desert sands where Lawrence of Arabiarnhad made his name. Nearly 40,000rnwomen served in Operations DesertrnShield and Storm, and the reports emanatingrnfrom both the Pentagon and thernpress were glowing, very mueh like thernderring-do we heard about women whornslung lead at Manuel Noriega’s maneating-rndog compound during OperationrnJust Cause. In fact, no one said anythingrncritical about women in the GulfrnWar. To the contrary, the Pentagon toldrnthe public (and later, the commission)rnthat women were critical to the war effort,rnwhich in some sense is probablyrntrue because thev held so many nontraditionalrnpositions. The Pentagon madernit sound as if women had participated asrnorganized combatants.rnThey hadn’t, but this relentless blizzardrnof artfully sliced baloney promptedrnprogressive thinkers everywhere to wonderrnwhether we should expand the rolernof women in the Armed Forces. Not anrninstitution to sit behind the eight ball forrnlong, Congress created this presidentialrncommission in the 1992 Defense Bill,rnwhich also repealed the legal ban onrnwomen flying fighter aircraft. Fifteenrncommissioners, appointed by PresidentrnBush, were to make recommendations tornthe President on all sorts of issues relatingrnto women in the military, the threernmost important being whether theyrnshould fly combat aircraft, “man” combatrnships, and suffer the rigors of groundrncombat. Congress gave the commissionrnone year to study the issue. After hearingrnfrom nearly 300 witnesses in Washington,rnChicago, Los Angeles, and Dallasrnand making trips to 32 military installationsrnas well as one trip overseas, commissionersrncompleted their task on time.rnBy now everyone interested in the subjectrnknows the results; no to women inrnfighter aircraft, no to women in groundrncombat, yes to women on combatantrnvessels. As we go to press. Defense SecretaryrnLes Aspin is doing everything possiblernto remove even these few remainingrnbarriers to women in combat.rnI began working for the commissionrnwhen Maggie Whelan, its director ofrncommunications and congressional affairs,rnhired me as media liaison, and Irnworked with a capable staff of talented,rnfairly conservative individuals who reflectedrnWhelan’s political stripe. Mostrnof the commission’s other employeesrnworked for the research department. Itsrnpersonnel were a polyglot collection ofrnmoderate Republicans and liberalrnDemocrats who as a group favored whatrnwas euphemistically termed “expandingrnthe role of women in the Armed Forces.”rnUh-huh.rnHappily, I was not a member of thisrnoccasionally fractious department. Mvrnjob was politically neutral and uncomplicated:rnattend the hearings; write thernpress releases; keep the news media,rnwhich was and is overwhelmingly in favorrnof women in combat, informed aboutrnthe commission’s activities. I had nornrole in deciding what to research, how tornresearch it, or what information the commissionersrnneeded to make their decisions.rnIn fact, one commissioner evenrnopined that my press releases were biasedrnin favor of women in combat. Thus,rneven though I was a known quantity—arnreactionary member of what CaptainrnFinch called the “dark side”—no onerncould accuse me of prejudicing the commission’srnwork.rnAlthough the research departmentrndid outstanding work, gathering a solidrnbody of information about women andrnthe military, none of their efforts reallyrnmattered iir the end. None of the commissionersrncame to their jobs tabula rasa,rnand from the beginning it was evidentrnwho stood where and how they wouldrnvote. Chairman Robert Herres, a retiredrnfour-star Air Force general and formerrnvice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs ofrnStaff, retired Navy Admiral James Hogg,rnMarine Ceneral Thomas Draude, retiredrnArmy General Mary Clark, and of coursernthe peripatetic and pregnant CaptainrnFinch, all favored wonren in some formrnof combat, as did three others. CommissionersrnKate O’Beirne of the HeritagernFoundation, Elaine Donnelly ofrnthe Center for Military Readiness, retiredrnMarine Colonel Ron Ray, Air ForcernMaster Sergeant Sarah White, and GeneralrnCockerham took the opposite view.rnConsidering this disparate group ofrnindividuals, who ranged from the hardrnright to the hard feminist left, it’s nornsurprise that the debate during hearingsrnbordered on the pointless, especially asrnthe commissioners began defining 17 issuesrnon which they would vote. WhenrnCommissioner White introduced a motionrnto debate whether assigning womenrnto combat would lead to rescinding thernban on homosexuals in the military, itrnfell to resounding defeat. According tornGeneral Draude, “it would defeat whatrnwe’re attempting to do.” Which beggedrnthe question: Just what were we attemptingrnto do? Evervone, after all, wasrnsupposed to have joined the commissionrnwith an open mind. Another commissionerrnwho privately favored womenrnin combat said he would vote againstrnhis own position if someone could provernthat opening combat assignments tornwomen would pave the way for homosexuals.rnYet he too spoke against discussingrnhomosexuals because the subjectrnwas beyond the commission’srnpurview. Commissioner White’s proposalrndeserved debate, but the commissionrnwasn’t going to open that can ofrnHIV-positive worms.rnMore evidence that the commissionrnwould never conduct real debate surfacedrnin the form of Colonel Ray’s effortrnto persuade those who want women inrncombat to make an affirmative case forrntheir position, a case that did not rely onrncivilian notions of equal opportimity.rnMake your case based on the needs ofrnthe military, Ray urged. “Is assigningrnwomen to combat militarily necessary?”rnhe asked.rnOf course not, and not one commissionerrnargued otherwise. Not one commissionerrnargued that the Air Force orrnNavy needed women to fly combat aircraftrnor command ships, or that thernArmy or Marines needed women to joinrnthe infantry. Not one officer, enlistedrnman, or civilian witness who testified beforernthe commission said, “We can’t dornthe job without women.” Instead, thernmost frequently heard arguments for assigningrnwomen to combat were “I wantrnto do it” or “Women have the right to dornit” or “They can do it” or “It’s a matter ofrnequal opportunity” or “It’s my choice.”rnIn short, “Why not?” Thus had ColonelrnRay confirmed what everyone knewrnfrom the beginning: the commission’srnjob was to ratify sexual egalitarianism.rnNaturally enough, the commissionersrnwho favored women in combat weren’trnworried about the cultural ramificationsrnof such a radical proposal, and the witnessesrnto whom they deferred on thisrnsubject were feminist crackpots like NavyrnCommander Rosemary Mariner, a spitefulrnaviatrix who sees a knuckle-draggingrnNeanderthal under every rack. She arguedrnthat nothing short of assigningrnwomen to combat will stop sexual harassmentrnat Tailhook conventions. Inrnshort, expose women to violence to stoprnviolence against women.rnIt was this line of reasoning that inspiredrnthe six most important words saidrnduring the hearings: “Real men respectrnand defend women.” You could havern46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn