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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
23 Sep 2015
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Unnecessary Loss of Life


War is nasty, brutal and costly. In our latest wars, many of the casualties suffered by American troops are a direct result of their having to obey rules of engagement created by politicians who have never set foot on — or even seen — a battlefield. Today's battlefield commanders must be alert to the media and do-gooders who are all too ready to demonize troops involved in a battle that produces noncombatant deaths, so-called collateral damage.

According to a Western Journalism article by Leigh H Bravo, "Insanity: The Rules of Engagement" (, our troops fighting in Afghanistan cannot do night or surprise searches. Also, villagers must be warned prior to searches. Troops may not fire at the enemy unless fired upon. U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present. And only women can search women. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said: "We handcuffed our troops in combat needlessly. This was very harmful to our men and has never been done in U.S combat operations that I know of." Collateral damage and the unintentional killing of civilians are a consequence of war. But the question we should ask is: Are our troops' lives less important than the inevitable collateral damage?

The unnecessary loss of life and casualties that result from politically correct rules of engagement are about to be magnified in future conflicts by mindless efforts to put women in combat units. In 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta officially lifted the ban on women serving in ground combat roles. On Jan. 1, 2016, all branches of the military must either open all positions to women or request exceptions. That boils down to having women serve in combat roles, because any commander requesting exceptions would risk having his career terminated in the wake of the screeching and accusations of sexism that would surely ensue.

The U.S. Army has announced that for the first time, two female officers graduated from the exceptionally tough three-phase Ranger course.

Their "success" will serve as grist for the mills of those who argue for women in combat. Unlike most of their fellow soldiers, these two women had to recycle because they had failed certain phases of the course.

A recent Marine Corps force integration study concluded that combat teams were less effective when they included women. Overall, the report says, all-male teams and crews outperformed mixed-gender ones on 93 out of 134 tasks evaluated. All-male teams were universally faster "in each tactical movement." The report also says that female Marines had higher rates of injury throughout the experiment.

Should anyone be surprised by the findings of male combat superiority? Young men are overloaded with testosterone, which produces hostility, aggression and competitiveness. Such a physical characteristic produces sometimes-poor behavior in civilian society, occasionally leading to imprisonment, but the same characteristics are ideal for ground combat situations.

You may bet the rent money that the current effort to integrate combat jobs will not end with simply a few extraordinary women. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told the Navy Times that once women start attending SEAL training, it would make sense to examine the standards. He said, "First we're going to make sure there are standards" and "they're gender-neutral." Only after that will the Navy make sure the standards "have something to do with the job." We've heard that before in matters of race. It's called disparate impact. That is, if the Navy SEALs cannot prove that staying up for 18 hours with no rest or sleep, sitting and shivering in the cold Pacific Ocean, running with a huge log on your shoulder, and being spoken to like a dog are necessary, then those parts of SEAL training will be eliminated so that women can pass.

The most disgusting, perhaps traitorous, aspect of all this is the overall timidity of military commanders, most of whom, despite knowing better, will only publicly criticize the idea of putting women in combat after they retire from service.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



16 Comments | Post Comment
"War is nasty, brutal and costly."
Where were you when George Bush sent our young men to die in an illegal war of choice in Iraq? Over 4,000 dead and many thousands maimed, not to mention over 100,000 dead in Iraq and continual blowback from this foolishness. You seem to accept that we should go to war and that it should be nasty and brutal. Why not ask about the true cost first?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Mark
Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:53 PM
That is the bigger "Unnecessary Loss of Life" in recent history.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Mark
Mon Sep 28, 2015 9:26 PM
Yeah, Walt, where were you when Johnson stepped up the war in Viet Nam? Or Roosevelt was knocking down Nazis on his left and Japanese on his right? How about when George Washington was pinning back the ears of Redcoats at a truly alarming rate? Where were you then, Walt?

Today's American soldier deserves, nay, needs to be maimed and killed because of what Bush did on March 20, 2003 under authorization of Congress. Some of us mote rational thinkers will NEVER get over it. Bush may have told a lie so today's young American soldier must to die.

