I've written a lot about women in combat, and my general position is that allowing women to serve in direct combat positions is unnecessary and would be harmful to morale and performance. (At least peruse my previous posts before just jumping in with "no it wouldn't!".) Considering the Abu Ghraib travesty, no one should dispute that mixed-gender units in any context can expect to face difficult disciplinary situations as well.

So I'm really curious as to why the military is starting to push civilian leaders to allow women closer to the front-line.

The Army is negotiating with civilian leaders about eliminating a women-in-combat ban so it can place mixed-sex support companies within warfighting units, starting with a division going to Iraq in January. ...

"When that policy was made up, there was a different threat," said Lt. Col. Chris Rodney, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. "We imagined a more linear combat environment. Now, with the nature of asymmetrical threats, we have to relook at that policy."

Col. Rodney cited the fighting in Iraq as typifying the new threat whereby all soldiers, support or combat, face attack by rockets, mortars, roadside bombs and ambushes.

"Everybody faces a similar threat," he said. "There is no front-line threat right now."

That sounds disingenuous to me, because there are certainly some roles that face a higher likelihood of direct combat than others. I'm just not sure what the motivation is -- why are military planners attempting to reverse a millenias-old understanding? Do they expect it will actually improve our military capability? Is it pure politics? An internal power struggle? Budget woes?



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