How Leon Panetta started the march toward putting women in combat roles
posted at 9:21 am on January 6, 2016 by Jazz Shaw
We’ve had more than a few discussions here about recent decisions by the Obama administration to open more combat roles to women in the United States military. Looking over the headlines one could get the impression that this is largely a product of the current leadership and the approval process is something which came about rather quickly. But Time Magazine has an excerpt from Jay Newton-Small’s new book “Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works” this week which shows that the real driving force behind this movement was actually Leon Panetta during his tenure at Defense.
This background analysis starts with descriptions of how Panetta saw the sacrifices of women in the CIA in Afghanistan and other places while he was the director there. Then, as Defense Secretary, he again observed many women serving valiantly as pilots and military police escorts. This apparently got him thinking. (Time)
Upon his return to the Pentagon, Panetta started asking his generals why women were barred from forward deployments and combat missions. At first the answer seemed that it was because they couldn’t meet the physical standards: for example, the number of pull-ups required.
But when he asked about the women who could meet those standards, the generals ran out of answers. “He found it was a gender-based prohibition, not merit- or physical-based prohibition,” said Jeremy Bash, who served as Panetta’s chief of staff at both the CIA and the Pentagon. “Just: men can and women can’t. He thought that was wrong and worked very closely with [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General [Martin] Dempsey to make a change.”
While this looks like something of a puff piece for Panetta, it does uncover some of the flaws underlying these “reforms” which come pretty much straight out of the Social Justice Warrior playbook. There’s nothing wrong with examining the requirements for combat duty and asking how many (if any) women can actually meet them at the same level as the men. These are valid questions and tie directly into the challenges of fighting on the front lines, as well as identifying possible weak links in the chain when it comes time to do the dirty business of war. But that’s really not the entire story here.
There are a lot more questions to answer beyond simply finding some women who are capable of doing the required number of pull-ups that the Drill Sergeant demands in boot camp. And I’m not even talking about separate bathroom facilities at the forward operating post (though that does become a bigger issue in the Navy for ships at sea) or how many sleeping bags to issue. We tend to be hard wired for a few things as a species and the differences between humans along gender lines go back a long ways, embedded deep in our biological code. Men – particularly the ones with the personality traits that lead them to volunteer for combat duty – have a reflexive impulse to protect women. It’s just built into us, and I remain fully convinced that this is not a bad thing. I understand that drives the SJW insane to hear, but it’s difficult to deny abject reality. And as I’ve discussed here before, I’m hardly the first person to point out that such a reflexive action can compromise a unit’s effectiveness in the heat of battle.
Also, it should go without saying that the treatment female soldiers can expect to receive from from their (probably Islamic) captors on the battlefield these days is, if anything, significantly more horrific than even that which the men will encounter. There are serious flaws with this idea and Panetta failed to take any of them into account. But we’re in the brave new world now for better or worse. I just hope I don’t get proven right in some future encounter in foreign lands.