David Frum – Truth about women in combat

24 Mar

From David Frum:

Over the past two decades, the United States has moved steadily to open all military roles to women. Last month, departing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the last barriers. Women may henceforward qualify for every duty, including combat infantry. The few – very few – public objections raised to this decision were met with derision rather than argument, well represented by this sneering item from the Daily Show.

Yet to deny the highly combat-relevant differences between the sexes is to deny reality as blatantly as ever done by any anti-evolutionist – and with potentially much more lethal consequence.

In 2007, Kingsley Browne gathered the evidence in a clear and concise book, Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars.The case presented by Browne won’t come as news to any military decision-maker. But it will and should jolt those who have relied on too credulous media sources for their information about what soldiers do and how they do it.


The case for women in combat runs more or less as follows:

1) We have entered an era of push-button war in which purely physical strength has lost much if not all of its military relevance.

2) To the extent that strength continues to matter, some women can meet requirements and should be given a chance to qualify.

3) Other than physical strength, there are no militarily relevant differences between men and women.

4) To exclude willing women from military service is unfair and unjust.

Browne demolishes these four claims, step by remorseless step, with studies and examples drawn from military experience.

1) Physical strength continues to matter in warfare. Soldiers still must hoist heavy packs and march for miles. Soldiers still must be prepared to function with reduced food and water. Soldiers must still sometimes fight and kill their enemies hand to hand. And even in other contexts where strength seems obsolete, the mischances of war can suddenly thrust soldiers into situations where strength determines who lives and who dies. Browne reminds us of the 2001 encounter between an American EP-3E surveillance aircraft and a Chinese “Finback” fighter jet. The EP-3E is a big plane, powered by four turboprop engines and carrying a crew of 24. The much faster Finback harassed the EP-3E with mock interceptions.

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