HomeStuff2013 . 01Does it really have to be that high?

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Does it really have to be that high?

American Politics

At a joint press conference with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked this:

You indicated that — well, at least it sounds like that there may be certain combat operational forays that women might be excluded from still. I mean, what would be the reasons for that? What sorts of operations?

— And he responded with this answer:

No, I wouldn’t put it in terms of operations, Jim. What I would say is that, as we look at the requirements for a spectrum of conflict . . . we really need to have standards that apply across all of those. Importantly, though, if we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high? With the direct combat exclusion provision in place, we never had to have that conversation.

Gen. Martin Dempsey

January 24, 2013

It’s astonishing to hear an American military officer so casually peddling mediocrity, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe the General can't remember what excellence is, but observers might remember that he comes from a country where fewer and fewer people could explain it to him.

To be excellent, by the way, a person pushes the standard up where it should be, because that’s where it goes, and then a person reaches for it, because that’s who they are.


To be clear, at this moment, the military services of the United States are diligently scouring their corpora of standards and trying to find all the standards that suddenly need to be lowered. And why? Have the existing standards suddenly stopped facilitating the goal of being the most effective combat force possible? No, the existing standards were developed primarily to achieve that goal, and they have been validated again and again by the military’s experiences — but that goal isn’t the goal anymore. The new goal is to be the most effective combat force possible, as long as women participate in combat.

Double Standards, in Fact

The United States military isn’t lowering standards by striking ten and scribbling in seven here and there. It’s lowering standards by keeping two sets of books.

It would be a mistake to imagine that women serving in the military are held to the same physical standards as the men they work alongside. The physical tests are frequently and grossly different for the two groups, because the physical capabilities of the two groups are frequently and grossly different. And the assignment of women to new combat duties means the development of even more new and lower standards that apply only to them. As a practical matter, a new, second combat force, trained in parallel and against a lower standard, is being integrated into the existing combat force. It’s hard to expect that the combat effectiveness of the resulting force will be anything but diminished.

The United States military will be weakened as women assume combat duties, and the people of the United States will be less safe as women assume combat duties. So why would any American man or woman want this?

Another question for another day.

HT/Timothy Whiteman, Liberty Unyielding



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