Can The Pentagon Export Feminism To Saudi Arabia?
One of the
reasons Osama bin Laden is said to hate the United
States is that ever since the Gulf War of 1991, we have
maintained military bases in his home country of Saudi
Arabia. The bases are there to protect the Saudis
against aggressors like Iraq, but the presence of
infidels on the same soil that the Prophet once trod
apparently really burns in Osama`s bonnet. Yet there
are other reasons why Muslims, by no means as cracked as
bin Laden, might not want Americans in their country.
One is that
these days an American military presence means women
soldiers, and women soldiers threaten the traditional
role of women in Saudi society. Because of that culture
clash and the destabilization it could cause, the
Defense Department enforces a
rule on American servicewomen stationed in Saudi
Arabia: Off the base, they have to wear the same
head-to-toe gown, called an abaya that Saudi women
wear. They can`t drive cars, must sit in the back seat
of vehicles and must be escorted by a man at all times.
It`s not quite up to Taliban standards, but it`s close
enough to give most Western women the willies.
Washington Post reports glowingly, one woman is
challenging the Pentagon rule with a lawsuit claiming it
violates her constitutional rights.[read
original filing in PDF
here.] Air Force Lt. Col. Martha McSally
complains that the Pentagon`s rule "abandons our
American values that we all raised our right hand to die
gained a good deal of support, from conservatives like
Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire to Eleanor Smeal of the
Feminist Majority Foundation. Miss Smeal simply
denounces the Pentagon policy as "gross discrimination,"
while Mr. Smith explains that "what makes this
particularly bizarre is that we are waging a war in
Afghanistan to remove those abayas, and the very
soldiers who are conducting that war have to cover up."
Air Force Flier In the Ointment,
Washington Post, Jan 7, 2002 ]
somebody should explain to Mr. Smith that the reason
we`re fighting a war in Afghanistan has absolutely
nothing to do with abolishing women`s dress codes; the
war has to do with the
late unpleasantness of Sept. 11. As for Col.
McSally, what "American values" did she think she was
swearing to die for when she signed up?
The reasons for
the rule aren`t really hard to find. Its purpose is to
avoid offending deeply held Saudi religious and social
customs that most Saudis believe are ordained by God.
Americans, men or women, military or civilian, are
guests in Saudi Arabia, and one rule of being a guest is
that you respect the practices your host demands. The
Constitution, "human rights," and "American values" have
little to do with it. It`s called common courtesy.
How would Sen.
Smith and the other Republican lawmakers supporting
abolition of the Pentagon rule like it if women from
primitive Polynesian cultures showed up here wearing the
attire, such as it is, customary in their societies?
The ladies would find themselves in the slammer for
indecent exposure, and Mr. Smith would be the first to
turn the key on them. The cliché that embalms this
particular American value in rhetorical amber is that
when in Rome, you do as the Romans do. If you can`t or
won`t — well, you really don`t have to go to Rome at
all, do you?
Col. McSally may
have had to go to Saudi Arabia, but she didn`t have to
join the Air Force in the first place. Maybe that`s yet
another reason we
shouldn`t have women in the military anyway. If the
United States is going to insist on being the global
policeman and on using women soldiers to do it, we can
expect to make ourselves very unwelcome in a lot more
non-Western cultures in the future.
particularly funny about Col. McSally`s crusade is that
it`s really just part of the perennial self-appointed
U.S. mission to make the world safe for American
parochialism. Usually that mission consists in
demanding hotels like Holiday Inn and food like what you
get at Burger King, but the equivalent of the Whopper in
political ideology is the very kind of
provincial feminism straight from the boonies of
Manhattan that Col. McSally is peddling.
rule is scrapped, women like the Thoroughly Modern
Col. McSally can waltz around downtown Mecca and Riyadh
in their bikinis and tank-tops all they want. When they
do, they may find themselves harassed, attacked and even
murdered in the streets by
Thoroughly Medieval Muslims, and sooner or later
they and their allies back home will whine that American
soldiers just aren`t doing enough to protect the
"American values" they represent.
enough why many Arabs besides Osama bin Laden don`t want
American troops in Saudi Arabia; it`s only Americans
like Col. McSally who can`t understand it.
COPYRIGHT 2001 CREATORS
January 10, 2002