This week was the deadline for the leaders of the armed services to issue their recommendation for opening all combat units to women, though these have not yet been made public and the major media have hardly mentioned it. Repealing the combat ban will not only harm women but weaken our effectiveness in combat.You may think women are already serving in these roles; but there’s a world of difference between the combat zone and direct ground combat. Women have served honorably and well on deployments, but none who has been injured or died was in direct ground combat or on a combat mission. Performing well and bravely when engaged by the enemy is not the same as qualifying for the infantry. Returning fire isn’t combat, nor is surviving an IED on convoy. Combat is the ferocious, dirty and bloody destruction of the enemy at close quarters, often face to face and hand to hand.Think about our foreign enemies from al Qaeda to the Taliban to ISIS raping and beheading their way across Iraq. Imagine your daughter there, not in support, but going after these bad guys where they live: hard, fast, with the greatest possible violence.For infantry to achieve their top priority — victory with the fewest casualties — the combat arms require the best of the best, the toughest, strongest and fastest. When speaking of rates of injury or performance, we’re not comparing civilian averages, or military women to civilian men. We’re talking about trained and fit military women compared with not just military men, but the top one percent of military men.
With a few caveats.
While the combat arms, particularly the infantry are the “top 1%” they’re really more than just one percent.
Secondly, I can take any reasonably healthy high school graduate male, and have a reasonable expectation that he can be trained to be physically fit enough to successfully perform in combat. That’s simply not the case with the vast majority of women. I could probably get 5-10% of women that fit. But as the article notes, I’m still going to be stuck with the issue that they suffer injuries at twice the rate of men. And even if I put that aside, what benefit have I gained? What measurable metric shows that my unit has been improved by adding women? Does it move faster? Does it suddenly increase its load carrying capacity?
Here’s a hint. There’s no upside.