Women in Combat: Gain or Dangerous Experiment?
Over the last two decades, the United States has been trying to open all military roles to women. Finally, in January 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced opening of all military jobs to women by 2016. This will include approximately 200,000 jobs in ground-level combat force in the Army and the Marine Corps.
The initial integration of women is believed to be difficult as all-male combat units need to adapt to the transition. But proponents are convinced that the military will gain a lot by including women in combat. The military needs women´s creativity, insight and empathy, characteristics that are often missing in male-dominated units. Recent studies from Harvard Business School and MIT show that ´group intelligence´ of an organization rises when women are on teams. Women bring a unique level of ´social sensitivity´, what means that they are able to read the emotions of other people. On today´s complex battlefield, social sensitivity is believed to be a crucial skill for military professionals (Denn W., 2013). William Denn, an Army captain and intelligence officer, expressed his sympathy with the inclusion of women in all army units in an article for The Washington Post. He said, “Including women in front-line units would be more than an exercise in social equality, it would be a valuable enhancement of military effectiveness and national security” (Denn W.,2013).
- We have entered an era of push-button war in which physical strength has lost much of its military relevance.
- To the extent that strength continues to matter, some women can meet requirements and should be given a chance to qualify.
- To exclude willing women from military service is unfair and unjust.
Opponents of women in combat disagree with that. Kingsley Browne, for instance, describes his view about these three points in a book, Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn´t Fight the Nation´s Wars (Frum D., 2013). First of all, he believes that physical strength continues to matter in warfare. Soldiers still have to march for miles with heavy packs, they still have to be prepared to function with reduced food and water, and they also must sometimes fight and kill their enemy hand to hand. Secondly, some may argue that even though strength matters, gender should not be a problem. There should be neutral strength requirements for women and men to pass. But the reality is different. The military does not and will not enforce gender-neutral standards in order to avoid excessive female injuries, what happened in the United Kingdom in 2010 during gender-free training. To illustrate a situation Browne says that the army´s standard fragmentation grenade has a blast radius of 15 meters. Infantrymen are required to throw a grenade 35 meters, military women only 25 meters. Yet, in practice many military women cannot throw even that far. Thirdly, Browne claims that it is not the military´s job to be fair. It is military´s job to win wars. He says that our society values freedom of speech, the right to elect leaders, and individual choice and market competition. But according to him, all of those values are suspended in the military, sacrificed to the need for military effectiveness.
Finally, Browne depicts this policy as a pure ideology and claims that the United States is so confident in its margin of superiority that it can afford to weaken its own military performance just for this ideology. A big and rich country like the US can afford some mistakes. But the mistakes in this case will exact a cost in lives sacrificed (Frum D.,2013). So what is your opinion? Do you think that including women in all military jobs is a good idea that will strengthen military effectiveness, or it is a dangerous experiment that will weaken the country´s military performance and security?
Denn W., April 3, 2013, Women in combat roles would strengthen the military, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/women-in-combat-roles-would-strengthen-the-military/2014/04/03/f0aeb140-bb50-11e3-9a05-c739f29ccb08_story.html , accessed December 2014
Frum D., January 3, 2013, The Truth About Women in Combat, The Daily Beast, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/01/the-truth-about-women-in-combat.html , accessed December 2014
Center for Military Readiness, November 14, 2013, Double-Think and Dissembling about Double Standards in Combat, CMR, http://www.cmrlink.org/content/women-in-combat/37313/double_think_and_dissembling_about_double_standards_in_combat , accessed December 2014