Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Writers Didn’t Walk in Soldiers’ Boots

The following is an oped published in the Columbus Dispatch on February 9, 2013.
I respond to the three syndicated columns published (Gail Collins, Jan 25; Linda Chavez, Jan 26; and Kathleen Parker, Jan 29) after Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s announcement that he was lifting the rule barring women from serving in combat. 
I have reviewed the biographies of the three columnists and found no indication that any of them served in the military.

Nonetheless, each of them wrote unabashedly about the effect women in combat would have on unit cohesion, readiness and combat effectiveness.
This is the intellectual equivalent of prostitutes receiving technical advice from nuns.  It also reflects a reality that most Americans view the military in general and the way it is manned in particular through a lens of fear, apathy, ignorance and guilt. 

American women have served in combat since the Civil War. The fact that most women do not have the upper body strength or endurance of most men is not a sufficient reason to deny all women the opportunity to serve in combat, if they meet standards and volunteer.
Second, women’s career advancement in the military is limited by the fact that they are excluded from the combat arms.  Third, women serve with distinction in combat-support and combat-service-support functions today and the pregnancy red  herring raised by the writers is not an issue that precludes their service in these critical functions; there is no reason to believe it will be more or less an issue in the combat arms.

Finally, women make up 14 percent of our military today.  In 1973 when the draft ended, it was 2 percent.
Without the participation of women, the all-volunteer-force concept is dead. Women deserve the equality of opportunity that comes from eliminating the combat-exclusion rule.

Panetta’s announcement only moves the issue from the theoretical to the operational.  In the meantime, we may be wise to let informed professionals frame the issues and propose a way forward rather than have uninformed dilettantes add confusion and hyperbole.


  1. Sorry to burst your bubble buddy but lack of upper body strength is a sufficient reason to deny an individual a position in the infantry. Look a the Falklands war where a british infantry battalion had to march 60 kilometre in heavy marching order and then fight a dug in battalion of Argentinian infantry in vicious hand to hand combat after this march. The british has 17 killed and the Argentinians lost 50 killed.
    Maybe you should get some experience in the combat infantry before commenting on this issue.