Women in combat? They already are
A lot of people have jumped the gun and criticized the new rules that will expand the role of women in combat. There are no plans to include women in front line infantry units as combat soldiers, nor are there any plans to include them in special operations units, so this might be considered more atmospherics than substantive change
The fact is, as this Wall Street Journal article points out, that 152 women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that women already serve in forward areas, on Navy ships, and as combat pilots. It's not as big a change as some are making it out to be.
The change is an acknowledgment that women on modern battlefields already are in the fight-152 women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan-and that military rules need to be updated to reflect realities of the current-day war zones. At the same time, the shift establishes a process that could take years to complete.
The new policy should allow women to serve alongside infantry troops as battlefield medics, special-operations pilots and in other dangerous roles, officials said. But officials are divided about whether women will ultimately serve as infantry troops or in elite special-operations units. Some military officials, citing the difficulty of completing infantry training courses, believe that most women would be unable to meet the physical requirements.
Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, who was injured in 2007 by a roadside bomb in Iraq, said in an interview Wednesday that the current ban on women in combat is "a legal fiction." She said women have long faced the same front-line dangers from militants and improvised explosive devises as men.
"Right before the IED went off, it didn't ask me how many push-ups or sit-ups I could do," said Ms. Hunt, one of the women who filed a lawsuit last year to challenge the ban. "Right now the women who are serving are being engaged in combat, so their physical restrictions aren't a barrier."
U.S. military services over the next two years will examine all 230,000 positions women currently are excluded from. They also will be required to establish gender-neutral requirements for admission and decide whether women can serve alongside men. "The goal is to make all roles available so long as we can meet the standards of the war fighter," said a defense official.
Israeli women have served in combat roles bravely for decades. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand also allow women in combat roles.
The question, as framed by Rep. Duncan Hunter, is will it make the military a better fighting force?
"The focus of our military needs to be maximizing combat effectiveness," said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.). "The question here is whether this change will actually make our military better at operating in combat and killing the enemy, since that will be their job, too."
If criticism is to be made, it should be directed at why this is being done. Is it just one more example of using the military as a social science lab? Is the ban being lifted purely out of a perceived need for "gender equality?"
Will the military lower it's qualification standards so that women can serve as special operators? They may eventually try it, but I doubt whether team members in the SEALs or other special op outfits would accept any female applicant who didn't have to endure what they did. Those men depend on each other completely as their missions are the hairiest in the military. Not being able to implicitly trust a team member would vastly reduce the effectiveness of the team.
This change in policy won't dramatically effect the military immediately. My guess is any expanded role for women in combat will be at the margins and not directly impact our fighting capabilities.