Let's not talk about today until we have fixed yesterday. And yesterday is all your fault, Walt. Talking about today's unnecessary loss of life just pisses rational people off. Blame Bush or shut up.

Once every conservative becomes rational and admits in writing that everything that has happened since March 20, 2003 is all Bush's fault, maybe then we can talk about ROE in 2015.

But I wouldn't count on it.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Tom
Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:49 AM
Thanks, Tom. I have to wipe the spittle off my screen every time Mark posts his rabid nothing-to-do-with-the-subject tirades about Bush. So Mark, why don't you actually address the facts that Dr. Williams has presented in this column? We as a country can't seem to get enough of ham-stringing ourselves in the name of political - or gender - correctness. Putting women in combat roles - women who shouldn't be there - will inevitably mean "dumbing down" the standards for battle-ready troops. Nothing good can come of this.

Comment: #4
Posted by: Maggie Lawrence
Tue Sep 29, 2015 8:39 AM
It should be noted that conservatives such and Oliver North predicted that the sky would fall if we allowed openly gay soldiers in the military, including front line duty. We did and the sky stayed put. I would agree, however, that the case for allowing women in front line combat is not so simple. I too am skeptical that this will work. The initial results of the experiment do no appear promising, but I did notice that while the marines said that they found all-male units to consistently be better, they did not give much info on the magnitude of the difference. Women should not be integrated into front line combat roles if it comes at a significant cost to unit effectiveness.
How did we find ourselves in the situation of bending to the cultural requests of the occupied nation of Afghanistan? A major part is that we abandoned the mission at the half-done stage to go avenge the attempt on W's daddy. We had the whole world behind us in Afghanistan, but, instead of staying on task and getting the job done, we pissed it away by diverting most our troops and resources to a unnecessary war of aggression in Iraq. After years of half-heartened propping up of the thoroughly corrupt government in Afghanistan we found the enemy resurgent and our welcome thin. We found an enemy well embedded in the population and cultural clashes and collateral damage whenever we tried to weed them out. We tried to win hearts and minds by altering the rules of engagement. Our window of opportunity to turn the situation in Afghanistan was short and we totally blew it. What we were attempting to do was nearly impossible; to establish a stable government in a nation that had known little but war for 30 years. Bush treated it as an afterthought.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Mark
Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:06 PM
Re: Mark
"They did not give much info on the magnitude of the difference." Dr Williams cited that on 93 of 134 tasks, the all-male units performed better than mixed units. As a minimum, I should think that the difference between 93 and 134 = 41 represents almost 40% of the tasks underperformed in mixed units. That would be uncomfortable to me if I was a member of a mixed combat unit.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Derel Schrock
Wed Sep 30, 2015 6:38 AM
It appears that Secy of the Navy Mabus is intending to further water down the performance standards of Navy SEAL training just as the Army has with Ranger training. It is well-known that there was a double standard in place that allowed those women to "pass" (the second time around) just to satisfy Obama's and liberals' determination to make the military a fully-unisex organization, to the detriment of the military. Wait for the hue and cry the first time women get killed in combat (especially with the restrictive rules of engagement).
Comment: #7
Posted by: Derel Schrock
Wed Sep 30, 2015 6:47 AM
Mark and Tom, your comments are typical of the hysterical liberal ravings we've come to expect of you. The best thing that could have happened to you would have been for you to be drafted back when there was a draft, but I suspect you would have run away to Canada or CO'ed. Military experience would have knocked the liberalism out of you. Neither of you knows what the hell you're talking about, and you obviously have too much time on your hands.

