Stream: Should Women Be Allowed In Combat? A Debate

Shoot 'em up!
Shoot ’em up!

Today’s post is at the Stream: Should Women Be Allowed In Combat? Equality Debates Reality.

On 3 December 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter decided unilaterally to open combat positions to women…

A debate over the implementation was had last week at the New York Bar Association. Two positions were represented. In one corner was Equality (these are my designators), which supposes whatever differences between the sexes exist are unimportant or are a bar to proportional participation in leadership and other roles. This position was pitted against Reality, which says sex differences are ineradicable, important, and deeply consequential…

The case for Equality was this. According to Germano, “We have cultural issues in the Marine Corps” which hold equality back, “issues” which can be cured by education. For decades, she repeatedly and insistently said, “women were held to a lower standard.” They thus performed at a lower standard. If women were held to the same standards as men, she claimed, they would perform at the same level as men.

Ackerman echoed these sentiments and charged that objective experiments to demonstrate differences in the sexes (which were conducted by the Corps and which proved these differences existed) were a “smokescreen” designed to hold women back. Insistence on metrics like unit cohesion and combat effectiveness were “disingenuous”. Further, the culture of the Corps meant that attempts at integration would “proceed begrudgingly.” The notion that women should be treated equally, as with blacks and those with same-sex attraction, was a sign of progress…

Germano and Ackerman were adamant that standards would not and should not be lowered to accommodate more women, and that if standards were lowered they wouldn’t stand for it…

A goodly fraction of the audience was aghast when Eden reminded the room that killing is the main role of soldiers, but this was nothing next to the gasps of shock which greeted a question from retired Marine Corps officer Cris Dosev. He asked if all the men in the room were to fight to the death all the women (the sex ratio was about 50-50), “Who would win?” The Equality side felt the question was tacky. Dosev later said those pushing for Equality were not doing so in “the best interests of the military” but were instead laboring in the “service of an idea.”…

Given all experience in mandating and enforcing Equality, here is Yours Truly’s prediction for what will happen. First, as at the debate, all will vociferously argue “Standards will not fall!” Authorities will claim, “Women will made to perform the same tasks as men. That’s fair, isn’t it?” Mollified by this, critics will fall silent.

The tests of standards will then begin. Quicker than any would like, reality will begin to intrude. Far, far fewer women will be able to keep up with men than was hoped. The proportion of women in leadership roles will be show no appreciable bump.

…Next, a diversity officer will realize that since it is a qualification for promotion to have served in combat, what counts as having “served in combat” will be broadened. Women will rise in the ranks.

The entire process will be iterated until the semi-official quotas of women in positions of leadership are met. At that time other metrics, such as “combat effectiveness” or “victories in battle” will be amended to include the targets of equality and diversity.

In the end…

Don’t hesitate! Go there to read the rest.


  1. Gary

    Germano and Ackerman wear adamant …

    On their sleeves? Or is it Adamantium that they wear?
    Oh, your enemies are such cut-ups.

  2. Briggs

    Arrrrgh. My enemies have become militarized.

    At least they weren’t able to attack the Stream’s site. The snippets I post here are the originals. Those at the Stream are what the editors produce.

  3. It’s never about equality, it’s always about power and winning. If women were tiny little creatures incapable of carrying a weapon, they would still demand to be allowed in combat because it’s only “fair” and it decreases the power of the men. It would also lead to destruction of the armed forces, but that is totally and completely irrelevent. It’s not about the armed forces, it’s about women and how equal they are even if they aren’t.

    I disagree that women are not as aggressive as men. They just don’t fight the same way men do. Women are actually meaner and more sadistic than men, which is a good reason not to give them a gun and send them into battle. We have successfully raised a generation of women who don’t care about their children and will do whatever it takes to win. A female rapper just called for the gang rape of Sarah Palin by black men. Yes, women are not sweet and loving anymore. (Had the military had the female marines fighting the Right, climate change as Obama ordered and unequal pay, the results would have been much different. You’d have had women coming out on top by a wide margin.)

    Actually, this whole “women will diminish the fighting power of the army” thing can be avoided by removing the requirement of combat experience for advancing to higher rank. This was really never about women in combat, it was about women not making general because they lacked combat experience. I recommend giving women and men (of course)the rank of general without combat. It’s fair, or we can declare it is and call it good. If there is concern about generals who never fought leading fighting, again, we can send them out to battle climate change and leave those who have actually seen combat to direct the all-male troups. After all, climate change is a bigger enemy than ISIS. That’s where all the glory is.

  4. Anon

    Has anyone given thought to what happens when XX people lose on the battlefield? When they are maimed? When they are taken prisoner? When they are made into slaves? (Consider how well that Boko Haram treats their captives.) Will the enemy observe the Geneva Conventions to the letter? It is a fine narrative to have courageous, brave, same as XX-same-as-XY warriors toughing it out in combat shoulder-to-shoulder but any prolonged fighting will reveal the cruel reality of a policy that aims for “equality.”

