Women soldiers should be allowed to serve in combat alongside male soldiers, a military commission is set to recommend in March. Presently, women soldiers are not allowed to be assigned to combat roles out of concerns they have weaker physical abilities, yet women can be attached to units that do fight in combat. Therefore, military experts say, women are already technically fighting in combat through that “loophole.” But because women soldiers are not recognized for doing so, the experts continue, they are falling behind in their military careers. According to the investigatory commission, which was established by Congress and the White House, the military has been concerned that “women in combat impede mission effectiveness because they cannot handle the same equipment or tolerate the same physical stress as men.” Yet experts say those concerns were based on more traditional modes of warfare where physical strength perhaps was more important. More modern warfare, some experts say, places less emphasis on physical strength and in any case, the women who have fought in combat through the “loophole” have done so quite capably.According to The Christian Science Monitor, within the military, opinions are mixed about whether the Pentagon should change the rules. According to figures dating back to 1997, the majority of men in the military said women should not serve in combat and that opinion only became more prevalent with rank. However, those views predate the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, so it remains to be seen how views might change today. Military women, however, were less likely to support combat exclusions.
Personally, I believe military women — who comprise 14 percent of the armed forces — should be able to serve in whatever role they seek. There is no doubt in my mind that there are some military women who are stronger and more physically fit than some of their male counterparts and nothing but plain ol’ sexism is keeping them from combat roles. But considering the giant hullaballoo around abolishing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowing gays to serve openly in the military, I’m not holding my breath. [Christian Science Monitor]