Re-read Maggie's comments -- she has it right. BTW, I'm a 30-year+ military retiree which included service in Vietnam & Dominican Republic.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Derel Schrock
Wed Sep 30, 2015 6:58 AM
Your comments are typical of the hysterical, blind acceptance of whatever the conservative guys in charge say that we've come to expect of you. If the typical deficiency among the 93 tasks was 0.001%, the discrepancy is trivial. If it is, as I suspect, a significant difference, then that is another matter. The point is that the the military did not quantify the MAGNITUDE of the difference between groups for these 93 tasks, so you really can't assume much about the significance of the difference, but you rushed right ahead and did just that. Dependable sheep.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Mark
Wed Sep 30, 2015 4:51 PM
Re: Derel Schrock
We are unlikely to get a draft again and that is not a good thing. Chickenhawks like Cheney would have a lot more difficulty sending young men to die for foolish military adventures like Iraq if those young men included the sons of the rich and powerful. It is much easier to send the sons of the working class to war knowing that nobody the politicians know (or depend on for campaign cash) actually has a son in the military. Congress might have asked a few more tough questions of the Cheney administration before voting to support the Iraq debacle if they had sons or grandsons ready to be deployed.
PS I suspect that you missed Tom's intent...
Comment: #10
Posted by: Mark
Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:22 PM
Today we have Russian jets bombing US supported "rebels" in Syria.

A sort of "blind acceptance" of whatever liberals and Obama say and do has put these two forces in proximity and in potential conflict.

To lay any of this morning's huge problem on an admittedly weak President who left office 7 years ago is to eagerly blind yourself to reality. At what moment, please be specific, will the huge mess that is the Middle East fall into the lap of the men who have been in charge of it for the past 7 years?

Democrats are as stupid as Republicans, they just lap the field in vanity.

This ball is squarely on Obama's side of the court. Russian and American jets in proximity as prelude to what?

Things are heating up quickly. Would you like to stop griping about the past and talk about Syria today? Iran today? Iraq today? Anything you would like to say about today? Or do you prefer blindness to awful reality?

Comment: #11
Posted by: Tom
Thu Oct 1, 2015 11:05 AM
Oh, I forgot, yours is the party of science and reason and rationality.

So there must be good reason for Obama to put Russian and American jets into potential conflict.

There must be science behind the aspect of war machines in such proximity.

It must be solely rational to have set up this dynamic situation. You wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of war, I mean history.

Please explain to all of us the reason, science, and rational behind Obama's plan to undo the evil work of Cheney et al.

Or did Bush set this up by remote control, you know, a sort of political time bomb that needed more than 7 years to defuse?

It's time you swallowed your pride and admitted Obama has been no foreign relations hero. Arab Springs that grow into Fall flirtations with WWIII do not a peace prize winner make.

Comment: #12
Posted by: Tom
Thu Oct 1, 2015 11:19 AM
Can I mentions something else? Blaming Bush; it's like a fourteen month old speaking their first words. At first everybody thinks it is cute, and the child precocious. They know it is monkey hear monkey say, but the child is well pleased and thinks himself smart.

By age three people are expecting a little more, the child still saying his first words now seems an imbecile.

As the child hits 7 years old everybody grows truly concerned. This kid ain't progressing at all, he has a serious problem,

This history and the science are on my side in this matter. Be rational.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Tom
Thu Oct 1, 2015 11:38 AM
Re: Tom
Yeah, Tom. I understand. As Bill Clinton once said, I feel your pain. As a conservative, you would like to pretend that Bush made a boo-boo or two, but that was then and we should just forget about it and pretend that it has nothing to do with now, where everything is Obama and Hilary's fault. Unfortunately, the depth of the disaster that Bush brought to our nation and to the middle east is not over. It will continue to haunt us for a long time to come. I know it is uncomfortable to be reminded of this with you would prefer to focus your attention on Hillary, Benghazi, and Obama, but we are stuck with this reality. As they say, those who do not learn from history...
No personal pride points at stake here. Obama is our president and he is far from perfect. The plan to arm the Syrian moderates clearly failed. There really aren't any good options in Syria. They are pretty much all bad. I think that the Russians are going to find the limits to their power fairly quickly also. (Steve Chapman's current column on the subject is very good.) It is hard to bomb a population into happily accepting a president who has committed the atrocities that Assad has. I do not know how difficult it is to coordinate the actions of the Russian and coalition planes to avoid conflict. I will leave that up to the military to resolve.
What part of the Russian actions do you believe Obama set up? Do you believe that Obama should ask the Russian's permission to enter Syrian airspace?
Comment: #14
Posted by: Mark
Thu Oct 1, 2015 10:25 PM
No, Mark, you neither understand or feel my pain. That is your liberal vanity speaking. I don't think for a moment that Obama deliberately set up the Russian actions. I think that Obama is an intellectual light lightweight child who has pretended for years that good people are bad and bad people are good. The set up occurs because Obama refuses to acknowledge that bullies and bad actors exist. History is full of deliberate evil doers, to not come to grips with this fact is irresponsible in a man charged with protecting 350 million lives.