  5. fah

    All the talk about diversity, war and the military – about who gets what role or what can or can’t be done as a function of your sexual preference or what your chaplain can or can’t say to you when you need them – is a waste of intellectual energy. In my opinion, we have a much bigger problem. Something is broken and I don’t know how to fix it and it is not my job. The suffering of our military is a focus for it. The only people who want a “combat role” are people who don’t have one. And any sane person who has one just wants to do his job and for it to stop. I was drafted in 1967. Part of McNamara’s grand and glorious Project One Hundred Thousand but I didn’t know that at the time. From the minute we reported until the minute we got home all we wanted was for it to stop. But until it does you do your job because it’s your part of the contract. The one that’s broken now. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t broken in WWII. Then you went in, you did your job, and when you got home the nurses swoon and kiss you in the streets of NYC. Somehow, between then and Vietnam something broke. When we got home the girls spit at you in the street until you could grow your hair and beard and melt into the woodwork. The only girls who would even talk to you were your sisters and they didn’t know what to say.

    This thing that is broken is the contract you have with your country and it has with you. It says you obey the laws and the country protects you as best it can and lets you live your life the best you can. You obey the laws even if you don’t want to because it’s part of the contract. Socrates drank the hemlock instead of running because he obeyed the laws. The Spartan epitaph wasn’t “we wuz robbed” but “Go tell the Spartans, passerby, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”

    So your part of the contract is you do your job and obey the laws. What is your country’s part? I’m not sure about a lot of it. All I remember asking for was the GI Bill so I could go to college and I am very grateful. I must have gotten a lot of other things but I don’t remember asking. I don’t remember getting a lot of “privileges.” But people talk a lot about that. But I was talking about diversity and war and the military. What I think the country’s military part of the deal is this: the military needs to be strong enough so that nobody wants to attack us, but if they do, we declare war and go to war. All-out war. Unconditional surrender. Nukes if needed. Until nobody anywhere is left to fight back. The point of the military is to fight wars, not to offer meaningful careers to a diverse workforce. I worry about a war coming sometimes. I hope if it comes we get to fight on the same side as the Russians and Chinese, but it might not work that way. With nuclear weapons around it will be bad. What I don’t think the country should do is off and on send a few guys (or ladies) someplace to pound some hooches to rubble and run the locals into hiding, then hang around being targets and come back in bags and pieces. It is not good for us and the locals wind up hating us anyway.

    I used to think a universal draft would be good. Everybody would serve at least two years. But really serve, take orders and do your job. No favorites. No privileges. No exceptions. That way everyone would be forced to learn how to live and work with all kinds of people. People you would never even be around if you had your druthers. People you would be scared to meet on the street. If it worked right it might break people out of their same-as-me group thinking. I think we all spend too much time with people who are just like ourselves and that keeps us from buying into the contract. But I don’t think it would work anymore. Without a war, I don’t think people would focus on the job and they would just bring their me-first attitudes with them. There would also be way too many people in the military and most of them wouldn’t be doing anything useful, mostly getting into trouble and the services would go downhill caring for them.

    So I think if women or whoever want to go combat arms, let them. But no privileges and no protests. They make the grade, they get to go. Passing the test is the easy part. The hard part comes later. It is a microcosm for the country. The contract is you do your job and fit into the unit, the unit doesn’t fit around you. If that means obeying orders from somebody you think you know more than, that’s just too bad. If that means squatting over the same hole with everybody else with your pants down, that’s part of the deal. Bad things will happen. But you suck it up and do your job. What I don’t want to see happen is to change the way units operate to suit the new recruits. Then more bad things will happen. It’s not fair but it is what it is. In the end, nothing will help unless we somehow get back our common commitment to our contract with each other and with the country. None of this makes much difference unless that happens.

  6. Joy

    “Has anyone given thought to what happens when Xy people lose on the battlefield?”
    Some of It is unrepeatable.

  7. Zundfolge

    We don’t put our munitions factories on the front lines why would we put our “future solder factories” on the front lines?

  8. Joy

    I regret not reading your comment before my previous one. You are right and they’re not listening are they, those who get to “choose”.
    Ex infantry soldiers and officers should get together and campaign. They’ve all faced tougher enemies.

    “don’t want to see happen is to change the way units operate to suit the new recruits. Then more bad things will happen. It’s not fair but it is what it is. ”
    It’s not fair on the men. They are the ones who count and they are the ones on whom we all rely.

    Equality pushers should watch “Our War”. Helmet cam from Helmand province.

    Consider yourself kissed.

  9. Ken

    The question about “women in combat” is broader than just how well women will perform in combat (many will do just fine … and many men simply aren’t cut out for that kind of work either). If they want to volunteer and take on the risks that go with it, from that limited perspective, let’m.


    Part of the issue in assessing if this is a good change is to consider how the political overseers of the military will react to the inevitable outcomes associated with women casualties.

    We’ve had a sneak peek with Pvt Jessica Lynch many years ago. She was in a non-combat support role but got in a position where she was ambushed, got seriously wounded & captured. This led to a successful special forces mission to free her, followed by considerable sensationalized, and outright fictitious (lies) mythologizing from the U.S. Army/political class, helpfully fueled by national & international media focus centered around this single soldier.

