Yesterday came the news that as one of his last acts before stepping down, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will rescind the long-standing ban on women in combat roles. For some roles this will take effect immediately; for others it will require development of implementation plans and a rollout strategy.
I have mixed feelings about this.
On the one hand, I fully support equal opportunity for women and men. The idea of a mommy coming home in a body bag doesn't bother me any more (or less) than the idea of a daddy coming home in a body bag. If a woman can do the job (whatever that job may be), then by all means she should have the opportunity to do so.
On the other hand, I worry that the military bureaucracy will implement this mandate by watering down the performance requirements for combat roles so that more women can reach them. The military will do this to win points from the Congress-critters who supply the armed forces with money. Their excuse will be the statistical difference in abilities between the genders. There are physical gender differences; for example, on average, a man can carry more than a woman. There are gender differences in intellectual capabilities; for example, statistically men can read and interpret maps more easily than women. Then there are cultural gender differences; men are more likely to be willing to endure the harsh field conditions of combat.
All of this means that if current standards in all these areas aren't changed, then relatively few women interested in these jobs will be able to meet them. The military will feel pressured to lower those standards, and our Congress-critters will happily provide that pressure, in the interest of “fairness”. This will make all the progressives happy, but it will result in a less capable military – something that I (and many others) would be quite unhappy about.
My prediction: in less than one year, we'll hear calls from Congressional Democrats (and not from Republicans) to “fix the gender discrimination” in the military's high standards.