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This House would allow women to take part in combat
This House would allow women to take part in combat
Should women be allowed to serve in combat roles in the armed forces? Combat roles are usually defined as “roles whose primary duty is to close with and kill the enemy”.  Examples are infantryman, tank crew member and combat pilot.
The military roles open to women vary around the world. Legislative changes in the past few decades have allowed women to serve in all military roles in many western countries (such as Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Finland and the Netherlands). Most other western countries allow women to serve in a variety of roles but not in combat. Examples are the U.S. (United States) and U.K. (United Kingdom). Nevertheless, the roles of women in the British and American militaries have been gradually increased. The Rand Corporation studied increased deployment of women in all three branches of the United States military throughout the 1990s. They wholeheartedly endorsed further integration, having found no great ill effects from expanding the roles of women in the different services over that period. In 2002, the British Ministry of Defense reviewed whether to open combat roles to women and decided against it, while the service of American women in Iraq and Afghanistan wars has led to a renewed debate about opening combat roles to women in the U.S. military.
During the twentieth century, equal opportunity laws have made it possible for women to work in many fields which were once exclusively male. In many western countries, the military is now one of the very few parts of society to formally discriminate against women. Meanwhile, the number and nature of conflicts in the world have changed over the past century.
Since the end of the Cold war, wars have become “less frequent and less deadly”. In the past, wars were often fought between large armies with heavy weaponry, but many modern conflicts are L.I.C.s (low intensity conflicts), involving terrorist groups with guerilla tactics. L.I.C. has been defined by the U.S. military as “... a political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition among states. It frequently involves protracted struggles of competing principles and ideologies... It is waged by a combination of means, employing political, economic, informational, and military instruments.” Modern war has gained an intensity and geopolitical significance. Terrorists’ threats prompt the invasion of countries, while struggles for democracy often attract allied intervention. An example is the N.A.T.O. (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) involvement in the Libyan civil war of 2011.
Interventions by western allied groups have increased, while young people in these countries are used to educational and economic opportunities that have largely removed their incentives to enlist. Since the Cold war, most of these countries have ended conscription (with exceptions such as Israel and Russia), relying instead on A.V.F.s (all volunteer forces). Both these developments place pressure on recruitment.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Differences in physical strength can be overcome||Integrating women into male combat units can cause men to behave badly|
|Some combat roles are better suited to women than men||There is a relatively higher female Injury rate|
|Allowing women to serve in combat increases the pool for recruits||Pregnancy affects military readiness|
|All modern military roles are combatant anyway||Female P.O.W.s (prisoners of war) are a liability|
|There should be equality between men and women.||Battlefield Rape is a concern|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Differences in physical strength can be overcome
Militaries can use ‘gender-blind’ recruitment and training processes, treating all candidates the same regardless of gender. This is 100% fair and some women will certainly succeed in entering combatant roles and will prove themselves the equal or better than the men. For example, several Soviet women have distinguished themselves as snipers and combat aviators.
Alternatively, militaries can calibrate recruitment and training to suit female candidates. There is a precedent for this in the U.S. military’s A.P.F.T. (army physical fitness test), which has variations for age. If the test standards can be lowered for older men, they can also be lowered for women.
In the modern high technology battlefield, technical expertise and decision-making skills are often more valuable than physical strength.
For example, in the American army, performance targets are regularly calibrated for age and position. A forty year-old senior N.C.O. (non-commissioned officer), faces a much easier set of targets than his 20 year-old subordinate, yet both are deployed in an active combat role.
If we use ‘gender-blind’ recruitment and training, some women will be able to meet the required standards, but most will not. The small number of suitable female candidates set against the additional logistical, regulatory and disciplinary costs associated with integrating them, mean that integration is not worthwhile.
For example, one test of American army officer candidates showed that "only one woman out of 100 could meet a physical standard achieved by 60 out of 100 men”
Some roles such as those of sniper and combat aviator clearly require less physical strength than most active combat roles. Many tasks that combat soldiers must accomplish require high muscle density, which women do not naturally possess. Examples would include carrying a wounded soldier, throwing grenades or digging a trench in hard terrain.
Older and more senior soldiers make up for their reduced physical strength with an increased amount of experience. The same cannot be said for new female recruits.
Some combat roles are better suited to women than men
Modern warfare involves many L.I.C.s, where the battleground is as much “hearts and minds” as it is physical combat. In a conflict where hearts and minds are important delicate handling of local people is required in order gain their support. In L.I.C.s, women are often better suited to intelligence gathering, medical assistance, policing and mediation than men. They are often perceived as less threatening and more understanding. In addition, they would be better placed to deal with women in the local population.
For example, the job of many of the female U.S. marines killed and injured in June 2005 in Iraq was to search women for explosives at checkpoints to avoid the near-universal sense of humiliation engendered by a member of the opposite sex conducting an intimate bodily search.
Women can carry out many of these tasks without serving in combat roles in the army.
For example, female medical staff or female military police can be sent to give medical assistance or conduct bodily searches. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, female U.S. military police officers have searched local women for explosives.
