Family Research Council

Military can learn from sexual assaults

By Bob Maginnis Senior Fellow for National Security


Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis (USA-Ret.) is Senior Fellow, National Security at Family Research Council. This article appeared in USA Today on May 8, 2013.


The military's sexual assault problem is serious but it should not be taken out of the hands of commanders and put in the hands of military prosecutors. The underlying problem is failure to learn from the past and apply common sense.

First, common sense says sex drive is at its height among military age young people and especially in war zones, where amped-up testosterone and raw emotions feed the problem. Mixing the sexes in forced intimate, lonely places for long periods leads to relationships and sadly, in some cases to sexual assaults, even in the most disciplined units.

Second, the military's response to the sexual assault problem is clumsy, especially in the war zone. It abandoned common sense by accommodating sexual liaisons in Afghanistan by allowing "intimate behavior" between unmarried men and women. This "free sex"setting seeded temptation among those who lacked the opportunity which contributed to the assault problem.That same clumsy approach was extended to other venues as well.

Finally, the military repeated past mistakes. The recent case involving male instructors at Lackland Air Force Base mirrors in many respects the 1996 scandal at Aberdeen Proving Ground, which resulted in charges against 12 male officers for sexual assault on female trainees. The military failed to learn enough from Aberdeen to prevent a repeat at Lackland. The Marine Corps understands the mixed sex problem which is why it assigns only female Marines to women in basic training.

Sexual assault is totally unacceptable and military personnel found guilty of such offenses should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The military's sexual assault problem is serious but it should not be taken out of the hands of commanders and put in the hands of military prosecutors. Rather, something more fundamental is required - such as taking a new look at the decades-old feminization of the military.

Our armed forces exist to fight and win wars. The military is not a cultural petri dish for social experiments to satisfy the whims of radical feminists who insist men and women are interchangeable, or that sex-related problems can be overcome by good leadership alone.

Rather, common sense says more separation of the sexes especially in some of the military's toughest settings will reduce the incidence of assault.