Wall Street Journal conservative columnist James Taranto played fire-breathing dragon again slamming Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and her hold on the nomination of Lt. Gen.Susan Helms to become the vice commander of the U.S. Space Command. Lt. Gen. Helms was the second Air Force general officer to overrule a sexual assault courts martial conviction in the past year for a subordinate officer, and Congress is holding officers accountable, starting at the top of the Chain of Command.
Hmmm, a female Senator placing a hold on a female Air Force general’s nomination is a “war on men?”
Sen. McCaskill apparently placed a “permanent hold” on Lt. Gen. Helms’ nomination. While no one can argue Helms’ stellar past record of achievement, she is a general officer, and it is a Senator’s perogative to place a hold on a nomination until the officer in question provides satisfactory answers to a critical matter. Gen. Helms met with Sen. McCaskill last month, and the general apparently failed to allay Sen. McCaskill’s concerns. Two highly paid women; neither is being repressed. Gen. Helms isn’t going to be relegated to becoming a low wage Base Commissary store bagger with an “Astronaut Suzie” name tag schlepping grocery bags for tips. Promising military careers are regularly sunk for much less. Unfortunate, but that’s life in the stratosphere.
Had Mr. Taranto had bothered to serve in uniform, he might better understand the accountability factor. Accountability was burned into my soul as a very junior officer, and it gets more, not less, exacting as one rises through the ranks. One “oops” undoes a lot of “atta boys/girls” that far up the food chain.
While Taranto and I share the journalistic learning experience of appreciating restraint in print the hard way during our undergraduate college years, his latest insinuation of a “war on men” in the military is way off the mark. I have the advantage of also being a retired military officer.
As a nation, we have a problem making women equal partners in the national defense. To be more explicit, we have a sexual assault and harassment problem, with victims of both genders, which needs correction now. It adversely diminishes military readiness, unit cohesion, as well as good order, and discipline. The ability of commanders to disregard courts martial convictions in felonious cases might have had some justification several decades ago in remote, deployed circumstances amid the fog of war, but misapplication by general and flag officers today is as outmoded as the horse bound cavalry.
I can’t think of a single American military member who was not accorded ample constitutional review and redress in a formal disciplinary action. It’s not as if some errant gefreiter is being summarily court martialed and immediately hauled out to face a firing squad. I would frankly prefer taking my chances with military justice than what passes for jurisprudence in Texas. The Lone Star State did make Louie Gohmert a judge before sending him to be a buffoon in the House of Representatives.
I had the advantage of serving in uniform as we began to expand opportunities for women to serve in our armed forces decades ago. There is no “war on men” in the military. The culture is playing catch up ball by necessity. Sexual assault and harassment brings disgrace upon a military organization. In any other scandalous affair, the top brass dragging their feet on needed changes in how we adjudicate sexual offenses in the military would be the first to micromanage the daylights out of something that made them look bad.
We owe it to all Americans to ensure a military free of the scourge of sexual misconduct. Overdue legislative restrictions on commanders’ unfettered ability to short-circuit justice maintains due process protections for the accused, and immeasurably strengthens the dignity and equality of opportunity for every member of our armed forces. Officers will always have more responsibility than authority. Senior officers already know change is coming. I frankly can’t think of another senior officer who would be foolish enough to dare let a sex offender subordinate off the hook now without compelling justification. The writing is on the wall.
It’s all about accountability.