BREAKING: Panetta opens combat roles to women
AP: Senior defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing the US military’s ban on women serving in combat. The move opens hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs.
The groundbreaking move overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller combat ground units. Military services have until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.
My only real issue with allowing women to have combat arms jobs
Is that the crude humor we, as men, find funny would have to stop. No more f-bombs, no funny innuendos, and no more openly shared stories of sexual encounters. Why? Because fee-fees get hurt, EO complaints get filed, and careers get ruined. Not to mention that there will be some gender-based exclusion, which will lead to more crying. I know it’s gonna happen, too… Some female soldier will get all upset because the male soldiers go out and won’t include her.
On women and war
Much is being made of the recent announcement that women will no longer be banned from combat roles in the military — and inevitably the question of whether women will be required to register for the draft has been raised.
My thoughts on the subject are simple. Rather than focus on whether women should/shouldn’t/will/won’t be put into combat or drafted, it seems to me that there are bigger fish to fry: If our government is killing children with drones or coercing people into the military, the detail of what gender is pressing the kill button or being coerced strikes me as comparatively minor.
Is allowing women in combat a step toward equality? I suppose. But without significant changes in our foreign policy, what a horrifying equality it is.
Women in Combat and the Unit Cohesion Challenge (As Brought to You by This Morning's WSJ Op-Ed Page)
There is a beauty of an op-ed by one Stephen Kilcullen in the Wall Street Journal this morning about why women shouldn’t be allowed into the Army’s Ranger program. Mr. Kilcullen is a former Ranger himself, and while I genuinely thank him for his service, I want to also point out the inaccuracies of his argument. Before you tell me to ignore things that go on the WSJ’s op-ed page (not a bad rule of thumb), the challenges he brings are ones that need to be addressed. He chooses an argument that’s an incredibly popular one (and has been for decades, really, without much alteration) that claims that integrating women into combat forces, and here Kilcullen is talking specifically about the Rangers, damages that little thing called unit cohesion.
Unit cohesion is actually a strange concept, because it has so many possible definitions. It’s a catchphrase, employed by Kilcullen in this instance to mean “a transition from self-interest to selfless service.” It is used variously to mean unit effectiveness, readiness, morale, the internal dynamics of how the unit gets along with one another and some combination of these or other attributes. Nevertheless, work has been done to look at whether or not women and gender integration create problems within units. In 1997, when the think tank RAND sought to answer these questions, its research conclusively showed that women do not in fact turn their units into toxic environments or throw a wrench into the well-oiled workings of the military machine. In the fourteen units assessed by researchers over a series of visits, service-members reported that women did their jobs well and that integration had not weakened readiness and largely had not had much impact on morale. Evidence showed that leadership was the most critical element in maintaining readiness and morale. Soldiers even reported that integration seemed to raise standards of professionalism within the unit. The researchers noted that “gender appeared as an issue only in units with conflicting groups, and then it took a back seat to divisions along work group or rank lines.” In other words, gender only became an issue inside units where divisiveness among ranks or groups of soldiers already existed. A final, highly interesting observation was that those of higher rank were more likely to report unit cohesion than junior officers, leading to a possible conclusion that the notion and sense of cohesion within a unit may in large part be a matter of perspective.
There also seems to be this strong undercurrent of belief, represented in Mr. Kilcullen’s op-ed, that all of us over here in the Let Women Serve in Combat camp want the military to let every single woman who so desires into the infantry or the special forces. This is a request for equality not special dispensation. No one who wants to grant women equality in the armed forces wants those individual women to be placed in jobs that they actually are incapable of doing, but for the women who have the ability to be given the chance. There are of course any number of women who don’t have what it takes. There are any number of men whose battlefield presence would be equally detrimental. And no one is arguing that those people should be placed in positions beyond their capacities.
Mr. Kilcullen also called the desire to allow women into the Rangers to be selfish. The other arguments I could almost forgive him, widely popular and thoughtlessly employed as they are, but to call any person’s desire to serve in combat selfish is insulting and wrong. He says that the drive to include women is based on a push for political correctness and individual selfishness (implying on the way to his point that selfishness as it exists in general society and not within the Ranger brotherhood is somehow a function of femininity) and asks, irritatingly, “But does changing the fabric of the military culture to improve the odds of individual achievement make sense for the military?” Is that actually what’s going on here? No. The push is to make the military more inclusive, to allow the women who want to serve to serve and to be rewarded for it in the ways we have been rewarding the men in the military all this time. Equality is not some pernicious drive for female personal ambition. In fact, if the Canadian experience is any education (they integrated their military in 1989, did you know that?), a gender-integrated army is not actually a weakened one, but quite the reverse even, making it a push to make the military more dynamic.