Saturday, June 14, 2008

i'll cook and you kill.

read this.

Co-Ed Combat on William F. Buckley’s Firing Line Team
3/3/2008 10:14:00 AM

-- by Elaine Donnelly

In March 1993 I was honored to be on a Firing Line debating team captained by William F. Buckley, Jr. Together with author David Horowitz and Marine Col. John Ripley, a distinguished veteran of Vietnam, we dueled for two hours against liberal Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder and three others. The issue in question was “Resolved: Women in the Military Should be Excluded from Combat.”

The program was taped before an audience at George Washington University, and the format was a challenge. Each person made an opening statement, followed by several rounds of questions to and from members of the opposing team. Buckley’s insightful opening statement described the reluctance of the military service academies to host the debate:

“Mr. Chairman, colleagues, benighted adversaries, ladies and gentlemen….the intimidating forces of modern feminism have got not only mere congressmen and senators wilting on the question before the house, they have intimidated the Pentagon, or at least recent rulers of the Pentagon. You should know, Mr. Chairman, that without intending anything less than high respect, indeed devotion, for the present audience, when it occurred to us that current political surrealism required that we ventilate the possibility of women doing combat duty, I thought it most natural that the case should be argued before the body of cadets in West Point. The proposal was made to the academy and the idea vetoed by a lady colonel on behalf of the Pentagon.

“We thereupon issued the identical invitation to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, which happily accepted the idea of acting as host for us, but then the Pentagon heard about it, moved in, vetoed. ‘Too controversial,’ we were told. A few days later, by chance "I happened on Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney at a social affair, and I told him that after all, war was also pretty controversial, and he whispered to me that he would see what he could do about getting the Air Force Academy for us. That turned out to be more than he could do, because he never got back to us, though I must put it on the record that an official of the Air Force Academy telephoned as recently as yesterday insisting that we could take our show to his academy and he would guarantee us safe passage. [laughter]

“Whether the colonel who called us has a career ahead of him, I do not know. [laughter] Most likely he is scheduled to retire tomorrow and was ready to go down in polemical flames. [laughter] We don't know, as I say, but reading the record of recent controversies touching on the wider question and learning of the fate of several senior naval officials who were accused of gentle revelry at the expense of Congresswoman Schroeder and were promptly shown the door to Devil's Island makes it plain that not only in the minds of the trendy opinion movers, the question posed tonight is already answered--yes, women may serve in combat duty--but that a correlative point has also been made, namely that anyone who disagrees with this position is backward, uncommitted to equal rights, something of a male chauvinist, a Tailhook type. And to the extent that he does not believe in gender equality, he or she is an undeveloped, metaphysical fetus. And of course, we all know what we do with unwelcome fetuses. [laughter]

In minutes, Buckley summarized a host of arguments similar to those documented by the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces—a fifteen-member congressionally-established panel on which Kate O’Beirne and I had served:

“There are several levels, Mr. Chairman, at which we examine the question. All three are, in my judgment, dispositive, but the last is the most dispositive of them all. The first point is utilitarian: Given that combat duty exacts the most that the human body can deliver, does it make sense to admit to combat duty a gender whose members are physically weaker than males?

“The second point is sociological: In combat conditions, is it realistic to suppose that traditional deferences to sexual identity and derivative customs relating to privacy can simply be ignored? Isn't it likelier that any such assumption is an invitation to distractions which in tight and anxious military situations could prove lethal?

“And finally, third, are we not, in suggesting that the male predisposition to protect the female should be ignored, sticking our meddling little fingers into the chemistry of biological relationships from which much that is concededly civilized issues? For instance, the call to protect the hearth, to honor the mother and care for the child, to shoulder that burden that corresponds with the incremental capacity of the male to carry greater physical burden, even as the woman bears so many burdens distinctive to her own sex? We plant our flag on a sound tradition, ladies and gentlemen, and warn our dogged adversaries that whatever sophistries they hurl up against it, that flag will continue, bruised but proud, to stand high over the madding crowd. [applause]

Col. John Ripley, in his opening statement, defined combat as a verb, not a noun: “The word itself, ‘to combat,’ suggests that you must take the fight to the enemy. You must in fact destroy the enemy...Combat is not simply being in a risk environment.” This definition remains key to an understanding of this ongoing debate, particularly when physical standards are gender-normed to treat “equal effort” as the same as “equal results.”

Ira Glasser, then-Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), questioned Buckley on the issue of physical strength. Seeing the debate as a matter of equal opportunity, Glasser admonished Buckley for wanting to ban the one Canadian woman out of 102 who successfully completed infantry training in 1989. (In that year Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal repealed all of women’s combat exemptions to advance equal opportunity, not military necessity.)

Buckley defended policies affecting whole classes of people. “I can find you a 13 year-old,” he said, “who is brighter than a lot of 18 year-olds. But she can’t vote.” Noting that the Constitution also specifies ages of eligibility to run for Congress and the presidency, he argued that sound categorical rules should not be repealed just because some individuals are denied. When Glasser tried to argue that issues of eligibility should be decided on individual qualifications, Buckley countered, “Shall we go in quest of the unrapeable woman?”

Buckley did not apologize for being a gentleman, saying: “I’m not at all ashamed of being a protective male.” A majority of presidential commissioners saw it the same way, realizing that deliberate exposure of women to combat violence in war would be tantamount to acceptance of violence against women in general. Commissioner O’Beirne framed the issue best, “Good men protect and defend women.” If more mothers taught their sons what it means to be a gentleman, cultural influences that encourage or condone violence against women would be less pervasive than they are today.

