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Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2001 / 29 Tishrei, 5762

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Will war finally end Political Correctness? -- YEP --- when war comes in the door, political correctness goes out the window.

We've already seen it on issues like guns - I recently wrote that in eastern states in particular, they are flying off the shelves. We've seen it in the issue of so-called ethnic profiling - in the wake of the terrorist attacks a Gallup poll showed that 71 percent of blacks and 57 percent of whites want some level of extra-scrutiny afforded people from the Middle East when it comes to airport security.

Now, just wait for reality to hit the issue of women in the military.

Make no mistake: American women have a long, proud, and admirable history of serving and even dying for their country in military service. But only in the last decade has there been the move, thanks to many political, cultural and even military leaders, to fully integrate women into all areas of our armed services including combat roles - and until that mission is fully accomplished, to get women as close to battle as possible. In other words, to unnecessarily and gratuitously put women in harm's way while fully knowing they will not be able to survive harm's way as well as men.

To date we seem to have more or less survived the growing feminization of the military. But now we face something the folks behind this agenda probably didn't count on: a war.

The U.S.S. San Antonio, our newest Marine troop carrier, has incorporated a woman's touch. Electrical systems are lower to accommodate a woman's shorter frame, and there's room for lots more toilet paper rolls since on other ships women hoard the stuff. The washers are gentler on the women's undergarments, and there's more ventilation and lights in the women's bathrooms due to their hair spray and makeup, Time magazine reports.

When this was first revealed it seemed laughable, absurd, silly.

Now, it's scary.

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Stephanie Gutmann is the author of "A Kinder, Gentler Military," and she offers a devastating critique of our increasingly feminized forces. Gutmann argues, "Our armed forces are deeply mired in an expensive, resource-draining, time-consuming, morale-flattening project, one that has nothing to do with military readiness and everything to do with politically correct politics."

Often, the military has been caught by surprise by problems women present. For instance, no one figured that they would regularly develop urinary tract infections on long desert marches because they were too embarrassed to go to the bathroom, desert style, in front of the men.

Such anecdotes might be funny - except that now they could be a matter of life or death.

Gutmann conducted extensive research, and so chronicles problems like rampant sexual activity and sexual tension wherever the services are integrated and, naturally enough, incredibly high pregnancy rates. During the Gulf War, Navy ships like the Acadia and Yellowstone saw almost one-third of their women personnel become pregnant - a fact the Navy was not eager to reveal.

Gutmann reveals how the services use coercive quotas, often promoting women before they are ready, and perhaps most ominously she documents the extensive double-standards that are employed between servicemen and women in physical abilities and other areas.

This drive to include dramatically more women and fundamentally change the services for them, says Gutmann, has nothing to do with making our military more ready, but has everything to do with making the military "look like America." But already such changes, coupled with a decade old move by political leaders to increasingly use our proud military for what are essentially social services operations around the world, has sunk morale and recruiting efforts.

(Privately, or once retired so the military's "gag rule" on such issues no longer apply, service men and even service women regularly back up these claims.)

All this does not for a minute mean that America's military cannot face the task ahead and triumph. It's just that that task will be harder because many of our political and even military leaders have for too long put social engineering before military readiness.

In the years ahead there will continue to be debates about the role of women in our armed services. But in the midst of those debates, our political, cultural and military leaders would do well to remember one thing, all the more so given the current crisis - sometimes America really does have to fight a war.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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© 2001, Scripps Howard News Service