That said, there are certain roles that I can see women filling, such as piloting an airplane or helicopter, serving on a ship, or operating artillery. Women have already served effectively in some of these roles. The one thing that I would insist upon, is that in any role open to women, they should be under the same qualifying standards as men, and not subject to some quota system. We are equal, but like it or not, equality does not mean we are interchangeable. As anyone who lives in reality knows, men are generally stronger than women. I realize that an M-16 can be a great equalizer, but combat involves more than pulling a trigger, as explained by Iraq veteran Ryan Smith in the Wall Street Journal. One important point he brings up is this:
Yes, a woman is as capable as a man of pulling a trigger. But the goal of our nation's military is to fight and win wars.In my opinion, this goal, the very purpose of the military, should be the overriding concern. Equal opportunity and the avoidance of sex-based (and other types of) discrimination are fine for the civilian world, and can likewise be worthy aspirations in the military - up to a point. Whatever is done to extend combat roles to women needs to be done with this goal in mind. Does it help our armed forces fight wars and win them?
Another consideration should be the nature of our enemy. As we've seen in places like Taliban-era Afghanistan, the Islamic fundamentalists whom we are up against would make the stodgiest male chauvinist among us Westerners look like a radical feminist. Given the opportunity, these guys would confine women to their homes, cover them with burqas (which I've heard described as "portable prisons"), deny them any real education, and execute them by stoning for any alleged sexual misbehavior. In parts of the Muslim world, all of these are or have recently been reality. If this is how they treat the women of their own society, how should we expect them to treat women who are non-Muslim outsiders, should they capture one during combat?
There is one country that has dealt with Islamic enemies far more than we have during the past 50 years, and that is Israel. They have allowed women into certain combat positions, as explained in their military's blog. Israel is a much smaller country than the United States, so it may make sense for them to open certain military roles to a larger portion of their population. Considering the tendency of nearby terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah to fire rockets into civilian areas, and otherwise target civilians with weapons such as suicide bombs, the normal status of women and children as non-combatants isn't all that meaningful for them. In their situation, combat roles for women may make better sense that is does for us. In our situation, we send personnel across the globe to project our power, leaving the vast majority of our women (and men) at home in our relatively safe country. But if we are going to allow women to take part in military combat, learning from a country with some experience in the matter wouldn't be a bad idea.