    That indicates that while the combat troops may well be capable of assimilating some women [those meeting standards & with a real temperament to perform] in combat roles and could do so without adversely impacting their missions, the ability of our leadership to objectively manage them and the broader prosecution of combat operations (tactical & strategic) in response to political & social feedback fueled by biased media attention likely leaves much to be desired.

    Personally, while I’m certain some women would do just fine [provided performance standards are not diluted], I’m still skeptical of our leadership’s ability to perform relative to this additional variable.

    But its worse than just that — some of that leadership is overtly willing to sacrifice mission capability to accommodate a warped vision of “social equality” reinforces that they’re not ready to properly manage this change. Some years ago DACOWITZ advocated removing some mission capability from submarines to accommodate women; today, standards are in some places overtly being challenged to accommodate women.

    Think about that–in the name of ensuring “equality” some of our leadership is willing to lower standards, assimilate less-capable soldiers and as a result are de facto accepting that the price of victory will be paid in higher body counts/casulties, and/or, the price of “equality” is worth paying in tactical defeats. Because that’s what will happen when less-capable forces are deployed. And that is beyond stupid.

  10. Ray

    Years ago I saw a study on new recruits and the strength overlap between the men and women was only 20%. The strongest 20% of the women were only as strong as the weakest 20% of the men. They have to reduce the physical requirements for the women otherwise there would be very few women in the military.

  11. Briggs —

    I hope you weren’t obfuscating through statistics.

    You claim support at the beginning was 50/50 (a fractional proportion). You then state three switched sides by the end of the evening (a discrete count).

    Could those three have been the whole audience?

    Just wondering.

  12. Over a hundred tasks were measured, and in only one did the mixed-sex group excel.

    Oh MAN, I can’t believe they said that and then didn’t even tell us what the task they excelled at was. Was it baking apple pies? changing diapers? needlepoint?

  13. Anon

    cricket: The task at hand probably had something to do with paperwork.

  14. DAV

    Speaking of equality, the WACs and the photographer seem to be the same height. If it isn’t just due to perspective, those are particularly tall women or a particularly short man.

  15. Steve E

    Israel is arguably the best model in the world for an integrated defense force. Women make up 33% of IDF soldiers and 51% of its officers. It’s interesting though that while up to 92% of all roles in the IDF are available to women, they are only found in 69% of all positions.

    More germane to Briggs’ post however, is the fact that even in Israel, women only make up 3% of the IDF’s combat soldiers and most of those can be found in the Caracal Battalion which is a light infantry group made up 70% of women soldiers. 65% of Israeli women serve in the army, 25% opt out for religious reasons and the balance are exempted for physical, marital or emotional reasons. So it would seem that even in Israel actual combat roles for women are not completely equal to those of men.

  16. Joy

    “NAH” should have been FAH obviously.

    This makes no sense.
    “the ability of our leadership to objectively manage them and the broader prosecution of combat operations (tactical & strategic) in response to political & social feedback fueled by biased media attention likely leaves much to be desired.”
    It appears contradictory.
    It seems that before the quote you say some men wouldn’t make soldiers which is obvious, then that some women will make good soldiers and not adversely affect the mission, then that the feedback will upset the strategic objective goals.
    Was that your point?

  17. All considered, I do not think women should serve in American combat units, unless it was absolutely necessary, but it’s not. As it is, our military is a global behemoth that only needs to be dramatically reduced.


  18. Steve E

    Ray, if I read that linked memo correctly(and it is written in militarese), DoD didn’t eliminate the definition, they changed it to restrict women from on the ground combat in units below brigade level. It then defines direct ground combat as “taking place well forward on the battlefield while locating and closing with the enemy to defeat them by fire, maneuver or shock effect.”

    If that’s the case, brigade level units are seldom well forward on the battlefield. So this directive would still limit the role of women from taking part in direct ground combat. I believe this would be standard in defense forces in most of the world including Israel.

  19. Briggs


    Holy moly, we agree on both points. Time to have a drink!

  20. I think it’s a great idea – but do you any idea how I can get them to start with my mother in law?

  21. fah: Very well said. Agree with you completely.

    Zundfolge: Probably the feminists will hate you for the comment, but it is thought-provoking.

    Ken: Well said.

    acricketchirps: Maybe we really don’t want to know what that one was…..

    JMJ: Living in those clouds again, aren’t you? I do appreciate that you see that women may not really be needed in combat, though. 🙂

  22. Brian H

    This all seems to be much ado about nothing since we have an all-volunteer force, right? I mean, if women want to sign up for combat, why not let them? The answer is that there is no guarantee that we won’t become involved in a future war where the standing army would be insufficient in size, requiring the draft to be reinstated. There is already talk of requiring women to register for the draft. I believe that once women are serving in combat roles, this requirement will soon follow. I remember not too long ago, the social consensus was that men were from Mars and women were from Venus. My two daughters bear this out, as neither one of them has a warrior bone in her body. They would be overrun and killed in nothing flat in a fierce close-combat situation. This is an unacceptable sacrifice to the god of PC.

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