If you thought the endless arm-wrestling over DADT was fun, wait until feminists have this on their plate. The Navy already opened up submarines to women sailors earlier this year, but Army and Marine infantry have yet to follow suit.

Here’s your chance to sound off, vets. An idea whose time has come, or no go?

The Defense Department should eliminate restrictions on women serving in combat units and end all “gender restrictive policies,” according to a blue-ribbon panel created by Congress…

Many of the longstanding reasons for keeping women out of combat units do not hold up under scrutiny, the commission’s research found.

A five-page analysis prepared for the commission concluded that women do not lack the physical ability to perform combat roles; gender integration will not negatively affect unit cohesion; and women are not more likely than men to develop mental health problems.

However, keeping women out of combat units and combat-related job fields can reduce their career opportunities, particularly in the officer corps and in the Army and Marine Corps, according to the commission’s research.

The “risk rule” barring women from dangerous tasks was rescinded by the DOD ages ago, but to this day direct combat remains male-only. The obvious benefit to lifting the ban: More recruits available to fight, which should mean shorter tours of duty for combat troops generally. The obvious (non-physiological) concerns: “Fraternizing” at outposts when things get dull, worries about rape if women troops are taken prisoner, cultural concerns about how occupied populations might respond to female soldiers, and this one from Wikipedia’s nifty summary of objections to women on the front lines:

In On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman briefly mentions that female soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces have been officially prohibited from serving in close combat military operations since 1948 (in 2001, subsequent to publication, women began serving in IDF combat units on an experimental basis). The reason for removing female soldiers from the front lines is no reflection on the performance of female soldiers, but that of the male infantrymen after witnessing a woman wounded. The IDF saw a complete loss of control over soldiers who apparently experienced an uncontrollable, protective, instinctual aggression

Melody Kemp mentions that the Australian soldiers have voiced similar concern saying these soldiers “are reluctant to take women on reconnaissance or special operations, as they fear that in the case of combat or discovery, their priority will be to save the women and not to complete the mission. Thus while men might be able to be programmed to kill, it’s is not as easy to program men to neglect women.”

I was going to suggest that myself as a concern before reading it at Wiki. Feminists will bristle at it because it denies women an opportunity for essentially paternalistic reasons, but if we’re talking about a truly instinctive behavior, then there’s not much to be done. The question, then: Is it insurmountably instinctive? The whole point of military training is to steel the mind so that it doesn’t succumb to instinct under stress. If troops can be trained to stand their ground under lethal fire and (in other nations’ militaries, at least) to serve side by side with gay soldiers, why can’t they be trained to treat women combat troops the same as men? We’re pushing at the limits of mental discipline here, potentially. Is this a bridge too far?

Tags: Israel