As of last week, the armed forces of the United States will henceforth allow women to join front-line combat units. Defense Secretary Leon “Panther” Panetta directed the military to prepare to rotate members of the fairer sex into firing position. The decision has touched off a fairly predictable firestorm of controversy, with some stating the complete gender-integration of the military was likely overdue and others saying women in combat is an idea whose time should never arrive.
I’m of two minds on the topic. While I fully understand the desire to preserve some semblance of gender roles in an increasingly confused society, I struggle to comprehend the idea that women are somehow unable to perform properly in a firefight because they’re using different plumbing. There are no ladies’ rooms “outside the wire.” And the enemy certainly doesn’t display any hesitation about, or even awareness of, gender differences when rigging improvised explosive devices or aiming B-40s at a passing convoy. Already, women go through the same training expected of any service personnel and engage in air, ground and sea combat, although their primary assignments may vary. Indeed, the lone distinction is essentially a matter of paperwork.
Not too far off in American history, integration meant including blacks in front-line combat units. Conventional wisdom of the time stated that racial integration of the armed forces posed a danger to everything from command structure to unit morale. Find former Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent and tell the men under him that he was not fit to serve with them. I strongly suggest you start running before you finish. Should you survive, try out the same logic on one of the senior officers serving under Vice Adm. Carol Pottenger. Bring your floaties.
I have encountered some people who think women lack the detachment to kill without reservation. I need only two words to gun that down: Janet Reno.
From an anecdotal perspective, with whom would you rather fend off an armed assault, much less participate in one: Sarah Palin or Dennis Kucinich? Ask that same question of some half-starved North Korean zombie or cave-dwelling Akbar who smokes hash to keep the hunger pangs at bay. Something tells me Private Jong-Sun will seriously reconsider just how badly he wants Alaska after he runs into the “Mama Grizzly.”
On the other hand, I once asked Cmdr. Dick Marcinko about women serving in combat units. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s the bestselling author of the Rogue Warrior series of novels, and he also happens to be the founder of SEAL Team Six. This guy seriously knows his warfare. Marcinko told me he opposes women in combat not because they can’t be effective soldiers — he noted Israeli military servicewomen and Eastern Bloc snipers as examples — but because of the effect their capture might have on their own units. Marcinko worried that units might take extreme risks should a female member be captured — especially given the fact that the captors are almost routinely islamofascists who force women to dress like beekeepers, find 12 year-old girls alluring and kick back with a nice “honor killing.”
Marcinko’s point is well made. But women who enlist in the military know what they might face. To suggest that they’re unaware of the occupational hazards is to diminish their quality, and I think that’s a bit unfair. If the military — which actually tends to be ahead of the curve when it comes to integration — could learn that the only color that matters is green (or Army Combat Uniform, MARPAT or MultiCam), then I have no doubt that they can learn that the gender of their colleagues matters as little in combat as the gender of the enemy.
I am not proposing some massive social engineering experiment that uses the military as the petri dish. I just honestly believe that women can be just as effective in combat roles as men. In some cases, they might even be a little bit better. My mother is a graceful, delicate woman who makes drinking a martini look like ballet, whereas I have watched my father tear tree stumps out of the ground with his bare hands. And he does what she tells him to with the unblinking obedience of a Marine boot running into the ghost of Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller. With that in mind, imagine the reaction of a cadre of hajis confronted by a battalion that includes women with Hillary Clinton’s disposition.