Did you ever box? Well Putin has, and he has measured his man and decided Obama has no heart. I remember a boxer years ago who once said of a foe, "Deep in his heart he knows he don't have no heart."

Putin knows Obama don't have no heart. That is why Putin does not ask to enter the Syrian conflict, he just does it. This is how Obama left himself in a position wherein he must ask Russia's permission to enter Syrian airspace or face dire consequences. Obama put himself, you, me, and every American into a defensive posture.

Have you never faced a bully? I did, got my ass handed to me, but the bully knew I was not an easy target so he laid off. Sooner or later you must stand up for yourself. You must believe in yourself. I do not believe Obama has ever believed in America.

America has its flaws, but so do you and all people. Beheading and immolation go way beyond any flaw one can detect in the American psyche. Bullies prey on the weak, why do you think all of the mass murders in occur in "Gun Free Zones"? If you can't or won't punch back you may expect the worst of mankind to strike you.

I am aware that it pleases you to caricature conservatives as irrational and stupid, as sheep, but that represents a failure on your part to listen to and understand opposing viewpoints. I get you; Bush was a bad President and I voted for Kerry the second time. I voted for Obama in 2008 because McCain is a fool and idiot. I could not go with a second term for Obama because he obviously does not like America. Life and history unfolds, I'm not in a rage about anything. You would present me as so; as irrational, as bigoted, as hateful. You do me an injustice by dismissing my thoughts as such. Further you act as an intellectual bully.

If Liberals are always right how did we come to this moment where our President and our nation must bend to the will of Vladimir Putin? Bush stunk but this is on Obama's watch.

So you tell me, will Obama ask Putin's permission to enter Syrian airspace? Putin is betting Obama will back down.

My father once told me to never fight a drunk because the drunk has nothing to lose. Is Obama invested enough in America to feel that there is something to be lost if America fails?

Or is he drunk with power?

I'm not angry or irrational, I hope you are able to discern that fact and can address my thoughts without accusing me of being less than intelligent.

I am not who you would pretend I am. Not a sheep, not a bigot, not irrational.

Arriving at a moment when Russian and American fighter jets are at loggerheads strikes me as irrational. The steps leading to this situation seem a complete denial of human nature.

Duality is human nature. To turn a blind eye to this fact seems irresponsible and downright silly.

And dangerous.

Comment: #15
Posted by: Tom
Fri Oct 2, 2015 11:45 AM
And I am not who you pretend I am.
"I'm not angry or irrational, I hope you are able to discern that fact and can address my thoughts without accusing me of being less than intelligent." Agreed. I ask the same of you.
I am very concerned that the same Neocon fantasies that brought us into Iraq are resurgent, especially with regard to Iran. I think it is vital that we remember what cost we paid and are paying for the Iraq debacle.
Putin is in Syria because he was invited in by the government of Syria and Putin has decided that he is fine with Assad. Obama does not get a veto on that relationship. Putin does not want to loose his toehold in the middle east. He does not care about the distinction between ISIS and those other groups fighting Assad. They are all bad guys to him. Putin has a strategy. It is simply to support Assad, his only ally in the region, and Putin does not care about what that ally has done to the people of Syria to remain in power.
Obama, on the other hand, wants to support only the nice guys in Syria. The problem being that there are few nice guys with any power in the situation. Attempts to find some and arm them did not go so well. I don't see any good paths for Obama here. I don't think that it is because Obama isn't bright enough to find the path; I don't think that it exists.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Mark
Fri Oct 2, 2015 11:07 PM
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