Archives: Time is right for women to serve in combat roles

Originally published in January 2013
Simon Nguyen

COMMENTARY | The decision by Defense Secretary Leo Panetta to allow U.S. servicewomen to serve in combat is not as controversial as critics are making it out to be. At a Pentagon news conference late last week, Panetta emphasized the fact the qualifications for a combat soldier will not be lowered to accommodate women. In another word, we won’t see skinny models with guns on the front lines any time soon. Only women who meet the emotional, physical and educational requirements of a combat soldier can take advantage of this opportunity.

One of the biggest concerns with women in combat is the fact many of the current military hot spots are located in places that are culturally hostile to women. If U.S. servicewomen are captured by the enemy, will they be subjected to a more cruel treatment because of their gender?

Fortunately, the hi-tech and strategic nature of modern day’s combat alleviates this concern. Today’s warfare requires minimal ground engagement, as battles are fought more frequently in the air and in the war room. Take the NATO campaign in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya and drone strikes in Pakistan for example. These operations, which utilized mostly intelligence information and air power, were deemed to be great successes. The fewer troops on the ground the less chance they will be captured and mistreated.

Moreover, the views on prisoners of war have evolved. Captured soldiers are increasingly being used as bargaining and propaganda tools. There is no benefit for enemy combatants to mistreat their prisoners, as it would weaken their bargaining power and shed a negative light on their criminal or terrorist organizations. The prisoners will likely be killed if their captors’ demands are not met, but they are less likely to be subjected to mistreatment like in years of old.

While the lifting of the ban on women in combat is a first in the United States, the Washington Post reported that many of U.S. biggest allies including Canada, Australia and Israel have already allowed female combatants. Since this new U.S. policy will not come into full effect until January 2016, the Pentagon has adequate time to study these countries and come up with the best plan for implementation.

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