Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Commentary

Army’s basic training shouldn’t be coed
Such preparation can lead to weak discipline – as was the case at Abu Ghraib prison, Cal Thomas says.

Cal Thomas
Tribune Media Services

What was the cause of the loss of unit cohesion and breakdown of discipline at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq?

Dave Bischel, a National Guardsman with the 870th Military Police unit who returned home last month from duty at the prison, was quoted in Friday's New York Post: “There were lots of affairs. There was all kinds of adultery and alcoholism and all kinds of crap going on.”

When I was in the Army in the mid-1960s, I never saw or even heard of anything ap
proaching this. I did hear of one sergeant in my unit who was court-martialed and reduced in rank for having an extramarital affair. Adultery was taken more seriously then by military and civilian culture. Discipline and a sense that one was representing the country were instilled from the first day of basic training until discharge.

The one dirty little secret that no one appears interested in discussing as a contributing factor to the whorehouse behavior at Abu Ghraib is coed basic training and what it has done to upset order and discipline.

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba observed in his report on the breakdown at Abu Ghraib prison that military police soldiers were weak in basic operational skills. Is that because 10 years ago, for political reasons, politicians and feminist activists within the ranks established coed basic training to promote the fiction that men and women are the same and putting young women in close quarters with young men would somehow not trigger natural biological urges?

The fallacy of that thinking began to show up less than two years after the coed policy was implemented. Sex scandals were reported at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and at basic training facilities around the country.

Former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, R-Kan., headed an independent advisory committee in 1997 that studied coed basic training. The committee unanimously found that bundling men and women together in such situations “is resulting in less discipline, less unit cohesion and more distraction from training programs.” A year later, the House passed legislation to end coed basic training, but the Senate called for a congressional commission instead. Key findings of the 1999 commission escaped notice, but in 2002 an Army briefing concluded that gender-integrated basic training was “not efficient,” and “effective” only in sociological terms. Should sociology be a concern of people who are supposed to know how to fight wars?

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, has noted: “Social experiments – particularly the unrealistic theory that men and women are interchangeable in all roles and military missions – have failed the test of Abu Ghraib. ‘Equal opportunity abusers' are not typical, but the debased activities of a few Americans reveal what can happen when uniformed soldiers – lacking a firm grounding in legal, moral and ethical values – wield unsupervised power over other human beings.”

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski says she was ignorant about the abuse behavior and sexual misconduct allegedly practiced by the MPs under her command. Why? Did she not know the right questions to ask, or was it a matter of “see no evil” because of the sexual politics involved?

From the “don't ask, don't tell” policy pertaining to homosexuals in the military, to the politically correct assignment of women at the most sensitive levels, politicians, military and civilian commanders pretend that the powerful sex drive can be controlled and made irrelevant in the pursuit of military objectives. On ABC's “Nightline” on May 14, several women said they had been raped by fellow soldiers. They said the Army has not properly investigated their claims.

The military has tried to desensitize men through a program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) so that any enemy could not exploit a captive's heightened concern about female colleagues being physically and sexually abused. In 1992, SERE trainers said the entire nation would have to be conditioned to accept combat violence against women.

Congress and the Pentagon need to do something about coed basic training and the assignment of women to certain jobs that put them and what should be the military's primary goals at risk. If they do, they are likely to find a connection between the disciplinary breakdown at the jail of ill repute in Iraq and the sexual politics of people who think the military is just one more sociological playground which can be changed into something it isn't.


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