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Women In Combat: The Unspoken Problems

Written on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 by

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Much has been written and said lately about the Pentagon’s decision to allow women in combat roles, including the elite Special Operations Forces. Although the military has until 2016 to make a case for excluding women from such units as the Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Marine Force Recon, and Delta Force, one wonders if anyone in the Pentagon has the fortitude to stand up to the politicians and make the case. Over the years, too many top military leaders have opted for protecting their careers over protecting the integrity of their military branches. If this assertion were not true, there would be no debate about women in combat.

Asked for his views on the Pentagon’s misguided decision, Democrat Carl Levin—Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee—commented: “It reflects the reality of 21st Century military operations.” God help us with men like this making decisions of such import. Allowing women in combat roles “reflects the reality of 21st Century military operations” only because liberals like Levin who know nothing about combat have created this artificial reality and weak-kneed generals in the Pentagon have stood passively by and let it happen.

Most of the debate and discussion about women in combat revolves around two questions: 1) Do women have the stamina and strength to perform effectively in combat roles? and 2) Will the presence of women in the close quarters of combat be a distraction that might undermine unit cohesion? These are important questions that have not been answered satisfactorily by proponents of women in combat—99.9 percent of whom have never been in combat themselves and know not whereof they speak. But these questions need not be debated further. Our cousins across the pond have answered both of them—not theoretically, but through hard experience gained over a 10 year period in which the British Army opened all combat positions to women.

According to the British who have already tested the women-in-combat theory, if physical requirements are equalized without reducing them the American military will experience a spike in attrition and injuries among female recruits. Opting for political correctness over common sense, the British Army adopted in the 1990s what it called a “gender-free” policy in which women could pursue the same roles as men, including combat roles, provided they met the same training requirements. In 2010, after studying the results of its gender-free experiment, the British Army quietly dropped the policy and returned to unequal training requirements and a ban on women in combat roles. Why? The Brits were losing too many female recruits to attrition and injuries because of the demanding physical requirements.

The results of this study are known to the top brass at the Pentagon as well as to members of Congress who are proponents of women in combat. Consequently, arguing about the strength and stamina of women is no longer going to have an effect on the outcome of the debate. Military and political leaders have already decided that enhancing the career-advancement potential of women in the military is more important than maintaining combat effectiveness. Instead, those who put our nation’s national defense ahead of political correctness must focus on the unspoken problems with women in combat. The first of these problems is the absolute certainty that when too many women cannot endure the physical training required for combat roles, the military will—its vocal pronouncements notwithstanding—reduce the requirements for women and men. This will, in turn, reduce the combat effectiveness of all branches of the military.

Liberals and politically correct generals who claim this will not happen are either lying or deceiving themselves. Name one instance in which affirmative action has not caused standards to be lowered when the beneficiaries of the concept could not measure up to equal standards. To make matters even worse, once the physical requirements for both sexes are lowered equally, proponents of women in combat will argue that since the requirements are still the same for men and women, opponents of women in combat have no basis for objecting. Such is the convoluted logic of the left.

The second unspoken problem with women in combat is that this unprecedented change is being pushed by people who knowingly place the career advancement of women in the military ahead of our nation’s national security and the military’s combat effectiveness on their list of priorities. The latest argument of advocates of women in combat is that female soldiers cannot be promoted to the highest ranks in the Army because they are not allowed to serve in direct combat roles. Apparently, to become a general soldiers must punch their combat tickets. It follows, then, that the ban on women in direct combat roles has the effect of limiting women to the lower ranks. Hence, the argument goes like this: women soldiers—for the sake of career advancement—should be allowed to serve in combat regardless of how this move will affect the military’s ability to defeat our enemies in combat.

While I appreciate the desire of female soldiers to achieve the highest rank possible, I do not think career advancement is a valid reason for putting them in combat roles. Surely the Army can work out a career advancement system in which soldiers in support roles—male and female—can achieve higher ranks in non-combat career fields. Placing women in combat represents a major organizational change and there is only one valid reason for making major organizational changes: to improve performance. Consequently, the question that must be asked and honestly answered is this: Will putting female soldiers in direct combat roles improve the military’s ability to fight? According to a study conducted by the British Army, the answer to this question is “no.”

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