Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dispelling Some Myths About Women in Combat

Despite all the brouhaha over the 9 Feb 12 Pentagon announcement opening about 14,000 combat related positions to women, in reality this is a technicality that will actually result in absolutely NO change in how many women are exposed to the dangers of combat – which if you examine the combat statistics is still very little. Most of the positions being opened are in maintenance and intelligence units supporting combat formations and these women are already serving “with” but just not “in” these units. Now instead of been “attached” to these units they will be “assigned” to them. A distinction without a difference. Women will remain barred from direct combat units – Infantry, Combat Engineers, Artillery, Special Forces, and Armor.

So how dangerous has it been for “women in combat?” In the past 10+ years of US combat operations in Afghanistan there have been (as of 19 Feb 12) 1896 causalities of which 1506 have been due to hostilities. Women accounted for 31 of the total with 20 of them attributed to hostile action, mostly IEDs. This means women have accounted for about 1½% of the causalities. Certainly much higher than the Vietnam experience where 104 women were among the 51,585 killed during the real 5 years of heavy combat (1966-70) or about .2% of the causalities but still not a significant portion of the losses.

One final myth that needs some “qualification” is the common one that recently appeared in the Washington Post: “Israeli women … serve in the military — indeed, in combat roles denied to women in the U.S. military.” That needs to be put into context because people are already quoting it as a reason to open US Combat formations to women. In 2000 the IDF opened Infantry up to women by forming the Caracal Battalion which is 70% female/30% male with mixed Jews and Arabs. The Battalion is part of the 512th "Sagi" Brigade which is a Territorial Brigade assigned to the relatively quite western sector of the Southern Territorial Command. It is the IDF's ONLY "women in combat experiment."

With as relatively good as the IDF may be, in comparison to the US Military it shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath. Hence, one should not be impressed by a second rate army’s token use of females in “a quasi-combat unit” nor should one try to extrapolate their experience to US combat formations.

Every American has the right to have an opinion about “Women in Combat” but to have an “informed opinion” they should at least read the Feb 2012 “DOD Report to Congress: Review of Laws, Policies and Regulations Restricting the Service of Female Members in the U.S. Armed Forces” Then at least they might have a better understanding of the issues and the impacts of such a decision.