Bill Kristol: Military Sexual Assault Increases Are A “Pseudo-Crisis”

Sen. McCaskill Responds To Kristol's Comments

After criticizing the Senate's bipartisan effort to address rising incidents of sexual assault in the military, The Weekly Standard's editor Bill Kristol doubled-down on his denial of the growing problem as a “pseudo-crisis,” adding that conservative legislators' effort to erase the wide-spread retaliation faced by victims of sexual assault who report the crime is “an effort to placate the forces of left-wing legalism and feminist political correctness.”

On July 18, Kristol attacked Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) for supporting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)'s proposal to change the military's chain of command structure for reporting sexual assaults, which attempts to curb retaliation faced by those who report such an assault. Kristol accused the senators of “doing damage to conservatism” and again called the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military a “pseudo-crisis”:

It was two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who, in response to a pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault, popped up to support Democratic legislation that would upend the military judicial system and strip commanders of authority. In their effort to placate the forces of left-wing legalism and feminist political correctness, these Republican senators buy into the calumny that the military officer corps is full of individuals who couldn't care less about the men and women under their command.

What Kristol calls a “pseudo-crisis” is, in reality, nearly 3,400 reported incidents of sexual assault within the ranks in 2012, according to the Department of Defense's (DOD) Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. That represents a six percent increase from 2011's total reported sexual assaults, a growth DOD called “significant.” According to a survey cited in the report, that number would skyrocket to approximately 26,000 sexual assaults if unreported incidents are included, up 35 percent from the previous year's estimate. Even more disturbing, the report found that 62 percent of victims who reported being assaulted faced retaliation as a result. 

Military leaders such as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have decried this epidemic as a “crisis,” and “a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people and the health, reputation and trust of this institution.” 

Kristol's statement follows a week of sexual assault denial from his conservative magazine and website, The Weekly Standard.

On July 8, The Weekly Standard published an article titled “Harassing the Military” that declared, “there is no sexual assault crisis,” citing the possibility that there may be a greater prevalence of sexual assaults within other communities. Later, a July 16 blog post promoted a U.S. Marine Corps officer's suggestion that the scope of the military's sexual assault problem is exaggerated. That same day, Kristol referred to the bipartisan Senate effort as a “proposal to undermine the military's chain of command on behalf of the pseudo-crisis of military sexual assault.”

UPDATE: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a former prosecutor of sex crimes and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, responded to Kristol's depiction of sexual assault in the military as a “pseudo-crisis,” saying:

Thousands of reported sexual assaults, and many thousands more sex-related crimes that go unreported-combined with a decades-long inability to seriously address the epidemic-constitutes a crisis. It's a crisis for our military, their morale, and ultimately our national security. For someone who's constantly pushing for additional U.S. involvement in conflicts around the world, you'd think Mr. Kristol would share our goal of ensuring justice for those who are doing the fighting. Instead, his comments illustrate that while there's growing support for our historic reforms, all of us fighting for significant change must continue our effort.