Note: This is my weekly syndicated column.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has announced that women are necessary to our military’s success, that they are willing to fight and die alongside men, and “The time has come for our policies to recognize that reality.”
And of course, the sky is falling.
Opponents have pointed out, quite correctly, that the function of the military is not social engineering, but the defense of the nation.
“While their focus must remain on winning the battles and protecting their troops, they will now have the distraction of having to provide some separation of the genders during fast-moving and deadly situations,” said Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council and a retired Army lieutenant general.
The move seems to be supported mostly by men who are not veterans and women who don’t personally intend to make a career of the infantry.
I have to ask, is this going to make any difference at all?
I notice that Panetta has left himself an out. He said physical standards will not be lowered, and admitted few women can meet them, but “everyone is entitled to a chance.”
That sounds like, “Hey, you’re welcome to try, so don’t blame me if you can’t pass the test.”
In my younger days I worked as a garbage man in a town which had yard service. Meaning we went into the yards, emptied the cans into our containers, and toted them to the truck on our backs – an average of 65 pounds and often much more. Not distributed as well as a backpack either. We worked in all weathers, including Oklahoma summers when the temperature regularly got above 100.
There was nothing to prevent women from applying for the job, but in six years total I remember two woman who actually tried it on for size and stuck with it for a few months. Nobody complained about their ability to do the work, there just weren’t many like them.
Oh yes, and one was fired along with a male colleague for hanky-panky on the job.
The argument from some female officers is there are women at the high end of that bell curve of strength and stamina who can outperform men at the low end.
This is not news. The question is, is it worthwhile for the military to make some fairly expensive and troublesome accommodations for a statistically tiny minority of women who can meet the physical standards required of an infantryman?
Panneta said standards won’t be lowered, but in fact they have been in a number of cases. There are also reports of serious problems of unit cohesion in Army units and on Navy ships.
My father, a retired Naval officer, put it bluntly that women at sea doesn’t work unless everybody gets one. Anything else is asking for trouble.
The gender equality crowd usually responds with, “Men have to change.”
OK, so what if the changes, if possible at all, result in men who don’t make good soldiers and sailors anymore?
On the other hand… there are plenty of women in combat positions that aren’t infantry. There are helicopter pilots, I believe at least one door gunner, and women qualified to be fighter pilots.
On average women have physical characteristics such as smaller average size, resistance to G-forces, quick reflexes, etc that might make them as good or better than men in the cockpit of a fighter jet.
Lots of women drive trucks and operate heavy equipment and do all the 20-odd support tasks that enable the military to put one combat soldier in the field.
Russian woman served as snipers in WWII and racked up impressive kill records.
Army and Navy nurses have been near enough to the front lines to be killed or captured since World War II.
Israeli women serve in the IDF, making it one of the most attractive as well as most kick-butt armies in the world.
The role of female Israeli soldiers has been overstated though. Israel does not by choice put women into combat. They receive thorough training in arms because in Israel there are no rear areas, and their enemies do not recognize non-combatant status.
I suspect this is going to sort itself out eventually, after a lot of trouble, expense, and scandal no doubt. But that’s the way we do things these days.