Women in combat

I find this account incredibly persuasive even though every fiber of my being wants to argue against it.


Grim said...

I'm sure that the military will be entirely responsible in making sure that standards don't decline.

Right, General Dempsey?

Well, at least these lowered standards will be set exclusively with an eye on what combat is likely to require of soldiers or Marines, and not based on some silly ideal like 'fairness.'

Right, General Cone?


Assistant Village Idiot said...

My understanding is that enlisted women are against combat, but the female officer corps is for it, because it improves their chances for advancement.

That creates a puzzle. In simplest form, we have to do something bad to somebody. There is no solution that meets all requirements.

Eric Blair said...

Well, I took the secretary's announcement as basically being a recognition of the existing state of affairs.

When the Army is awarding silver stars to female soldiers for gallantry under fire, it seems rather pointless to maintain that women can't serve in combat roles.

The article, while haven many cogent points, is just shutting the barn door after the horse has got out.

E Hines said...

I'm quite a bit bothered by the dark of night aspect of Panetta's announcement--almost literally on the way out the door. He does the deed, then leaves the next SecDef and staff to deal with it.

I'm also bothered by Panetta's remark that "everyone should have the opportunity to go into combat." Defense of country is a duty, not an entitlement; although denying those capable the opportunity to do their duty is wrong, that's not what it sounded like Panetta was talking about.

As to women in combat, I think there are places where they can serve effectively. There was a study mentioned the last time we talked about this that described the long-term effect of the physical stresses and how the medical support requirements were greater for women than for men, often leaving them unable (potentially) to last long enough to achieve command rank or position. I'd like to see that study repeated several times to refute or support the one outcome. But that centered on ground combat, humping 70-80 pound packs, charging heavy machine guns, doing operator maintenance on tanks, and the like.

Air combat isn't like that, and women can fly quite effectively.

There's a cultural aspect, too, that should inform tactics. I've heard anecdotally (so you can take it for what it's worth) that in the '73 Arab-Israeli war, Israeli units with women soldiers both inflicted and suffered higher casualties than all-male Israeli units when fighting the Egyptian army. The Egyptians were not going to lose, retreat, or surrender to women, so they fought with more determination when they knew they were facing women.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

There are a number of problems associated with female enlisted, but we have to hope the ones subject to them mostly won't volunteer for the combat arms. About ten percent of enlisted women are pregnant (and thus non-deployable) at any given time. Hopefully if you are thinking about becoming pregnant, you won't volunteer to become a part of a deployable combat arms unit, and thus deprive your team of a member they've trained with just when you're most needed. (Also, hopefully, these 18 and 19 year old women will think and plan carefully about becoming pregnant, unlike most of us at that age.)

About a third of enlisted females are single mothers (sometimes you will hear male enlisted complain that the military is becoming a welfare program for single mothers, although that's exaggerated somewhat). These are deployable -- I knew one in Iraq, whose ex-husband was using her status as someone deployable for 15 months at a time to obtain sole custody of the kids -- but there are real problems associated with doing so. Their morale is apt to be terribly low while deployed, and some arrangement has to be made for who will care for the kids while they are gone for a year or more at a time. They're also considerably more expensive for the service, and retention is quite poor (so that training money spent on them doesn't really get you a long term solution; you end up having to train someone else later).

That's apart from the problems mentioned in the article, which is a good article raising many of the points that many of us have raised for years. But it's water under the bridge now: the order has been given, and the military will take this hill regardless of the casualties (quite literal ones) that the order requires. That's what the military does. It's why who honor the service honor it so highly.