This edition of Firing Line, which people told me they remembered many years after it aired, was the last debate of its kind. Neither the House nor the Senate held hearings on the extensive findings and recommendations of the Presidential Commission.

Women have been serving courageously in major deployments since 9/11, but under conditions of risk far more difficult than their predecessors in the first Persian Gulf War. Many of the predictable problems highlighted in the Firing Line debate still remain. These include the reluctance of Congress and military officials to discuss and evaluate the consequences of unprecedented social change in the military, objectively, and from more than one point of view.

It was a privilege to participate in this co-ed combat of ideas. William F. Buckley, Jr. was a consummate gentleman who advocated respect for all women, and showed it by taking this issue seriously as a matter of culture as well as national defense.



Blogger Marine Mom Out There said...

These people make me want to hurl.
So I wasn't going to leave a comment, but found a statement I think I can respond to with some coherence.

“The second point is sociological: In combat conditions, is it realistic to suppose that traditional deferences to sexual identity and derivative customs relating to privacy can simply be ignored?

The tradtional deferences to sexual identity and derivative customs are relative to what class,geographical, and historical subgroup you are talking about.
He makes a sweeping generalization that is so full of holes as to make it meaningless. Poor women, minority women, and other groups have done without many of those 'deferences' for much of the history of US culture.

I served in 83-89. I'm back in now (Guard) and am having an interesting time watching what's changed...and what has not changed.

I've also done some gender studies work.

These people are fighting a losing battle.

Considering how long we've been in he Middle East now, there should be a ton of solid facts to be able to base an evaluation of how well females cope in combat.

I imagine you would know something about that.

6/15/2008 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger Long-time RN said...

Being a civilian, I'll be honest and say Ms Donnelly's article addressed issues that had crossed my mind. Perhaps the general public will see data on how women cope and perfom in combat in the coming years. I thought the same as Marine Mom Out There, you could address these points from experience. It would be very enlightening to hear these points addressed by women who have completed overseas tours. Perhaps when one is no longer a member of the military....

6/15/2008 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Marine Mom Out There said...

There have been studies dating back to WWII on females in uniform. With the rise in Women's History as a subspecialty in the field as well as gender studies in general, there is more data out there than ever before on the subject.

Because gender exclusion/inclusion in uniform has so many ramifications outside of the military and in terms of economic, political, and social equality, its a decision that should be based solidly on fact, not 'viewpoint'.

Having said that I don't want a 105 lb can't drag my son's fat butt off the battlefield person filling an infantry slot. Its really about if females can do the job. This war should have answered some of those questions by now.

Sorry about the 'hurl' thing. That was rude and I probably misspelled it to boot.

6/15/2008 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Xeno said...

Marine Mom - I suspect what he was referring to with the "derivative customs relating to privacy" was specifically the issue of the need for field hygiene.

In the field you don't always have the time or luxury to rig a shelter so that the guys can't see the girls, or vice versa.

And as long as you act like there's a difference - as long as you treat them differently - the lure of the forbidden will cause problems. On both sides.

If we ever reach an "equality" where you're comfy with getting herded into a communal shower room, with both genders, washing yourself, and getting dressed, the whole time in full view of the males - THEN you will have taken a step towards doing away with those "derivative customs" you seem to be so angry about.

But until then... sad to say, he's got a point.

6/19/2008 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Marine Mom Out There said...

I responded to Xeno's comment and also responded more in depth to the orginal article. It is way too long for a comment though.

6/21/2008 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger olgreydog7 said...

Two things stand out to me, "Buckley defended policies affecting whole classes of people. 'I can find you a 13 year-old,' he said, 'who is brighter than a lot of 18 year-olds. But she can’t vote.'" and Col Ripley's statement about equal effort versus equal results. These have been my main arguments. You can talk about the 3 questions that are presnted, and they are valid, but this is the reason I like the most. Equal does not mean different. The standard must be the exact same for both genders. Until the military is able to evaluate and place people based soley on that individuals qualifications, and that standard is the same for everyone, there needs to be gender exclusions. Yes, there are women out there that can do a better job in combat than men, but the number is, most likely, very small. Should we take the chance on endangering lives just for the cause of gender equality? Unfortunatly, combat is something that is hard to determine someone's qualification for until they are actually in a combat situation.

6/24/2008 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Eugene said...

You know what? Anyone who is brave enough to go fight Bush's wars should be allowed to. That includes homosexuals, women and rednecks. Just be sure to put them in a regiment alone, so that they don't endanger anyone else.

Women can go join the militia too, if they really want to play counterstrike in real life.

That would save a lot of people from conscription.

The troops in Iraq are essentially doing the job the police should be doing - that is keeping order. And we certainly have women as policemen. Give them a bigger gun and they can go police Iraq.
Being police isn't really a combat role. They can go do that and do the checkpoints.

The remote regions of Afghanistan is a different story. It really is still a war there. I don't think women should be combat personnel there.

Finally, if there are any women out there who are as fit as the men in combat, there's no reason why they shouldn't be in. As long as they aren't thinking or acting in a feminine way. The only concern is that they will be a liability and hinder, endanger and the lives of others.

Women will always be different from men, no matter how hard feminism tries to pretend they don't exist or force people to ignore them. Individual rights are the way to go. People MUST REALIZE that people don't get rights from anyone or because of anything - we are born with them. If that happened, feminism would cease to exist, unless it so chooses to be irrational.

8/30/2008 03:16:00 AM  

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