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Jan 23 2013

Ladies, welcome to the frontlines, don’t mind the corpses

I have mixed feelings on this. The ban against women serving in combat roles is about the change:

CBS News — The U.S. Military is making one of the biggest policy changes in its history. CBS News learned Tuesday the Defense Department is lifting its ban on women serving in combat. The official announcement will come Wednesday from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.Panetta’s order will make women eligible to serve as infantrymen on combat patrol and even in elite special operations units like the Navy SEALS. However, women will have to meet strength standards that could keep them out of units where the physical demands are especially grueling.

Combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost more than 130 women their lives and left more than 800 wounded.

Mixed feelings? Yeah I do have mixed feelings. On the one hand – of course women can serve in the same military roles as men. They can push buttons, they can pull triggers. As far as special forces: the ability to undergo the rigorous training and condition necessary to swim 10 miles with a giant pack on and still be razor-sharp alert enough to blow shit up and kill people at the end of the journey doesn’t reside on the X or Y chromosome. That kind of innate athletic talent is spread all through the heterozygous human genome and those alleles either exist or do not, regardless if the genome’s owner has a pee-pee or a nu-nu. Besides, as the article points out, female soldiers are dying anyway. Modern war offers no safe harbor. War has never been safe. That’s kinda the point, the tragedy, of war.

My mixed feeling? I don’t like living in a world where our dads, granddads, brothers and sons want to, or have to, or are sometimes forced to bash the enemy’s head in for God n Country. I recognize the importance of equal rights, but in this case, including or mothers, grandmas, sister or daughters in the head bashing club doesn’t sweeten that deal one bit. It almost feels like just giving up a little bit more and accepting that humans will always kill each other on an industrial scale.

But if a person wants to be a combat soldier, and a nation needs combat soldiers, it seems pretty stupid to automatically and irrationally eliminate over half the population before selection begins.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Zugswang

    I feel about the same way; my immediate thought was, “Good; they should be allowed the same right…to die fighting meaningless wars as their brothers in arms… *sigh*”

    The best way I can think about this is the hope allowing women to serve in combat makes more people think about sending our volunteer soldiers to die in pointless conflicts and the continued problem of sexual violence against women in the military.

  2. 2
    slc1

    I would bet that Bev Francis, who can bench press 400 lbs, could beat the crap out of 99% of the men in the world.

  3. 3
    lochaber

    Who wants to bet that the military quickly revises their strength standards for combat positions like infantry?

  4. 4
    mythbri

    @lochaber

    Infantry is only part of the picture. As stated above, women are already put into situations that would be regarded as combat on their records – if they were male. This makes it difficult for women to become eligible for consideration in command and intelligence positions – positions that do NOT have the same physical demands as the infantry, and for which women would be qualified to fill except that the military has not recognized their combat experience.

  5. 5
    lochaber

    mythbri>

    Infantry was just the first (and I think biggest) example of an exclusively male field. I get the importance of this to the examples you gave, and I imagine this will be destroying a major obstacle. A lot of those fields do a lot work in mixed sex shops, so the overt misogyny will be turned down a notch or two, compared to the exclusively male fields.

    the “women will have to meet strength standards” bit just reminded me of something I read where a lot of labor jobs will throw in requirements like “lift 100lbs over head” as a way of legally discriminating against most women.

    Not arguing with you, and I think this is a good step forward, but I expect a lot of systemic resistance. Plus, I think upper body strength is a bit over-valued for modern combat. I think determination, endurance, and ability to carry a pack are probably worth more then 20 pullups.

  6. 6
    noelplum99

    @lochaber

    You wouldn’t really need to revise the standards as the US military already seemingly deems it reasonable to have differing standards for male and female soldiers performing the same role (and for different age groups). I’m not really sure on what ideological grounds they justify that (as opposed to pragmatic ones) but I’d suppose they would have no qualms extending the same reasoning to any new roles.
    However, as mythbri points out, infantry roles form only part of the picture and i am sure there are a great many roles that will open up for female soldiers here as a result.

  7. 7
    lochaber

    noelplum99>

    I had spent some time in the USMC Infantry. I can’t remember any sort of set strength requirement we had, aside from being able to pass the PFT (absolute minimum was something like 3 pullups, 28 minute 3 mile, and I can’t remember situps- something like 50 in 2 minutes). Granted, if all you did was minimum, you’d catch hell. As it was, there were always at least a couple people in each platoon failing any one of those portions.

    Anyways, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if say, the USMC suddenly required the infantry (or designated combat positions) to perform a minimum of 12 pullups (and probably throwing in a bit about exceptions/waivers for good past performance, or some such). This would effectively keep many (otherwise perfectly capable) women out, to the point that there would be few enough women passing that they would be able to exclude them due to ‘logistical problems’ or some such. kinda like how the navy kept women of certain boats for years, cause they claimed they didn’t have dedicated female bathrooms.

  8. 8
    noelplum99

    @lochaber
    I was basically going by what i have read on the APFT
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Physical_Fitness_Test

  9. 9
    catlover

    Women in the military of the world’s most powerful — and corrupt and evil — empire?
    No thanks!! No one should be in any military — ever. All wars are truly hell, and have served for some time only to advance the interests of US mega-corporations. Those poor soldiers are just pawns in a real-life version of the game of Monopoly. Very, very sad and very, very wrong.

    Read what USMC Major General Smedley Butler (1881-1940) said back in 1935:
    http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html#c1 War is a racket, and is waged only to make profits for the rich and powerful — and never for the glowing ideals the war-makers have propagandized all too many people to believe in. Take the profits out of war-making, and war(s) will stop.

  10. 10
    lochaber

    catlover>
    I’m glad you linked that. Butler is some kind of USMC role model/hero/icon. I can’t begin to explain how often we chanted his name in boot camp (for winning 2 medals of honor, I think?).

    So I was somewhat surprised to run across that pamphlet in a public library recently. I recognized the name, and how is held up as a god amongst Marines, so I was rather surprised that much of what he was arguing in that pamphlet still applied to much of what was going on.

    I would have thought that after expressing such “un-american” views as that, the USMC would have disowned him. I’m pretty sure ~90+% of enlisted marines wouldn’t recognize the name, if it weren’t for how often we hear of him in basic training. Hopefully, just out of recognition of the name, that some people who come across that pamphlet will read it on account of recognizing the author(when they would have otherwise have dismissed it based on the title. or, um, it being written…), and will start to think about some of this stuff.

    Anyways, yeah, good, quick read, and still relevant. (which is rather disappointing and depressing…)

  11. 11
    Greg

    Most posters are thinking that we’ll be fighting WWI, where the infantry is the most important combat role. Women will excel as tank crews and pilots, and may have an advantage over males due to their smaller size in those cramped spaces.

    Someone mentioned it above…there was no “front line” in Iraq and there isn’t one in Afghanistan. Aircraft carriers are forward combat platforms that will be China’s first target in any conflict we have with them.

    You’ve probably heard of Tammy Duckworth, who was a pilot of a transport helicopter in Iraq when she was injured: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/11/duckworth-tosses-tea-party-freshman-overboard

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