More Than an "Equal Rights" Issue

Posted: Jan 23, 2013 4:28 PM

Amid all the predictable feminist cheering we will no doubt hear about the "barriers" in the military falling now that women can be assigned to fight in ground combat units, there should also be a place for some sober debate and consideration.  

There have long been reasons that women have been precluded from such assignments -- reasons that have nothing to do with invidious sexism.  Rather, they stem from the physical requirements of the job, and the imperative of keeping our soldiers safe.

Michael O'Hanlon, a well-respected military analyst at the Brookings Institution (and hardly a conservative), wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal in November of 2012, concluding that there were valid reasons that women were barred from certain positions in the Marines.  O'Hanlon wrote:

Some might challenge the irreducible strength standards demanded of Marine Corps infantry officers. But being able to lift oneself—while wearing body armor and carrying a pack—up and over walls is essential in modern combat. So is being able to move a wounded fellow Marine across a field to safety, or to haul part of a dismantled mortar to an ambush site.

We would put Marines in danger and risk mission failure by lowering such requirements. Moreover, no female Marine officer would be able to command the respect of the enlisted Marines in her platoon without holding her own physically. She wouldn't have to be the strongest among them, but a certain minimum level of strength is an essential prerequisite.

When women work in close combat with men, if they struggle to meet the physical demands of their tasks, that doesn't just put them in danger -- it also endangers the men who serve alongside them.  If the Obama administration determines that an "insufficient" number of women are serving in the newly-opened positions, will we see the kind of "gender norming" that has occurred elsewhere in the military with less-than-stellar results?

I stand second to no one in believing in gender equality.  But equality doesn't always mean "sameness," especially when indulging a feminist obsession ends up needlessly endangering lives, and undermining the effectiveness of the US military.

It will be interesting to hear and see what, if any, deliberation has informed this momentous decision. And with all branches of the military equally open to women, will the Obama administration require 18 year old girls to register with the selective service?  Or are women to be offered all the rights, with none of the responsibilities?