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October 06, 2006

The Virginia Senate Race: George Allen vs. Jim Webb


The Feminist and Women in Combat, Scott Maxim

Your Business Blogger is honored to report to Elaine Donnelly who heads The Center for Military Readiness. We have been asking questions of both candidates to clarify their positions on women in combat. Yesterday CMR released this information.

From Elaine Donnelly, President, Center for Military Readiness, 5 October 2006:

In the Virginia Senate race, the issue of women in combat has suddenly become a matter of great controversy. The Center for Military Readiness is non-partisan and neutral in that race. We do not endorse candidates at any level. As a public policy organization our primary mission is to provide accurate information and background on issues of concern to CMR.

On September 12 Senator Allen raised the issue of women in combat by sponsoring a high-profile news conference featuring female Naval Academy graduates. The former officers criticized Mr. Webb's 1979 Washingtonian article opposing women in combat, titled "Women Can't Fight." Video from the news conference is prominently displayed on Allen's campaign website and in a series of ads regarding respect for women. Webb apologized for some of the statements in the article, and one of the news conference speakers subsequently said that if she lived in Virginia, she would vote for Webb.

Others can debate the etymology of Allen's unfortunate slang word or Webb's seventies-era rhetoric. CMR is more concerned about the issues that matter today. One of these two men will be sworn in as Virginia's Senator in January 2007. Since both candidates have put the issue of women in combat front and center, we believe the voters are entitled to answers on their records and future plans on military personnel issues of concern to CMR

To determine the candidates' positions on current issues -- not just things that were said in the past -- CMR submitted four specific questions to Senator Allen and to Jim Webb. We had hoped that we would have written answers to report by now, but we have yet to receive answers from the Allen campaign. A spokeswoman for Mr. Webb provided verbal answers to three of the four questions. Our inquiries and the Webb campaign's partial answers are posted here.

On September 17, Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the Press put several valid questions to Allen and Webb about the Army's practice of placing female soldiers in certain support units that are collocated or embedded with direct ground combat troops. These units are required to be all male. For months CMR has been reporting on these illegal practices, which were the subject of a major debate in the House Armed Services Committee in May 2005. Neither candidate, however, seemed prepared to answer current questions on women in land combat or related issues. Erroneous statements were made by both.

In the interests of accuracy and context, we have also posted some points of information to correct or clarify issues of concern to CMR that came up during the Meet the Press debate. This information has been shared with both candidates.

If we receive answers to our inquiries from Senator Allen or James Webb, we will let you know right away.

The four questions are at the jump.


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Thank you (foot)notes:

A Reminder - Join Us on October 12!

In the meantime, we are finalizing plans for our Eleventh Annual CMR Issues Briefing on Thursday, October 12.

By coincidence, our scheduled panel discussion could not be more timely or relevant to issues being discussed today. I am looking forward to joining distinguished panelists Kate O'Beirne of National Review, attorney Charles Gittins, and Karin Agness of the Network of enlightened Women (NeW) in discussing: Respect for Women: Where is the Military Taking Us?

You will not want to miss the panel discussion, which will be followed by the CMR Celebration Reception -- our main fundraising event of the year. This reception gives us the opportunity to share good conversation and refreshments with friends from around the country.

To find out the positions on women in combat, the Center for Military Readiness has asked both candidates to provide answers to the following four questions.

1. Will you sponsor or vote for legislation repealing Department of Defenses regulations that exempt women from assignment in or collocated with direct ground combat units and ships required to be all male? (i.e., Army & Marine Infantry, Armor, Special Operations forces.)

2. Will you sponsor or vote for legislation to restore gender - separate training in the Army?

3. Do you believe the Army should continue to place female soldiers in land combat - collocated support units that are required by current regulation to be all male?

* If so, do you approve of this being done without authorization of the Secretary of Defense, and without advance notice to Congress, as required by law?

*If not, will you question these actions and intervene to restore compliance with policy and law?

(The congressional notification law also requires an analysis of the effect of proposed changes in regulations regarding women in land combat on young women's current exemption from Selective Service registration.)

4. The following statement, excerpted from an article by James Webb titled The War on the Military Culture, was published as the cover story of the January 20, 1997, edition of the Weekly Standard.

Present-day generals and admirals, constantly under political pressure, sometimes unsure of where to draw the line between military and civilian control, often constrained by legal edicts, and wishing to be fair to those females who do perform well, have issued unenforceable orders rather than confront the politicians who dreamed them up. They have muddled about for years from incident to incident while many junior leaders have been forced to deal directly with impossible, ethically compromising positions.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Posted by Jack at October 6, 2006 08:44 AM

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