In the aftermath of the election, hard-core feminist ideologues are pushing their agenda on all fronts, including the courts. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing four military women and the activist Servicewomen's Action Network (SWAN), has filed a San Francisco lawsuit demanding that female soldiers be forced into direct ground combat (infantry) battalions.
This is not the first time that the American Civil Liberties Union has tried to misuse the federal courts to impose their own radical agenda on the armed forces. Previously, the ACLU filed lawsuits on behalf of men who demanded that Selective Service obligations be imposed on young women on an equal basis. In every case, the most recent being in 2003, federal courts have correctly deferred to Congress and the Executive branches of government, which have the authority under the US Constitution to make policy for the military.
The ACLU, apparently, does not understand the meaning of direct ground combat, which goes beyond the experience of being "in harms' way." All military personnel and even civilians in a war zone, regardless of occupation, are serving "in harm's way," and some get injured or killed.
The female plaintiffs in this case deserve respect for their service and the injuries they suffered, which were recognized by the awarding of Purple Hearts. Their wartime experiences, however, do not fit the definition of direct ground combat. "Tip of the spear" Army and Marine infantry battalions and Special Operations Forces, which currently are designated male-only, engage in deliberate offensive action against the enemy. Examples of direct ground combat, such as the liberation of Baghdad in March 2003 and Fallujah in November 2004, are fairly recent in military history.
The book Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan, by former Army Ranger Sean Parnell, describes even more recent battalion-level combat operations in Afghanistan. In May 2006 Parnell commanded an elite 40-man infantry platoon that encountered deadly ambushes and repeated attacks by opposition enemy forces using professional infantry tactics. Vivid passages in the book thoroughly discredit the notion that infantry combat in Afghanistan only involves random improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. Infantry combat also differs from interactions with civilian women by female-only cultural engagement teams.According to numerous studies and tests conducted over the past 30 years, in the direct ground combat environment, women do not have an equal opportunity to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive. The armed forces are not subject to civil rights laws like private employers. Nor is there any legal right to serve in direct combat. The armed forces exist to defend the country, and mission accomplishment cannot be subordinated to "equal opportunity" rules that apply in civilian employment.
Contrary to allegations made in the litigation, for decades going back to the 1980s, women in the military have been promoted at rates equal to or faster than men. These figures, re-affirmed by the Pentagon in February 2012, reflect strong support for women in the military. Equal gender -based "diversity metrics" in three- and four-star ranks, however, are not likely when female colonels and captains forego the family sacrifices required of generals and admirals.
The litigation has four female plaintiffs who are joined by Servicewomen's Action Network - the same group pushing the Department of Defense to stop sexual assaults in the military. The organization is against violence against women, unless it happens at the hands of the enemy.
SWAN claims to "advocate for all military women," but they do not represent the concerns of uniformed women who do not want to be forced into infantry battalions where they would be at a severe, unequal disadvantage. One of these women, Marine Capt. Katie Petronio, rocked the feminist world with her straightforward article in the Marine Corps Gazette taking issue with the feminist women-in-combat agenda, based on her own experiences in Iraq. None of her concerns matter to Pentagon feminists, who have criticized Petronio for speaking up.
It is very likely that the real point of this litigation is to duplicate what happened when the gay activist Log Cabin Republicans sued the Department of Defense on the issue of gays in the military. After a long delay due to procedural issues that never were resolved, a California District Judge engaged in judicial activism to strike down the 1993 law that Congress subsequently repealed.
If the same strategy successfully eliminates military women's exemption (not exclusion) from direct ground combat, Congress and the American people they represent would be wrongly denied the opportunity to make major decisions affecting military women who want nothing to do with close combat assignments. Civilian women would be affected too, since the ACLU will have removed the obstacle that the Supreme Court and other federal courts have cited in upholding the constitutionality of women's exemption from Selective Service obligations.
All of this would violate the U.S. Constitution, which assigns policy-making power to Congress and the Executive Branch, not to the judiciary - the branch of government least qualified to make policy for the military. The fastest way to weaken the finest military in the world is to treat it like just another "equal opportunity" employer. Before this is allowed to happen, Congress must intervene.
Editor's Note: Elaine Donnelly is President of the Center for Military Readiness.