Yesterday it was leaked that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is planning on opening up combat roles for women. Ostensibly, women aren’t to serve in combat in the military, though in reality quite a few of them are already exposed. In fact, there is a member of the House right now who lost both of her legs while flying helicopters in combat (Rep. Tammy Duckworth).
But Panetta’s plan would throw open all combat roles for women. Is it a good idea or a bad? I think it depends on how it’s done.
Republican Senator James Inhofe doesn’t think it can be done. “I do not believe this will be a broad opening of combat roles for women, because as the 2012 report indicated, there are ‘serious practical barriers which must be resolved so that the department can maximize the safety and privacy of all military members while maintaining military readiness,” he said in response to Panetta’s announcement.
The report Senator Inhofe is referring to seemed focused on manipulating standards and qualifications procedures to achieve certain racial and gender diversity outcomes. I’m fine with the concept of women or gays or anyone of any demographic serving in our military up to and including in combat roles, but what I don’t want to lower standards (or create separate standards) that might lower readiness and compromise effectiveness just to check off a few boxes on some PC checklist.
We shouldn’t have women in combat just because some politician thinks there ought to be more women in combat. There ought to be women in combat because they’ve earned their way into those positions, just like everyone else.
If that’s how this is pursued, then I have no problems with it. But I worry about the politicians and military bureaucrats being more concerned with appearances than military readiness.