Secretary of Defense Panetta told the press and the world that the United States ban on women in combat was to be terminated and now all military positions and MOS are now available to all regardless of gender. There were the expected gasps and exclamations predicting the end of the military as we have known it. Others congratulated the United States for finally joining the modern world and recognizing that women are equal to men and should be allowed entrance into all fields, especially those provincially thought to be the providence of men. We would like to make a bold prediction. There will be very few women lining up to enter into combat arms and of those who take that route the majority will decide it is not worth the effort demanded. There will not be an end to the world or the military as we know them and everything will continue on with barely a ripple. Oh, sure there will be a great din from the extremes still fighting the same battle over the wisdom of allowing women into combat arms, except the sides will have changed. Now it will be those who once argued against the status quo defending it and vice-versa. The only question left to answer is what will happen should the United States become involved in a war with women on the front lines?
The answer to that question has actually already been answered. Does anybody remember Jessica Lynch? Not how her story turned tragic, but the initial shock and reaction to her being taken captive in Iraq. Suddenly Jessica Lynch became the most important captive in the entire Iraq War. The rescue of Private Lynch became the highest priority for the military, the press and pretty much the entire country if not the world, or at least much of it. Special Forces went into high gear with planning and executing a plan without taking six months to do practice runs, or even six days. We heard all about the valiant Private Lynch who fought off as long as she could finally going down with serious injuries to which she finally succumbed allowing her capture. It was the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. There was even a movie made based on the theme of her resistance and capture. Then something really terrible happened, the truth. The truth sparked outrage and hearings in Congress where Private Lynch explained she never fired her weapon or put up any resistance or even knew any of the events. It turn out she was knocked unconscious when her truck wrecked and woke up captured. The whole house of cards collapsed and the brave woman fighting as bravely just like a man or even better was borne out as the lie it was. The arguments that Private Lynch’s heroic stance was proof that women could stand in combat just as strong and steady as any man also fell apart with the rest of the myth that was sold to the public.
The United States nearly fell apart over one woman caught by the freak instance, something which could become more prevalent with women in combat roles, so what happens when such is reported regularly on the nightly news. My question is what would happen should a battle go poorly and a fair number, say four or five, women be captured. Then what will happen when the press reports this incident? The truth about women being placed on the front lines is not the real question which ever needed to be answered. The real question is how will the United States public react when women are captured or worse, come home in numbers in caskets? Are the people of the United States ready when such occurrences become a common part of future conflicts? Whether or not women can perform in a combat role has never been the question. Even what affect women fighting and possibly dying or being captured will have on their male comrades was not the question. The training and daily rigors of being in a combat unit will weed out any women not physically strong or mentally capable of thriving or even barely surviving in a combat role. Thirty mile forced marches and the other physical and mental requirements which are a part of every year’s training along with the daily runs, calisthenics, weapons training, weapons maintenance and the rest of the rigors involved with being in a front line unit will weed out those who find such to be beyond what they are willing to do.
There are reasonable questions about unit cohesion and the possibilities of relation between soldiers within units are another angle which will produce problems which will need to be addressed. Such problems will not be as difficult as those faced since the change of the policy regarding homosexuals allowing them to serve openly. Any problem that has been predicted to result from women in a combat unit are not as critical as they have been made out to be and likely already there are procedures on how to handle them which can be adopted from other units which have had women and men serving together, even in the field, for as long as we have had a standing military. The military is not where the problem will lie as the one thing the military is adept at it is solving problems and taking care of those who do not follow the rules. The military has procedures, rules, regulations, and all that any organization could ever need to cover any situation which might crop up. It’s the civilians that are the largest potential for problems as we are not under any strict regimentation and stringent codes of conduct, nor are we used to the kind of environment which the military is at its most efficient. We need not concern ourselves with how the military will operate and adjust to women serving in combat units and on the front lines as the military will take it all in stride, write a few more rules, establish some new customs, and then march off to take care of business because that is what the military does. As long as we, the civilians, can give them our support or at least stay out of their way, then the military will take care and adjust to women within their combat ranks just as they have handled every other change societies have been placing upon their shoulders since before Thermopylae. So, hopefully we can have people stop claiming that the military will have big problems when what we really mean is that many in the public will have big problems adjusting and accepting women serving in front line combat units.
Beyond the Cusp