An online petition to President Bush asking him to keep American military women out of harm’s way and otherwise roll back the Clinton-era feminist agenda in the Armed Forces has so far garnered more than 14,000 signatures.
Americans for the Military, a project of the Center for Military Readiness (CMR), wants to preserve traditional American military policies that keep women away from combat while restoring more efficient sex-segregated training in the Army.
The petition (located at www.americansforthemilitary.com) makes four requests:
One signatory of the petition is Dr. William Gregor, an expert on women in the military who serves as a professor of social sciences at the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies. A 1969 graduate of West Point, Gregor served in Vietnam, and retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel. He testified before both the 1992 presidential and the 1998 congressional commissions on women in the military.
The consensus in the military, he says, is that women cannot serve in ground combat units due to the physical demands involved. Women serving in “combat arms is a non-starter because there are so few women who can do it,” he said. “They would have to be protected to have an appreciable population of them. Only 2% of women achieve the male mean [physically].”
“Over age 30, women’s physical abilities decline and their injury rates go up much faster than men’s,” he said. “Even if a woman is competitive at age 26, she soon is not.” In any case, he said, it is “economically infeasible” to accommodate the very few young women capable of serving in ground combat units.
Gregor said that problems have arisen since the Clinton Administration started assigning women to more combat support units, which are now more likely to see combat as “front lines” become blurrier.
Despite all the talk in the media about how technology has decreased physical demands on troops, said Gregor, the military is actually moving in the opposite direction. “The physical tasks in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that our guys need to be trained better,” he said. The Army’s decision to begin co-ed basic training in 1994, he said, “has degraded training. Men and women perform better when trained separately.”
“Physical demands on infantrymen have actually increased,” said Tom Moore, a former director of defense studies at the Heritage Foundation, who served 21 years in the Army Reserves, in both armor and infantry.
“We need a debate over this,” said Elaine Donnelly, president of CMR. “We need to know exactly what is going on with women in the services if we’re going to have this vast social experiment.” So far, four American women have died in Iraq or Kuwait since the Iraq war began, the latest on October 1.
Moore noted that huge spiritual and cultural issues are involved in this debate. “Even feminists admit that one of the problems with having women in combat units is that the better men try to protect them,” he said. “Worse men try to take advantage. . . . So their solution is to change men. Think of the implications of that. Do we want a society in which men are not protective of women?”