In this post's comments Grim links to this article, in which the author makes his point about why women join the Marine Corps. In short:
"Why do you think women join the Marines? Because they like the food? No, they’re in it for the same basic reason that men are – the lure of proving themselves, of being elite. That’s why those enlisted Marines have signed up for infantry training. It’s also why nearly 400 Army women have signed up for the Ranger training, a number far beyond what the Army was prepared for. And these are just the women already in the Army and the Marines, the ones who had the Combat Exclusion Law staring them in the face and joined anyway."
Well, if you're looking for me to disagree, you're wrong.
I'm fairly certain this is hitting the nail on the head. They sign up for the same basic reasons men do. They don't just want to serve, they want to prove themselves. They want to join the elite. They want to fulfill their personal goals. And good for them. That is an honorable pursuit, and a worthy one for any person, regardless of gender.
Here's the problem. The military (not just the Marine Corps or Rangers, but all of the United States Military) is not there to help them achieve their personal goals. It's not a social program. It's not a personal trainer. It's not there so that you can become an actualized person and live your life to the fullest. In short, it's not about you! The military exists to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic (it's in the Oath of Service). And no, that doesn't mean the piece of parchment in Washington DC as if it were some holy relic. It means the nation, the People, our way of life. And specifically it defends the Constitution through force of arms. That's it. Some people like to say "by killing people and breaking things." And while I don't think it's inaccurate to say that, it also is about armed deterrence and advancing the nation's goals through armed intervention (even if that intervention is providing disaster relief by way of a CVN offshore).
And the author, for all of his rectitude in why women sign up for the military misses the point. It doesn't matter why I joined, or why my friends joined, or why my family joined. It's about defending the nation, and your needs, wants, and desired be damned. No one is owed a blessed thing in the military. What you want is at best a secondary concern. The mission is the concern. Achieving it with the absolute minimum required loss of life is a primary consideration (not an overriding one, but a good commander doesn't throw away his troops' lives needlessly). And there is nothing about opening combat arms jobs (or elite infantry schools) up to women that advances that goal. Period. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
Is there, in the vast number of supporters of women in combat arms, someone who honestly believes in their heart of hearts that adding women to combat arms units will improve the readiness, efficiency, and capability of combat arms units? And that's the main reason they support it? I'm willing to bet that the number is likely zero. So if that's the case, why are we even entertaining the idea? Well, the obvious answer is that most of the people who want combat arms (and elite infantry schools) opened to women actually care more about the social aspects (enriching womens' lives, social change, equality of opportunity in the military, the careers of female officers, etc) than they do about military readiness.
Now, if it were the case that an existential crisis faced the US, and we had a shortage of qualified recruits into combat arms, would I support women in combat? Yes, absolutely. Israel did it, because they were faced with utter destruction. The Soviets did it in WWII for the same reason. But that's not where we find ourselves. The author of the article states that:
"We have an all-volunteer military. Less than 1% of the general population actually serves, and the actual combat arms make up a smaller percentage of that. If you don’t think there’s enough women coming up out there in the country’s 36,000 high schools who will want to drive a tank or go Airborne, your hair is really grey."
He's correct. We have an inordinately small portion of our population who serves. And right now, the military is planning to draw down to the smallest size it has been since the 1930s. So with the military so small how is it critical to open combat arms to less qualified applicants? And let me be clear here, I fully believe that there are women out there who absolutely could meet the requirements of performing at the same standards as a male soldier or Marine in the infantry, armor, or artillery. Yes, there are women out there who can carry 155mm howitzer shells just as well as a man. But we're talking about an extremely small percentage of women. And changing combat arms to integrate women will not come without problems. In the words of that author himself:
"Of course there are other problems, a lot of problems – problems that can’t even be foreseen yet – and it’s going to take real leadership to come up with the solutions."
But here's the point... making a systemic change for questionable gain but known negative consequences is always something to be wary of. In this particular case, the only "need" for this systemic change is to actualize individuals. Not to further the goals of the military itself. And let me be absolutely clear. I think there is absolutely a readiness enhancing effect of allowing women in the military. The MOS I performed was completely non-physical (outside of the standard military fitness required), and I see no reason a woman could not perform the job as well as a man. But that simply isn't the case in combat arms. I've been using a lot of pop-culture quotes today. And I'll close with one more here. "The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few." In this case, the needs of the military as a whole outweigh the needs of a few capable women to self-actualize.