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I’m may not be adding any new perspectives to this discussion, but I am adding one more voice. I do not support women serving in either combat zones or in combat rolls. Further, I believe women of young (pre-teen) children should not serve overseas unless their families can accompany them. For the record: This combat/non-combat difference does NOT apply in civilian life where equal job and equal performance should result in equal pay.
First, I will concede that in today’s asymmetrical, blurry-front wars the definitions of Combat Zone and Combat Role do not have crisp meanings. For the sake of discussion I will define these as areas and assignments where there is a high likelihood of firing upon, and being fired upon by, the enemy including artillery, mortars, IEDs, etc. Second, I will concede the logic of my daughter’s argument that women have the “right to serve” their country, even in dangerous assignments, the same as men. However, If women are going to serve in these rolls, they should be required to pass the exact physical requirements as the men. Note: Capt. Barbara A. Wilson, USAF (Ret.) makes the same “equally tested and equally capable” argument on her website.
Here are my arguments which I believe trump the “right to serve” in direct combat rolls:
1- I agree with the “men are likely to protect women” argument, with this modification: “good” men protect women. I have read the counter argument which asks, “If military men are protective, why are so many military wives abused?” These are the “bad” men and the first reason for not having women in combat situations. A woman should only have to worry about the enemy attacking her, not her fox-hole buddy. Granted – Rape is ALWAYS the rapist’s fault, not the victim’s. Here’s where I believe we are setting up both parties for failure. In a combat zone there is tremendous stress, including the very real possibility that the next breath could be the last. Unfortunately this cannot help but reduce inhibitions and logical/moral thinking. Given that men cover the entire “how well they treat women” spectrum. For the young man just barely on the “good” side, the situation may easily push him down the “bad” path of: “I wish she wanted to have sex with me –> I think she wants to have sex with me –> I’m sure she wants to have sex me, and is just playing coy –> and if she doesn’t she should.” The results are another abused young women and another young man facing criminal charges. Further it is unrealistic to expect combat commanders and NCOs to be trained enough and astute enough to head this off, to recognize which guys are on the edge. They are not trained councilors, and they are focused on keeping their people safe from the enemy. It just seems like a bad idea to set up young people (men and women) for failure, especially ones willing to serve their country by protecting the rest of us.
2 – There are three groups of women, and girls, whose voices have not been heard on this issue and should be: mothers, wives, and daughters of the soldiers. Let’s ask the mothers who they would rather see in the fox-hole with their sons, Ashton Kutcher or Demi Moore? Let’s ask the young wives with small children who they would rather see in the fox-hole with their husbands, Brad Pitt or Anjelina Jolie? Let’s ask the daughters, what’s more important, Political Correctness or maximizing the probability that Daddy will come home?
On the subject of Mothers serving overseas, young children need their Mothers. They need the nurturing, caring, etc. It is bad enough that Dads have to leave home for months, it is worse when Mothers do. “From early on, we expect our mothers to be there for us, waiting like a lifeboat whenever we need them.” Dr. Kenneth N. Condrell. I recommend a 30-day limit on the length of time a mother of a child under 13 can be sent on an assignment unless her family can accompany her. Granted every day we lose Mothers of young children to car wrecks, cancer, etc. But we are not CHOOSING these events.
My apologies to those women whose military career goals might be limited by the above policies. Sometimes adults have to make choices to turn left or turn right, we can’t choose “both.” I don’t see the above as preventing women from command positions in admin units, supply units, military hospitals or any other role that doesn’t include a combat unit. For those ultra-feminists who believe that women have to be identical to men to be equal, I would ask, “Aren’t you demeaning women”.
Since the 60’s we Americans have gotten very good at “claiming our rights.” We have often done this at the expense of recognizing, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs [desires] of the few.”