Women and combat

Women and combat

June 3rd, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

What is lost on activists who insist that front-line combat roles should be opened up to women in the U.S. armed forces is the fact that our military does not exist to foster "gender diversity" and career advancement. It exists to defend the United States and to win wars.

If women's direct, deliberate combat participation were indispensable to those purposes, it would make sense to open such positions to them. But obvious differences in strength and physiology between men and women -- to say nothing of how much worse female prisoners of war are apt to be treated by unscrupulous enemies -- suggest the opposite.

Nevertheless, the Pentagon recently opened up more positions that would put women closer to -- if not directly on -- the front lines. And that was followed by a lawsuit by two women who contend that limits on women in combat "restrict their current and future earnings, their potential for promotion and advancement, and their future retirement benefits."

They say that their right to equal protection under the Fifth Amendment is being violated, Reuters news service reported.

They also point out -- correctly -- that the nature of war against terrorists means women may face combat situations even if they are not on the increasingly hard-to-define front lines in a given conflict.

But that, too, misses the point.

It is true that terrorists can strike anywhere. But to suggest that there is no greater risk to soldiers in relatively protected areas versus those who are doing, say, building-to-building sweeps hunting terrorist enemies is absurd. The numbers seem to bear that out. While women today make up around 15 percent of active-duty military personnel, only about 2 percent of the troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq have been women.

That comparatively low percentage doesn't diminish their sacrifice in any way. It is, in fact, a tragic reality that male and female soldiers alike have died in terrorist bombings and other attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it is equally true that the U.S. military would be in a heap of trouble without the work of highly qualified women in a wide range of positions.

But there is no reason to enact policies that would increase the number of women killed in combat. And most assuredly career advancement prospects and social engineering do not justify that.