Ever since outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a week ago that the U.S. military would lift its ban on women in combat roles, the debate, which has been simmering for decades, boiled up again. Much of the argument has centered on cultural, social, and morale-related effects that such a change would bring about, though other practical issues have been raised as well. However, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released just this week may bring some other considerations to the fore, among them, the financial impact.
The case for women in combat units has been, on the whole, a case made from ideology ("Equality requires it!") and from authority ("The Joint Chiefs signed off on it!"). Ideologues and authoritarians tend not to welcome debate on whatever issue it is they're applying their ideology to or invoking their authority on behalf of. The question of women in combat units is no exception, as the proponents have gone out of their way to discourage honest debate on the question.
For over two decades, I have been arguing against the idea of placing American women in combat or in support positions associated with direct ground combat. I base my position on three factors. First, there are substantial physical differences between men and women that place the latter at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to ground combat. Second, men treat women differently than they treat other men.
President Obama has released a statement supporting Secretary of Defense Panetta's decision on women in combat units! "Today, by moving to open more military positions—including ground combat units—to women, our armed forces have taken another historic step toward harnessing the talents and skills of all our citizens." Indeed, the president is confident this decision "will strengthen our military, enhance our readiness, and be another step toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals of fairness and equality."
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the U.S. military would lift its long-standing ban on women in combat. The national media, as can be expected, is popping the champagne corks in celebration.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Ryan Smith, a retired Marine infantryman who fought in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, urges caution about the Pentagon's new directive to allow woment to fight as combat infantry. Smith describes his experience in 2003:
Just a couple minutes ago, presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett, who is personally close to President Barack Obama, tweeted, that "If there's one thing we should all agree on, it's protecting women from violence."
If there's one thing we should all agree on, it's protecting women from violence. Congress needs to pass the Violence Against Women Act.