The Pentagon made history this week when it announced it would lift a longstanding ban on women in combat. The groundbreaking change is being praised by many as a historic leap toward gender equality in the U.S. armed forces, especially in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where approximately 300,000 women have deployed since the wars there began.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Thursday said “our military is more capable, and our force is more powerful when we use all of the great diverse strengths of the American people.” Even Republicans like Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam vet, said the move was “the right thing to do.” And Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire called the announcement a reflection of the “increasing role that female service members play in securing our country.”
But not everyone is thrilled. Here’s a breakdown of some of the more impassioned and far-out arguments against women in combat:
It’s “not worth the risk,” claims the Christian conservative advocacy group, the Family Research Council. In a statement, retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of the group called the move a “social experiment” that will place “unnecessary burdens” on military leaders who will now be distracted by having to provide some separation of men and women during “fast moving and deadly situations.”
“The people making this decision are doing so as part of another social experiment, and they have never lived nor fought with an infantry or Special Forces unit. These units have the mission of closing with and destroying the enemy, sometimes in close hand-to-hand combat. They are often in sustained operations for extended periods, during which they have no base of operations nor facilities. Their living conditions are primal in many situations with no privacy for personal hygiene or normal functions. Commanders are burdened with a very heavy responsibility for succeeding in their mission and for protecting their troop,” said Boykin.
“It’s social engineering,” insists Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness, a Michigan-based conservative public policy organization. She argued to Newsmax the change was being enacted merely to “achieve a political end in the name of diversity” and predicted women who don’t want to serve in the frontlines would eventually be forced to do so.
“Feminism’s latest victory: the right to get your limbs blown off in war. Congratulations,” tweeted Tucker Carlson, editor of the conservative Daily Caller. Perhaps even more bizarre, Carlson tried to tie the move to the Obama Administration’s push to stop women from being assaulted. “The administration boasts about sending women to the front lines on the same day Democrats push the Violence Against Women Act,” he wrote.
It “distracts” from the real goal of protecting our country, claims the Concerned Women for America Legilative Action Committee. CEO of the conservative Christian activist group, Penny Nance, issued a statement saying “The point of the military is to protect our country. Anything that distracts from that is detrimental. Our military cannot continue to choose social experimentation and political correctness over combat readiness. While this decision is not unexpected from this administration, it is still disappointing.”
Women and men are just too biologically different, writes Heather MacDonald for the National Review. The political commentator argues, “Any claim that our fighting forces are not reaching their maximum potential because females are not included is absurd. The number of women who are the equal to reasonably well-developed men in upper-body strength and who have the same stamina and endurance is vanishingly small.” She also says putting both genders in close quarters will result in a “proliferation of sex,” favoritism and an increase of sexual assault cases.