. A few very vocal feminists in the Air Force and elsewhere - mostly staff officers whose time is spent "in the rear with the gear" - claim that women deserve to be in ground combat and are needed there, but the grunts on the line - the guys with rounds snapping by their heads and cordite in their nostrils - say different.

By forcing women into units like these, where they are neither wanted nor needed, Panetta and Obama have, in effect, told the American fighting man that his best isn't good enough and that women are needed to get the job done. This is nothing more than a slap in the face of every American fighting man, past or present, alive or dead. Over the more than two-hundred year history of our armed forces, America's fighting men have always done whatever has been asked of them, no matter what the cost, no matter how great the hardship. To use John Kennedy's words, they have been willing to pay any price and bear any burden in defense of this republic - but apparently, even these extraordinary sacrifices are not enough to satisfy Obama and Panetta and their leftist allies.

To the casual observer, members of the traditional military - the "old breed" as they are sometimes called - may seem hidebound and inflexible. However, good soldiers are rightfully skeptical of unnecessary change and tend to regard social engineering with a degree of suspicion, if not outright contempt. Why is this so? The answer has to do with the finality of mistakes in the profession of arms; in most civilian jobs, making a mistake at worst may cost money or time or pose an inconvenience - but soldiers measure mistakes in body bags and horribly wounded comrades taken from the field as litter cases. In extremis, military failure may mean the loss not only of one's life, but the possible devastation of one's home, community and nation. The high stakes involved explain much of the skepticism and resistance to change we see in accomplished soldiers. What works in war tends to be retained or repeated, what does not work gets pushed aside or modified until it does work. Above all, one does not fix what isn't broken in the first place. 

Fixing what isn't broken is of course precisely what Obama and Panetta mean to do - never mind that the "cure" they have in mind is worse than any "disease" from which the patient - our armed forces - may be suffering. The fact that two dilettantes like Panetta and Obama - neither man has served in the military - are meddling in something they do not understand and cannot comprehend, is apparently unimportant in the scheme of things.

The truly ugly truth is that Obama and Panetta will probably win accolades and honors for their "innovation" - at least in certain circles - but they won't be the ones to pay the price when their little experiment goes sideways, as it sooner or later must do. The price will be paid in dead young men and women, the ones whose caskets used to appear in the news all the time when George Bush was president, but which now are mysteriously absent now that a Democrat is in the White House. Old men start wars, but young men fight them - and now young women, too.

The GOP has remained shamefully silent on the issue, apparently too concerned about polling well to stand up for what is right. Worse yet, those Republicans who have spoken out on the issue have, more often than not, supported the new policy ending the combat exclusion, John McCain being a case in point. Of all people, McCain should know the ugly face of war, but he seems A-OK with women in foxholes - never mind that the grunts don't want them there. A slap in the face.

In today's diversity-drive military, it is now effectively a career-killer to publicly-express doubts about initiatives for homosexuals, women or other protected groups. For this reason, the rank-and-file have largely remained silent. They can do nothing else without endangering their careers. But make no mistake - the tough, hard men who make up the bulk of our ground combat forces are not at all happy with the changes engineered by Obama and Panetta.

The decision to overturn the combat exclusion for women is being framed by the White House and Pentagon as an issue of equal rights, but that is far from the whole story. Historically, the armed forces have been one of the most-respected institutions in America, as well as one of the most traditional. Despite more than three decades of unrelenting social engineering by the cultural left upon the United States military, it remains a bastion of cultural conservatism and traditionalism. This is particularly true of the combat arms, which tend to draw recruits in disproportionate numbers from the most conservative regions of the nation, especially the rural West, Midwest and South.

Because the military remains a bastion of traditional values, the cultural left knows it must conquer or at least transform this institution on its long march through American society. Because of the respect in which the military is generally held in national life, Obama and his supporters realize that they cannot openly declare their intentions to fundamentally alter the basic character of the armed forces; instead, it is realized that a more subtle approach is called for. They have settled upon a method which might be summarized as letting "the bad money drive out the good," except that it isn't money which is being driven out, but people.

Obama and Panetta know full-well that traditional young men of the kind who have always sustained the combat arms are less-likely to join their "new military" because of the changes being made. That is precisely the point; they want to drive these men away from the military, while at the same time attracting those who support their agenda - namely, leftist men, feminists, homosexuals and other reliable progressive constituencies, such as single parents. The fact that the combat effectiveness of the armed forces will almost certainly be degraded is entirely incidental and of no importance. What is central to Obama, Panetta, et al. is that the military be transformed into a bastion of the left. The more alien to traditional values the armed forces become, the less likely military service is to appeal to the kind of conservative people the cultural left regard as their ideological and political enemies.

There is considerable evidence that the transformation envisioned by the White House is well-advanced. This author knows dozens of former and current members of the armed forces, ranging from enlisted men to senior officers. They speak of the officer corps being purged and ideologically "impure" officers being cashiered or retired involuntarily. Members of the old-breed military, seeing the handwriting on the wall, are heading for the exits in substantial numbers.

These seasoned junior and mid-level officers and NCOs represent the backbone of the armed forces and comprise its institutional memory and its repository of war-fighting skills. They see ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the normalization of open homosexuality in the ranks and the overturning of the combat exclusion for women for what they are - a direct attack on the basic values and character of the U.S. military. Most of these warriors do not like the changes happening on their watch, but they are powerless to alter events - so they are hanging it up. After getting out, many of them are telling their sons - and the sons of their neighbors - not to join the armed forces. 

Who will defend the nation when the sons of Middle America turn away from military service? Let us hope that we do not have to find out the answer to that question the hard way...

Copyright 2013 Peter Farmer

Peter Farmer is a historian and commentator on national security, geopolitics and public policy issues. He has done original research on wartime resistance movements in WWII Europe, and has delivered seminars on such subjects as political violence and terrorism, the evolution of conflict, combat medicine, and related subjects. Mr. Farmer is also a scientist and a medic. 

 

 


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