Women in Combat: A Debate

A little over a week ago, the Pentagon announced that under Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, they are lifting the 19-year ban on women serving in front line combat positions and potentially elite commando jobs. The decision opens up some hundreds of thousands of potential job positions for women in the military, and could come to include positions in the Navy SEALS and the Army’s Delta Force.

When I first heard the news, my reaction was twofold. First, I was a little surprised–surprised that the decision came down and curious to know if there really were thousands of women currently serving in the military who were waiting to enter the front lines.

Second, I was certain that, what some saw as progress for women, others would see as an assault on the gender roles between men and women and as an attack on the military, as a whole.

I’ve since considered both sides…

Some have argued that women, who are not physically as strong as men and are not capable of carrying the often 100 pound packs necessary to serve on the front lines. They argue that, in the name of fairness, women must be required to pass the same physical tests as men. If they are unable they cannot serve. The rules can’t be changed to accomodate their gender.

Others have made a moral argument. Our nation has long proclaimed that we will protect “our daughters,” but suddenly we are knowingly sending our daughters into certain danger. And what if a women solider serving in the front lines were captured by the enemy? What would be her fate? Is it just and right for us to allow this as a potential outcome?

What of the men that would serving next to women in the face of such danger? Will men be tempted to seek to protect the woman in combat next to them versus themselves or their fellow male soliders? How will this affect morale?

Those on the other side of the argument say that the decision from the Pentagon is long overdue and that women have long battled inequality in the military. This decision simply brings the U.S. military into the 21st Century.

They argue that the conflicts in Iraq and Afganistan have already propelled many women into combat positions, such as medics and military police, out of necessity. So why not make the decision for women to serve on the front line official?

They claim that there is no need to lower standards, but simply to give women a fair chance to compete. They admit that not all women want these combat positions, but those who do must prove themselves capable like any other solider. More than that, why not cast a wider net in the search for better soliders?

And so, I open this debate up to you. I am genuinely curious and interested in what you all have to say on this subject. I admit that I am conflicted and find both sides of the argument compelling.

What do YOU think? Should women be allowed to serve on the front line? Yes or no? Why or why not?