UPDATE – VIDEO ADDED:
A good debate on Fox News Sunday occurred between Colonel Martha McSally and Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin on women being allowed in the front line combat situations. I think they both make good points, but I tend to think Boykin has a stronger argument when it comes to the privacy issue on extended ground combat situations where one has to do their personal hygiene in front of their teammates.
WALLACE: And hello, again, from Fox News in Washington.
American women in the military have served on the front lines for years. And 152 have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But when Defense Secretary Panetta lifted the ban on women in combat, his decision, this week, drew strong praise and sharp criticism.
We have brought together two distinguished veterans to discuss the issue.
Colonel Martha McSally was our nation’s first female combat pilot, logging 325 hours in the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan and she joins us from Tucson.
Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin was one of the original members of the Army’s Delta Force and former head of the U.S. Special Forces Command.
Colonel, General, welcome to “Fox News Sunday.” I have to say, I have been looking forward to this discussion.
RET. LIEUTENANT GENERAL JERRY BOYKIN: Thank you very much, Chris.
RET. COLONEL MARTHA MCSALLY: So have I. Thanks for having us on.
WALLACE: Right. Here’s how Defense Secretary Panetta explained his decision this week. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier. But, everyone is entitled to a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: General Boykin, you dismissed this as another case of the Pentagon using the military for a social experiment. I’d like you to tell Colonel McSally directly, knowing her background, look into the camera and tell her why she is unfit to serve in combat.
BOYKIN: Well, Chris, you need to frame it correctly. It’s not an issue of women in combat. Women are in combat already and have been since 9/11, in fact, prior to that. And Colonel McSally is a great example of how women can be used effectively in combat.
My issue here is, mixing the genders in infantry units, armored units and Special Forces units is not a positive. There are many distracters there which put a burden on small unit combat leaders and actually creates an environment because of their living conditions that is not conducive to readiness.
WALLACE: Colonel McSally, those are the two basic arguments. You are a combat pilot but you are not — formally, not in combat on the front lines. You are attached to combat units and the two arguments are: one, physical limitations, particularly to serving in the infantry, and also this question of a distraction during operations, when you are in close quarters. There’s no privacy and rugged living conditions.
And look in your camera and tell General Boykin why he’s wrong.
MCSALLY: Let me just say I realize flying combat aircraft and being on the ground in combat are two very different missions. However, the same flawed arguments were used against allowing women to fly in combat and now allowing them to be on ground combat, like what General Boykin has said.
These are flawed arguments the battle line is we need to treat people like individuals. What are the capabilities they bring to the fight? Which includes physical strength, plus courage, plus aptitude, plus leadership and, all the other things we need to have the most effective fighting force.
So, we are a country that sets standards and then allows people to compete as individuals and if they bring the better soldier to the fight, then women should be able to compete on equal ground. I’m not talking about changing standards; I’m talking about allowing people to be considered for what they bring to the fight.
WALLACE: Well, let me just –
WALLACE: Colonel, if I can, follow up on that.
WALLACE: Because the Marine Infantry Officer Corps offered last September a course, training and two women took part and both dropped out and they said carrying those 70-pound backpacks in infantry on this ground is too tough for women.
Are you confident that women can meet the same physical standards for ground combat that men do in?
MCSALLY: Look, we know the bell curve of men is stronger than the bell curve of women but they overlap. And so, the current policy, basically says that no women can meet the standard and therefore, all men can. So that’s like saying, General Boykin, Pee Wee Herman is OK to be in combat but Serena and Venus Williams are not going to meet the standard.
The bottom line is treat people like individuals. Physical strength is one element of ground combat, but all those other qualities I’ve mentioned like aptitude and courage, and discipline and leadership are also what women bring to the fight.
The Pentagon estimated a few years ago, that 75 percent of 17 to 24-year-olds are not even qualified to be in the military. So we are recruiting from 25 percent of the population, 15 percent of them go on to college. So we need to recruit from 100 percent of the population in order to make sure we have the most effective fighting force.
WALLACE: Let me bring General Boykin in here. I’m about to say I like the analogy of the Williams sisters versus Pee Wee Herman and I would also point out, Colonel McSally competed in the Ironman triathlon, military division, men and women in Hawaii, she won.
So what does that say? I mean, clearly some women can meet the standard.
BOYKIN: Well, first of all, some women can and there will be few but some can. But that’s not the issue I raised initially. What I have raised is the issue of mixing the genders in those combat units where there is no privacy, where they are out on extended operations, and there’s no opportunity for people to have any privacy whatsoever.
Now, as a man who has been there, and a man who has some experience in these kinds of units, I certainly don’t want to be in that environment with a female because it’s degrading and humiliating enough to do your personal hygiene and other normal functions among your teammates.
WALLACE: Let me ask Colonel McSally to respond to that.
MCSALLY: Sure. Again, right now, we’re in a 360 battlefield and women and men are serving together out there in combat.
Privacy is a red herring. You can figure out the privacy issues, as long as you have the most capable, qualified force. That should be no reason for exclusionary policies.
Some of our closest allies have figured it out for many years. Canada is the best example. They’ve had women fully integrated into the combat forces. They have taken serious casualties in Afghanistan and women are out there on the front lines, leading men in combat, and doing a fantastic job of it.
