Monday, December 18, 2017
Opinion

Column: Now more than ever, America needs women in armed forces

At the recent congressional hearings on sexual assault in the armed forces, Sen. John McCain asserted that he could not give his "unqualified support" for a young woman's wish to join the military.

By saying this, McCain sent a message that could potentially harm America's security. The fact of the matter is we need more women in the ranks, not fewer.

Much of the concern is the result of a recent Pentagon survey that estimated 26,000 of 1.4 million military personnel suffered "unwanted sexual contact" in 2012. To be clear, even one case of sexual assault or unwanted contact is too many, but it is important to know that in this particular survey the majority of those 26,000 were men, not women.

Yes, women do report a higher percentage of unwanted contacts than men, and the 2012 figure is higher than 2010, but it is still lower than 2006's estimated 34,000 unwanted contacts.

Much criticism has been leveled at military leadership, but here's what the survey actually found:

• 88 percent of women and 94 percent of men indicated their leadership does well in making it clear that sexual assault has no place in the military;

•80 percent of women and 88 percent of men indicated their leadership does well in promoting a unit climate based on mutual respect and trust;

• 77 percent of women and 86 percent of men indicated their leadership does well in leading by example;

• and 73 percent of women and 85 percent of men indicated their leadership does well in creating an environment where victims would feel comfortable reporting.

Perfect? Hardly. More work to do? Absolutely. But many civilian institutions wrestle with this issue. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 19 percent of women suffer attempted or completed sexual assault at college.

Dissuading women from joining is not the way to fix the military's sexual assault problem. Women in the service can help effect change from within through their example, their wisdom and their hard work. Lawyer and journalist Susan Estrich once said, "You can't change the rules if you're not in the room."

America needs her best and brightest to meet the complex security challenges of the 21st century. When an entire gender is discouraged from joining the all-volunteer military, it will be, by definition, a less talented force. It really is that simple.

No one can say that unwanted sexual contacts won't happen in the military or anywhere else, and the military can be a dangerous place for reasons wholly apart from sexual assault. But it can also be an exciting adventure of vital public service.

If women really do turn away from military service, the heartbreak of sexual assault will be compounded into a calamity that threatens the nation's security even more than it already does. America needs her daughters in uniform.

Charles J. Dunlap Jr. is a retired Air Force major general and executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security at Duke Law School.

Comments
Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

The annual Editorial Cartoon Round-Up is a thought-provoking recap of a momentous 2017. The gallery containing 32 cartoons from some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country is made available by the Washington Post News Service & Syndicat...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17