Foreign Policy – 10/02/2012 – por Joshua E. Keating
The Pentagon made big news this week when it announced it was opening up more combat positions to women in the U.S. military. These 14,000 positions include tank mechanics and frontline intelligence officers. However, about one-fifth of active-duty military positions, including the infantry, combat tank units, and Special Operations commando units, will remain off-limits. The change doesn’t go far enough for some, like California Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who called it “ridiculous” to “open a few positions at the battalion level to basically create a pilot program.” But it goes too far for others like presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who worries that having women in combat could compromise operations since “men have emotions when you see a woman in harm’s way.”
In a policy debate like this, it might be useful to study the experience of countries where women are already allowed to fight. But finding just how many of these countries there are can be surprisingly difficult. Some countries have no formal restrictions on women joining combat units but rarely allow it in practice. Others, like Japan and Switzerland, allow women in some combat positions, but have not engaged in combat in recent history.
Then there’s the issue of what constitutes “combat.” There are rarely defined front lines in a war such as Afghanistan or Iraq, so driving a support truck or working in a medical facility can quickly put rear-echelon troops in a battlezone (remember Jessica Lynch?). This week’s rule change in the United States was largely a reflection of the fact that women are, to a large extent, already participating in combat. Despite the restrictions in place, 144 American women have been killed and 865 wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, according to the Defense Department. (mais…)