Special Accommodations for Special Ops?
Most functions that fall under the umbrella of Special Education can be defined as either ‘accommodations’ or ‘modifications.’ Accommodations are alterations of, or special supports added to, the environment, learning tools, language, schedules, and physical access on behalf of students that fit the “special needs” classification. Modifications consist of changes to curriculum and simplification of lesson materials so that special needs students can participate meaningfully with their peers, while learning at an appropriate instructional level.
Without accommodations and modifications many students in Special Education would neither learn nor progress purposefully through school. They would be left behind. Accommodations and modifications make the public school–or private school–experience possible for those students who, by their nature, cannot meet the same standards of achievement as the typical population. It requires a lot of effort and creativity to do this.
The present debate–and yes, in my opinion it will always be a matter for debate–surrounding the announcement by Leon Panetta, that existing restrictions on women in combat will be lifted, parallels that of the school student with “special needs.” Since women, by their nature, cannot meet the same standards of strength, speed, and endurance as men, the question of how their needs will be accommodated has to be addressed. How will current standards and expectations be modified so that women can have their combat experience too, and at what cost?
Women who serve in the Military are generally very good at what they do. From time immemorial women have served in support roles for their male counterparts. More recently they have served as flight doctors, nurses, medics, communications officers, intelligence officers and other critical roles. Within the last two decades women pilots have participated in air to surface combat missions. And in the varied roles they now fill in Afghanistan and elsewhere, they are exposed to many dangers, and are subject to injuries and death as are men. But the term ‘combat,’ even in a technologically advanced military, brings to mind the close quarters, front lines, life or death operations that require the most effective and capable killing force available.
Women are currently trained in close quarters combat techniques, often alongside men. But military training consists of controlled situations with friendly associates. Combat is neither predictable nor controlled, and the contenders on the battle field are out to kill you, not enhance your physical and mental prowess. There is no question that women often excel in combat techniques, shooting, and survival. But because women are smaller, weaker, more biologically prone to reproductive and urinary infections, and psychologically distinct from men, the presence of women in ground combat infantry units changes the dynamic–and dilutes the effectiveness of the kill factor.
The Military exists as a deterrent in strength against our enemies because it bears the potential to destroy things and kill people. The United States Military has focused increasingly on humanitarian functions since the Vietnam Era, but nevertheless, its constitutional role is that of defense. The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell‘ has altered the nature of the Armed Forces to the point that the Department of Defense has proclaimed its own Gay Pride Month. What does commemorating gay pride have to do with protecting and defending the people and Constitution of the United States of America?
It’s clear that the Military is devolving into a laboratory for social change. Was it really necessary to repeal DADT? Are Military forces suffering such a shortage of recruits that it is absolutely critical that we put women into combat roles for which they are not naturally suited? Do the distractions of ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’ dilute the purpose and effectiveness of the United States Military? This is not a critique of the valiant and patriotic Americans who choose to serve in a military capacity. But it must be clear that social pressures that bring about policies that distract the Military from its primary roles are leading to the transformation, and emasculation of what was once the world’s most adroit killing machine.
Accommodations will have to be made for women if they are to serve in combat positions. Like Special Education, the Military, will have to reconfigure its norms to compensate for those areas where women fall short of the standards set for men. Women will require special accommodations for their predictable health needs, such as menstrual cycles, and yeast and bladder infections due to poor hygiene. Men will be made to pick up the slack of women who fail to carry their equipment on 20 mile humps, through rivers, deserts, and jungles. And like Special Education, these accommodations will be time consuming and expensive. The greatest expense will be lost lives as the effectiveness of combat units is compromised by ‘fairness’ and ‘equality.’
The list of potential problems is exhaustive. Will a soldier who gets pregnant while in the field require a special evacuation? Will mothers be subject to the heightened risks at the front lines? Will the hormonal and social dynamics that occur when men and women mix decrease morale and cohesiveness within combat units? Will outside groups sue the Military to lower its standards so that more women will more easily qualify for Special Ops and combat units? And will men whose female comrade has been captured, and is being tortured and raped by enemy combatants, remain sufficiently cool and objective to carry out a mission without unnecessary risk?
Accommodations and modifications to classrooms that provide students with special needs a meaningful learning experience are expensive and time-consuming, but they do not threaten the educational well-being of the typical student population. However, accommodating those who fail set standards, and modifying the structure and mission of the Military to appease those who tout ‘fairness’ and ‘equality,’ is fast becoming a matter of life and death.
If this is a done deal, and Panetta, as he walks away from his post, really wants women on the front lines, the first change that must be made is to require ALL women 18 and over to register with the Selective Service. Although the Draft is not currently in effect, I will anxiously await the day when Malia and Sasha Obama take their places in line, with all other young American women and men.