If female soldiers are perceived as less threatening than male soldiers, there could potentially be worrying side effects such as a reduction in the deterrent effect of the military presence in an L.I.C.
Allowing women to serve in combat increases the pool for recruits
Volunteer military forces face low recruitment and retention rates as a result of it being a tough and stressful job where workers cannot work for as long as they do in many civilian jobs. Injuries and trauma caused by fighting also add to the turnover rate of soldiers. As a result it is necessary to widen the applicant pool in order to be able to ensure there are more candidates for the army.
Allowing women to serve in combat effectively doubles the possible talent pool available for the military to recruit for delicate and sensitive jobs which require interpersonal skills that not every soldier possesses. The result will be better and more diplomatic soldiers who will be particularly useful in L.I.C.s.
There is no immediate pressing need for an increased pool of recruits for the army in developed countries. The late-2000s recession has led to an increase in military recruitment; particularly in the U.S. This is as a result of there being many more people searching for work which makes the military a relatively more attractive career.
The number of recruits and their talent pool can also be increased in other ways. For example military service can be better promoted and greater incentives to enlist can be offered.
For example, educational funding provided to U.S. army veterans under the post-9/11 G.I. bill is a major incentive which has increased recruit numbers in recent decades.
All modern military roles are combatant anyway
Many modern conflicts are L.I.C.s which involve terrorist groups using guerilla tactics. In these situations, there are no clear ‘front-lines’, and no clear difference between combatant and non-combatant roles. All women serving in the military are exposed to “front-line risks”. Attacks on soldiers are as likely to occur on the military’s bases themselves as they are when the soldiers are out on patrol.
For example, in late June of 2005 in Iraq, two women marines were killed and about a dozen injured in a pair of suicide attacks. That frontline combat operations are not always much more dangerous than other roles can be shown by the casualties in Iraq comparing the initial invasion and reconstruction phases. The United States lost very few casualties in the invasion phase of the war up to President Bush’s declaration of victory on 1 May 2003 with only 138 dead, compared to an overall death toll of 4422. If men and women are already in practice facing the same risks and as women and men are equal, there should be equality when it comes to being considered being in frontline combat service.
There are many conflicts which are not L.I.C.s.
Recent combat operations have had historically very low casualty rates, the wars that the United States has been fighting have been operations where the United States had vast technological superiority. There is no guarantee that this will always be the case, a conflict between nations with comparatively equal militaries would still have much more bloody combat operations.Improve this
There should be equality between men and women.
There is a fundamental principle that men and women should be considered equal in all walks of life; and as such should both have an equal role in the military, including being in combat.
Not allowing combat roles for women has an unfortunate side effect of increasing inequality in terms of ranks. Combat duty is necessary or highly beneficial for promotion to senior officer positions in many armies. If women cannot serve in combat, very few will ever reach the highest ranks of the military; this creates a glass ceiling that will be very hard to break without this change to allowing women to serve in combat. Women have to be given the same opportunities as men, in the army in order to have the same opportunities they have to be exposed to the same risks.
This does not mean that women should have to serve in combat. The alternative is that it is possible to change the promotion policies in armies to give women a fair chance at career advancement. Men and women are both given opportunities to join the army, but with the understanding that different roles require different physical, emotional attributes. This should mean in turn that there are multiple routes to promotion so that women have equal opportunities without having to fight take part in combat operations.Improve this
Integrating women into male combat units can cause men to behave badly
Many men who join the army maintain traditional gender roles. This may lead them to act foolishly to protect women in their combat units, endangering themselves and everyone else in the unit. In a recent review on the possible introduction of mixed-gender combat units, the British Ministry of Defense cited this as an issue.
At the same time, the sudden presence of women in a masculine subculture, can lead to resentment and incidents of abuse. Sexual harassment and assault may become more prevalent. Any bad male behavior will create tensions, affect morale and weaken the military.
For example, at the three US service academies, one in seven women report being sexually assaulted, and half have been sexually harassed. Integrating into combat unites is not likely to help these statistics.
Clearly, training will be required to facilitate the integration of women into combat units. Cultures change over time and the masculine subculture can evolve too. Many previously masculine professions have been successfully opened to women over the past century – some of them, such as working in factories and many other roles as a result of war.
People involved in combat will attempt to protect each other, this is natural, and sometimes this kind of act is foolish. But this is something that already happens, involving women in the combat role will not make much difference. In addition, men can be informed that acting foolishly to protect women is unacceptable and reprimanded just as any soldier acting foolishly for any other reason would be. Soldiers can be taught what constitutes sexual harassment and abuse and how to react if they witness it or are victimized. Armies already take such incidents seriously and disciplinary procedures can be put in place to deal with any increases in such incidents in the short term as a result of the change.
There would be no difference in uniform or in how males and females would be treated, other than the different physical practice tasks, in order to encourage integration. The change to incorporating women in combat unites would mean that men and women would be given the same treatment so that they would come see each other as equal members of the military.Improve this
There is a relatively higher female Injury rate
If militaries use gender-blind recruitment and training, women will suffer a high rate of injury as a result of physical differences. The standards of physical fitness have been set to suit men, and women attempting to reach them will over-stretch themselves. For example, when the U.K. military began using gender-blind training in the 1990s, the rate of medical discharge of female recruits jumped from 4.6% to 11.1%.
