There has been a lot of discussion lately about whether women should be allowed to serve in combat arms positions. I’ve heard all the arguments on either side of the issue. There’s the line of thought that men have a natural instinct to protect women and this inclination will put them at further risk. There’s the line of thought that most women can’t meet the physical demands required of combat unit troops. There are those who argue that women already serve in combat. Female service members have been kidnapped, injured and died on the front lines (whatever “front lines” mean these days). And finally, there’s the argument that introducing women into traditionally male units will undermine morale.
Recently, I read the perspective from a female soldier who also happens to be an Army wife and I thought it was interesting given that she wears two hats. Among other things, she took exception to the fact that some military wives were worried about sexual misconduct and rising divorce rates if combat units were opened to female service members. I see her point and I’ve read this in other forums. Automatically assuming that female service members are “home-wreckers” would be an insult to those who honorably serve their country. And while that might be the sexy angle of this story — the one that get’s the most attention, it seems to me there are more important considerations to take into account when examining this issue.
One thing that bothered me about the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell debate was the rush to pick a side without rationally thinking through all the issues. If you opposed repealing DADT, you were a backward bigot who hated gays and if you favored it, you were a left-wing radical determined to push social engineering on a unique institution. I talked to people who had no aversion to homosexuality and opposed the repeal, and people who personally opposed homosexuality but had no opposition to repealing the policy. Many of the chattering classes (professional and otherwise) seemed to base their opinion on whether or not they favored homosexual rights in a civilian context. Let’s face it, the military is much more complex than the civilian workforce. In that vein, reducing the Women in Combat Arms debate to a mere gender discrimination issue (they’re not being fair to women) would be a disservice to everyone involved. There’s a lot to consider. Whatever your position, let’s hope this debate is more thoughtful than the DADT debate was.
Speaking of positions…. What’s yours? Do you oppose or support women serving in combat units? Why or why not?