The AP is reporting that the Pentagon will issue revisions to the rules about having women serve in and around combat zones. According to defence officials, the new rules are expected to continue the long-held prohibition that prevents women from serving as infantry, armour and special operations forces. But they will formally allow women to serve in other jobs at the battalion level, which until now had been considered too close to combat.
In reality, however, the necessities of war have already propelled women to the front lines – often as medics, military police or intelligence officers. So, while a woman couldn’t be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion or in a company going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured.
The report dryly notes that restrictions on women and combat are the result, partially, of worries about unit cohesion and concern that the American public would not accept “large numbers of women coming home in body bags.” Then it says:
But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where battlefield lines are scattered and blurred and insurgents can be around every corner, have made it almost impossible to keep women clear of combat. Thousands have served in the two wars, and more than 150 have been killed.
Unspoken is the fact that there hasn’t been widespread outrage about that result. The American people seem totally at ease with more dead women. Which counts as progress.
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