In addition, regardless of recruitment and training standards, combat units engage in activities designed to suit men’s capabilities. Women serving in integrated units will suffer higher injury rates as a result of this. For example, armies march according to the male stride length of 45 cm, rather than the shorter female stride length of 38 cm. Women marching at the male pace are therefore at increased risk of stress fractures in pubic bones.
It is possible to calibrate recruitment and training standards to women. Extra pre-training for muscle building can also be used to reduce female injury rates. As for the increase of females being discharged in the 1990’s, it is obvious that with an increase of people, the amount of those injured with also proportionally rise, whether male or female.
In order to accommodate to more females in the military, rather than integrating women into male combat units, all-female combat units could be created. These would engage in activities designed to suit women’s capabilities.
Pregnancy affects military readiness
Women who become pregnant are not available to be deployed into warzones. This reduces military readiness. Additionally, pregnancy means that women need to take time off work, which can have worse effects in military units than any other workplace. This effect has been observed in army and navy forces in the past. An increased number of women in the military would make the problem worse. In 1985 up to 10% of active duty women personnel in the US armed forces were unavailable for call-up and duty due to pregnancy.
Pregnancy could potentially be a means of avoiding call-up. This is likely with national guard soldiers, who are usually permanently stationed at home and often build lives and families there, not expecting to be deployed abroad. This tactic was used during the Vietnam war by some men. In 1965, the decision to expand the military draft to include married men without children was made.
Male soldiers generally take just as much time off as female soldiers, in large part due to their greater alcohol and drug use.
Of course this problem can be easily anticipated. Statistics on the number or female soldiers not available for call-up due to pregnancy can be used to factor in the phenomenon so that the military has enough personnel to deploy at any one time. This is already done for male soldiers not available for call-up due to injury. Moreover this should not even be considered as not all women can or want to have children. In western states, it is more common for women to become career women and leave having children to later on in life; this would just as likely be the case with women in the military.
Women, who choose to become active combat soldiers, are unlikely to shirk their duty by becoming pregnant after a call-up as these women have willingly joined the army.
Female P.O.W.s (prisoners of war) are a liability
In wars, soldiers are often captured and become P.O.W.s. Male P.O.W.s are sometimes tortured or raped. Many societies around the world value women less than men. This misogyny may make female soldiers more likely to be tortured or in particular raped than male soldiers if they are captured. At the same time this threat or reality may lead male soldiers, captured alongside female soldiers, to crack more easily under interrogation.
Female P.O.W.s are also more likely than male P.O.W.s to be used in propaganda campaigns at home. This may have an effect on the nation’s commitment to the war effort. For example, the story of Jessica Lynch, an American marine captured in Iraq, was widely reported in the American media, affecting national morale. The media paid little attention to the male soldiers captured at the same time.
The treatment of P.O.W.s is influenced by many factors, including their captor nation’s adherence to the Geneva Convention, discipline within the ranks of their captor army, whether the P.O.W. is expected to possess useful information and whether the captor army is concerned with their public image. The gender of the P.O.W. is likely to have a very small influence compared to these other factors. Upon entering the army, each applicant, male or female are aware of the risks and the possibility of being captured, even if that possibility is small, and are aware of what may occur while in captivity. By deciding to join, each person therefore agrees to understanding these risks and thus making a statement of acceptance.
Stories of P.O.W.s are compelling. They are likely to be used in propaganda campaigns whether or not female soldiers are involved. Had Jessica Lynch not been captured, the male soldiers probably would have been at the center of a similar campaign.Improve this
Battlefield Rape is a concern
A prevalent theme in many nationalist conflicts is both sides attempting to extinguish the bloodlines of the enemy culture. This ethnic cleansing often leads to systematic rape of women and mass murder of men. For example, in the Bosnian Wars of the early 1990s, systematic rape was carried out against all ethnic groups, but particular by ethnic Serbs against Bosnian Muslims.
This could present a problem in the modern interventionist or peace-keeping activities of many military forces, third party combatants are often sent to the battlefields of conflicts that involve just this kind of ethnic cleansing. While it is unlikely that anything will happen to peacekeeping units if one side does turn on the peacekeepers it is likely that female soldiers will be treated the same as women from the enemy side if the rape mentality has been set in the minds of the soldiers.
No woman will be working by herself. Military units work together, and if a woman were, for example, on patrol by herself, she is armed and can legitimately defend herself against an attacker.
In fact, women are a better presence in situations where rape is being used as a weapon of war. Local women are not going to trust male soldiers so easily as women, because one man in a camouflage uniform looks much like another. If a woman has been raped, or seen/heard about someone from their neighborhood being raped by an armed militia, or by the army, that woman is in a state of fear already. She will not be able to distinguish between soldiers in her panic. However, a female soldier is not going to rape the local women. This means there is a greater bond of trust between the two parties and they can work together in things like delivering aid, rebuilding infrastructure post-conflict. Local women will also feel more comfortable to come forward to report a crime of rape to another woman, than she would to a man.
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