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Congress Threatens to Neuter Commanders’ Authority Over Sexual Assault Crisis

Politics

The government should not make the crisis worse by forcing sexual integration to even more absurd levels.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey (center) takes a drink of water as he and other members of the military testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. (AP)

In response to a sexual assault crisis in the military, Congress is considering depriving commanders of the authority to handle such cases on their own. This proposal ignores the elephant in the room—the problems that arise from the radical integration of the sexes in the unique circumstances of military life. Congress helped create this problem, and it must tackle the root cause, not simply treat the symptoms.

Facing an angry Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted that they have failed to deal with an epidemic of sex crimes and promised to redouble their efforts. But the brass opposed fundamental changes in how crimes are punished.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has proposed stripping commanders of their authority to overturn court-martial convictions. Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) would go further, taking responsibility for prosecuting sex crimes out of the victim’s chain of command and puting it into the hands of specialized sex-crime prosecutors.

The chiefs dug in their heels against both proposals. “It is imperative that the chain of command is fully engaged and part of the solution,” testified General Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff. “Removing commanders, making commanders less responsible, less accountable, will not work. It will hamper the delivery of justice to the people we most want to help.”

US Army female soldiers with the 2-17 Field Artillery Regiment, Specialist Lilia Mendieta, 27, from Seattle (L) and Private Atiyhia Goldbold, 20, from New York listen to a briefing as they prepare to leave on a mission in Ramadi, 100 kms west of the capital Baghdad, 26 October 2004. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Congress is understandably upset by the Pentagon’s apparent inability to address the sex problem. Last month the Defense Department released the results of a survey that suggest that incidents of unwanted sexual contact in the forces surged by 35 percent over the past two years. Since only a small fraction of those victims reported their assaults, there appears to be widespread fear of retaliation.

But changing the disciplinary system will not solve the crisis. The military and its political masters have ignored the reality that most service men and women are at the age when the sex drive is at its height. Mixing the sexes in lonely, high-stress environments of forced intimacy inevitably leads to relationships—and criminal activity. 

Radical feminists have pushed the military to pretend that men and women are interchangeable. The results have been tragically predictable. The recent Lackland Air Force Base sex scandal mirrors the 1996 Aberdeen Proving Ground tragedy in which twelve male officers were charged with sexual assault against female trainees. There is no military necessity for men and women to go through basic training together. In fact, past congressional studies recommend ending coed basic training to improve discipline, cohesion, and the quality of training. 

Unfortunately, the military sex crisis is about to get worse, because the Pentagon intends to force young women into ground combat. Radical feminists are leading the push for coed ground combat forces as if the sex problem will improve with more integration. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, parroted that view last January 2013 when he announced the new policy. Putting women in combat units, he insisted, will increase respect for women and reduce sexual assaults. Where is the evidence for this profoundly naïve belief? 

What should we do? 

There are no excuses for this crisis. Sexual assault is totally unacceptable, and military personnel found guilty of such offenses should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Congress should arm commanders with the proper tools to deal with the crisis. Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, testified, “It is essential that our commanders be involved in each phase of the military justice process.” He recognizes, however, that the military justice system “may need to evolve,” and he is open to some modifications.

But the government should not make the crisis worse by forcing sexual integration to even more absurd levels. Our current policies demand behavior that is at odds with human nature, and they contradict the purpose of the military, which is to fight and win wars. Until we stop treating the armed forces like a cultural petri dish, the men and women who bravely serve in them will continue to pay a heavy price for our folly.

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