Rep. Duncan Hunter: Integrating women into combat specialties is not a joke, it's serious

There is nothing funny about combat.  Anyone who has ever been in the fight will tell you that war is not a joke or a subject for a punchline.

This was the case last week when the liberal media and several late night talk shows made light of an amendment I proposed to an annual defense bill to force a debate on the merits of integrating women in the infantry and special operations and therefore requiring they register for the draft.  It was branded as a “joke amendment,” by one late night show host.  Another called it a “sarcastic” exercise.

Clearly it struck a nerve.

Good, I say.  It is about time that liberals take an interest in our military, even if for just a moment to defend the social experimentation that is being imposed on the services.  In doing so, however, they egregiously misrepresented the basic substance of the argument on whether women should or should not be required to submit for draft registration.

Women have long been exempt from the draft—and for right reason.  In 1981, a challenge to the exception was heard by the Supreme Court, which determined that the practice of registering men only for the draft was constitutional.  The rationale was that since women were excluded from ground combat, they should not have to register.  Congress agreed and subsequently reaffirmed the exception.

More than 30 years later, the Obama administration turned things upside down when it demanded that women be integrated into all combat specialties, including infantry and special operations.  The Marine Corps resisted, arguing that all specialties can be opened with the exception of the infantry, which is assigned the duty of finding and killing the enemy, often through close-quarter combat.  The Marine Corps even produced an independent and peer-reviewed report to make their case.   The report was ignored.

Not long after, during a Senate hearing in February, both the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Army Chief of Staff endorsed the idea of women registering for the draft.  They conveyed a point similar to what the Supreme Court concluded decades earlier.  If women are in fact integrated in combat roles, then they should eligible for the draft.   The Secretaries of the Army and Navy said the issue should be discussed.

The time to have that discussion is now.

The services have already begun integration and it will take up to three years until it is final.  Before Congress decides whether to permit full integration to go forward in this time, it must also consider every issue—good or bad—that comes with the Obama Administration’s desire to fully integrate infantry units and special operations.

Having served in ground combat as a Marine Corps officer, including a tour in Fallujah, Iraq, I am more than willing to be the person to force the conversation, because if I do not, who will?  Will the late night talk shows do it?  Not a chance.  How about liberal talking heads in the media?  Keep dreaming.

When I proposed my amendment, I even did so with the intention of voting against it.  It passed by a vote of 32-30, with Democrats on the Armed Services Committee uniting in support.  They are now on the record as upholding draft registration for women—I am not, along with 29 others who voted no.

Let me be clear: I don’t support women in the infantry or special operations, nor do I support women registering for the draft.

One of my Democratic colleagues even referred to the amendment as a “gotcha” effort.  That was hardly the case.  The issue of integrating women in combat specialties is far too serious to ignore.  So are the consequences of opening these specialties and the draft is one of those consequences--like it or not.

Liberals have even suggested there was some grand strategy in order and the amendment backfired.  Not even close to true.  The strategy, if one existed, was to force members to go on the record and state a position, rather than hide.  In Congress, we are asked to make tough decisions all the time and we must embrace that responsibility.  Though it is far from certain what will happens to the provision.  In all likelihood, it will be removed from the bill through the floor process or during House-Senate negotiations.

Worth noting also, Representative Charlie Rangel once voted against legislation of his own that reinstated the draft during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His legislation was strongly opposed in a floor vote.  To his credit, he succeeded in forcing a debate that was worth the time and attention of the American people.

It is a fact that women have been placed in combat situations through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that is much different than serving in the infantry or with a special operations unit—especially in a conventional setting, which is unlike the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions of the last 15 years. Of course, there are surely some women that can meet or exceed the standards, though Congress will need to consider whether that should necessitate accommodating such a shift in military culture and mission effectiveness.

Something tells me that the late night hosts and liberal media pundits who have found humor in this issue have never served a day in their lives—or even given the idea thought.  The military is not for everyone.  But they do a great disservice to all of our military men and women by trying to ignore the effects of the Obama Administration’s decision making.

Count me as one Marine Corps veteran in Congress who won’t let that happen.