Jewish World Review March 13, 2002/ 29 Adar, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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When a cold reality
quiets the henhouse | A funny thing happened on the way to the war on terror.

The radical feminists, who have been trying for a decade to put ruffles and lace on American battle fatigues, took a look at the war and decided that maybe they don't want any of it, after all.

Hens might have fun ordering roosters around, but not if it means dealing with all those bugs, snakes and bats in dark caves and dank tunnels, particularly against a foe that regards slashing the throats of unarmed civilians the mark of gallantry. It doesn't take much imagination to imagine what an Islamist legion, crazed by the sight of naked female ankles and uncovered female faces, would do to women captives.

That's the only explanation for the silence of the hens in the wake of the Bush administration decision to dismiss the DACOWITS panel, which had been working to make the Army, if not war, safe for women. In its place, the Defense Department intends to appoint a new panel, this time made up of grown-ups, to recommend how women, who have made important contributions to the modern military, can further contribute to a war effort short of combat.

Of course, women in the ranks have never been beating the drums (or their gums) to get into the front lines. Surveys have shown that women actually in the services understand why they would be a hindrance in combat, and want no part of getting in the way and getting themselves and their male colleagues killed.

The only women who have been beating the drums are the aging movement feminists who would never dream of going near their country's uniform and a few senior female officers in the Pentagon, who leap upon chairs and scream "eeek" (and hire lawyers) if a boorish man makes creepy leching noises. They regard the women who would actually make the sacrifice of combat soldiers as conveniently expendable. The dirty little secret is that a lot of such women would be black. (Where has the Rev. Jesse Jackson been on this issue?)

Tony Blair's government in Britain is wrestling with the issue of women in combat now, and the British military, not yet quite overwhelmed by the crushing political correctness that intimidates senior U.S. officers, is trying to raise effective objections.

A new study finds that the British army's policy of requiring male and female recruits to meet identical standards of fitness, strength and stamina has put women at "excess risk" of serious and even permanent injury. And this is before they get to battle. Until 1998, women trained with men but were not expected to meet male physical standards.

Under the new regimen of equality, women were found to be eight times more likely than men to be discharged with back injuries, tendon injuries and stress fractures. "It is clear that there are differences in muscle physiology, bone architecture and body composition that interact to place women at a substantial disadvantage when training or working to the same output as males," the study's authors write in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. "Health and safety guidelines require employers to make allowances for these [gender] differences, yet this has been overlooked in the interests of meeting equal-opportunities legislation."

There's nothing like cold reality to wake up even the most obtuse among us, and the heat of war is the coldest reality of all. The Bush administration, taking advantage of the moment to cashier the DACOWITS layabouts, may be acting just in time to prevent lethal damage to the nation's military. Even the media, made up now almost entirely of editors and reporters who not only never served in the military but who have no interest in or understanding of the military, have been sobered by the cold new reality.

Not in all things, of course. The Los Angeles Times, breathing heavily, reported the other day that the United States has contingency plans for bombing seven prospective enemy nations. None of those nations exploded with outrage; surprise and outrage was contained almost entirely in the Times newsroom. Dig deep enough into the contingency vaults in Washington and you might find the plans for invading Scotland, or laying seige to Stockholm, but these are only contingency plans - like those in Rome for a pincher battalion, or in Berlin for a wolf-whistling regiment, to be deployed only if Italy and Germany find some of the Pentagon's lady generals rising from the trenches to meet their armies in a war they expect never to come.

"What the Pentagon has done," says Secretary of State Colin Powell, the cool old soldier of the Bush inner circle, "is sound military conceptual planning." Says Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser: "No one should be surprised that the United States worries a great deal about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Just so. A woman's proper work is never done.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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