So, this privacy issue, our men and women next to each other, it’s the same issue we have seen, which is a myth, really, and it’s not a show-stopper to make sure we have the most capable, qualified, fighting force.
WALLACE: Let’s — this sort of edges into the next area I wanted to get into, which is the issue of sexual assault.
The Department of Veterans Affairs did a study and they found that 22.8 percent, almost a quarter of military women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan reported they were sexually assaulted.
But, General Boykin, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, said he thought the ban on women in the military contributed to those assaults. Take a look at what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: When you have one part of the population that is designated as warriors and another part designated as something else, I think that disparity begins to establish a psychology that in some cases led to that environment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Is General Dempsey wrong?
BOYKIN: Well, I don’t — I don’t agree with General Dempsey on this issue. And first of all, we need to recognize, that is bad people doing bad things but it happens all over. I’d also like to go back to Colonel McSally’s last comment.
There is a big difference in flying a combat mission and going back to a hangar where there are facilities and being on a 30-day operation where you are in very close quarters with your teammates. And so, this is not a specious argument. And I can tell you, having been there is something that has to be considered.
But also consider, Chris, where does it go? Do we draft women? Do we release them from the service for pregnancy? Where does it go? Where does it ultimately go? They are in combat and they should be in combat and we should find opportunities, just like with Colonel McSally for them to serve in combat. I’m talking about infantry, armored, Special Forces, those units where I object.
WALLACE: We’re going to get to the issue of the draft in a minute, because it’s a very legitimate issue a lot of people have raised.
But, Colonel McSally, does this kind of second-class status — I don’t mean to call you second class — but the idea that women are not allowed into some combat roles, that as General Dempsey said, men are warriors and women are something else — do you think it has contributed to the environment in which sexual assault happens?
MCSALLY: Absolutely. I mean, when you have an environment where women are treated as sort of second class warriors — they can, you know, do almost anything but not quite the elite jobs, not out there doing what really brings about promotions and leadership positions and really what matters in the military the most — you create this subconscious feeling that, you know, women are not quite equal with the men. And, so, that adds to our problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a very complex issue. But the way to address it obviously is finding those who are the criminals and make sure we rat them out of the military. You don’t avoid the issue by keeping women out of those units, because those men are assaulters, they’re going to assault civilians and others they come into contact to.
So, this change — I agree with General Dempsey — is absolutely necessary and the restrictions in the past have actually added to the problem.
WALLACE: Colonel McSally, General Boykin brought up the idea of the draft. And a lot of people said the — and in fact the Supreme Court said, the reason women should not be subjected to the draft is because they are not combat-ready.
If you are going to lift the ban — and it has now been lifted, and, if we should have to go back to the draft in a military emergency — should women take their place with men in the draft?
MCSALLY: Well, I know really smart people who would argue that maybe we shouldn’t be having a selective service system in the first place but given the fact we do and we have tied citizenship with the obligation to be ready to defend the country, in whatever capacity needed in an emergency, equal equals equal. So, I do believe that men and women at age 18 should be registering, because if the country needs you, they will need you for all the capabilities in the military — combat, noncombat and all the specialties.
And so, I have no problem with, if we are tying citizen obligation to the readiness to defend, that goes across the board.
WALLACE: So, General Boykin, is that OK with you? If we’re going to have this — and now it is a matter of fact, that the ban on women in combat, ground combat has been lifted, women in the draft?
BOYKIN: Well, I think you have no option. I think you’ll have to have women register with selective service and, obviously, be eligible for the draft. I don’t think you can do it any other way.
WALLACE: And do you have a problem with that?
BOYKIN: Well, I certainly don’t want my daughters registering for the draft. And I’d like for them to have more of a choice, than a man would have, in a national crisis.
WALLACE: I just want to end this with one final statistic and, Colonel McSally kind of brought this up, talking about the fact that the women are not in combat roles, has hurt their representation, their ability to rise through the ranks — 74,000 women in the Army, 19 generals. That is .026 percent.
I mean, doesn’t the practical effect of not allowing women to serve on the ground in combat hurt their ability to rise through the ranks, General, to become a general like yourself?
BOYKIN: Well, that’s right. But, I think — I think it does, Chris. I think it clearly does.
But, keep in mind the mission of the military is to fight and win wars. Every decision made today should be made in the interest of military readiness. And, while I, again, I say women are in combat and women need to be given opportunities to serve in other combat roles, I am no longer against that. There was a time when I was.
But, I also think that we have to consider the second and third order effects and look at this holistically.
WALLACE: And, 30 seconds — Colonel McSally, what do you want to say?
MCSALLY: Sure. This really isn’t about rising to leadership. This is about military effectiveness.
The 230,000 positions that were previously closed, only a fraction of them are Special Forces and infantry. And the rest are a whole variety of other jobs that have been closed to women.
If we want the most effective fighting force, we need to pick the most qualified capable man for the job, even if it’s a woman. This is about military effectiveness and allowing to us recruit the most capable and qualified force.
WALLACE: Colonel McSally, General Boykin, I want to thank you both — thank you so much for coming in today and, thank you, both of you, for your service to our nation.
BOYKIN: Thank you.