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Posted by on Feb 16, 2010 in Education, International, Places, Politics, Religion, Society, War | 13 comments

If Israel Did it, Why not the U.S.?

I have written in support of giving women in our military equal responsibilities, duty assignments and advancement opportunities as their male counterparts. (Here and here)

I have also been a consistent supporter of permitting gays and lesbians to serve openly and honorably in our military. (Such as here and here)

Finally, I have written admiringly of the Israel Defense Forces. In my opinion, the Israeli military are among the finest fighting forces in the world. As I have also written, gays and lesbians have served openly, bravely and honorably in the IDF since 1993, including in its elite Special Forces units.

Today, a piece in the New York Times on-line “Opinionator” effectively ties the three issues together.

Catherine Ross starts her article, “Home Fires: Women’s Work,” as follows:

Maybe I should’ve been a soldier in Israel’s army. As of 10 years ago, that country’s women have been allowed to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (I.D.F.) in any capacity that male soldiers serve, including combat units. They can serve in the infantry or mechanized units, or any other combat occupation. They make up a third of the I.D.F., and are treated as equals with males.

She then posts CNN footage of Israeli female soldiers who indeed can and do serve in any capacity (below)

And comments:

Watching that video got me fired up. It was a real eye opener for me. These women are living proof that female soldiers can perform all of the same duties that male soldiers perform. These women don’t have to go around proving themselves.

And indeed, the Israeli military have actively recruited women since the start of the Israeli State in 1948, and presently allow women to serve in any role and capacity as men, including combat.

Ross focuses on the fact that women in the U.S. Army are not “officially” allowed to hold a combat arms M.O.S. (Military Occupation Specialty) nor allowed to serve in ground combat units at the battalion level and below. In doing so, she touches on an issue that is often brought up by opponents of gays and lesbians serving (openly) in the military.

You see, Catherine Ross, as part of her eight years of Army Reserves service, deployed to Balad and Mosul in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and was attached to 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 2nd Infantry Division.

While in Iraq, she went everywhere the Stryker Brigade went, “lived as they did and faced the same dangers they did.”

As to the “issue”—straights and gays/lesbians “taking showers together” and as to their “sleeping accommodations”—Ross says:

I’ve heard the argument that males and females serving side-by-side in combat situations would create problems. Early on during my tour in Iraq, a situation arose…The Army is supposed to provide separate living quarters for males and females, but on this small F.O.B. [Forward Operating Base], it was not possible. I was the only woman on the FOB. The living quarters consisted of bare-bones containers — essentially shipping containers with a window or two — and four soldiers were crammed into each one. There were not enough containers to go around; I could not have one to myself…I ended up sharing a container with three male soldiers, one of whom was on my team, so I already knew and trusted him as we had already had to rough it in the field together. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the other two, but it ended up working out just fine. They were all perfect gentlemen…At least in my experience, sharing quarters with males in a combat zone was a non-issue.

Finally, Ross says:

While it may be a D.O.D. policy to keep women out of combat, the reality doesn’t match the policy. Right now, a plan is being formulated to phase out “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”, so that openly homosexual soldiers can serve in the military. If all goes according to plan, gay men will be able to serve in both combat and support units, depending on their chosen M.O.S. They will have to adhere to the same performance standards as straight male soldiers. So while we’re at it, can we phase out the policy of underestimating women? If Israel did it, why not the U.S.?

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  • DLS

    Actually, Dorian, it’s not just another argument on behalf of military reform (gays in the US military).

    Israel’s “model” case is primarily that for advocates of compulsory military service (which makes a good deal more sense than fluffier stuff like “national service” that puts young people in the role of social workers and vote-buyers as well as cheap labor — unless AFCSME has their way).

  • Silhouette

    If Israel did it why not the US? Because we are supposedly not Israel. We must be careful to maintain that phasod.

  • JSpencer

    Excellent post Dorian. The Israeli example is a great model. The USA is ready for this (most of us) and it makes sense in so many ways. By the way, there have been quite a few female troops in Iraq who have seen combat. There was a story about it on one of the PBS news programs awhile back, can’t remember the name offhand. Btw, I agree with DLS about the desirability of compulsary national service, but believe a non-military component needs to be available as an option as well.

    • DdW

      Thanks, JS.

      As I have written before, I am for reintroducing the military draft (see a piece that got an awful lot of feedback, pro and con). However, after having just supported “military equality” for women in every respect, I have mixed feelings about ordering women into combat (and I got a lot of flak for this, too)

      My personal opinion is that those women who want to serve their country in combat, should be allowed to do so—and I will say a prayer for them.

      But if there is a mandatory draft that includes women, I believe that only those who volunteer should be placed in harm’s way.

      I know that this is somewhat inconsistent (some will say hypocritical) with wanting equal rights for women (“equal rights mean equal responsibilities”, etc.), but that is just my personal opinion–as the father of a lady, and the brother of two ladies whom I love.

  • Leonidas

    This is one of those few issues that DDW and I see eye to eye on.

  • DLS

    “a non-military component needs to be available as an option as well”

    Consider what some would want the military used rather than as a military — for disaster relief and social work, typically. Imagine also, though, something more general and you’ll see where the non-military option actually leads — it’s a work force. It could well happen 20-30 years from now, as money-short governments come to need cheap labor or come to rely on “volunteers.” (Prisoners will also probably be put to work in some way by then, something that is long overdue, anyway.)

  • tidbits

    Already on record as supporting reinstatement of the draft, I would expand the military’s role to encompass a defend and protect mission. That would include far less military adventurism abroad, closing or downsizing of unnecessary military bases and operations, Western Europe, Japan and the Pacific islands come to mind. In the place of foreign military adventurism, I would focus on actual defense functions including border security (I’ll get blowback on that one, though I also support immigration reform) and port security, as well as protection issues including Coast Guard functions (rolled into the Navy) and disaster relief (military and National Guard were the shining stars in the post-Katrina debacle with civilian agencies like FEMA giving new meaning to incompetence). To defend and protect is the role our military should play and all should participate. No soldier, male or female, gay or straight, should see combat absent an express declaration of war by Congress…not a pre-authoriztion…not a re-authoriztion…an actual declaration of war.

  • tidbits

    How agonizing it must be to spend so many waking hours obsessed with hating individuals whose criteria for vilification is that they engage in one fewer acts of sexual penetration than many heterosexuals.

  • JSpencer

    Of course one of the other benefits of a draft could be a leveling of the playing field with respect to class issues. If sons and daughters, neices and nephews, grandchildren and cousins of senators and representatives were being drafted along with middle and lower class rural and city kids, then maybe wars wouldn’t be entered into so lightly.

    • DdW

      To me that is one of the “invisible/unprovable”” advantages of a universal draft.

  • kritt11

    All Americans should be allowed to contribute in service to their country in any way their country can use them. look at how don’t ask don’t tell hurt our intelligence-gathering ability after 9/11, when gay and lesbian Arabic and Farsi translators were turned away. Totally homophobic foolishness!

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