By Teresa Welsh |
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Thursday lifted a ban on women serving in combat roles, which clears the path for military women to serve on the ground in direct combat. It overturns a 1994 rule that prohibited women from being engaged in infantry and other combat roles.
Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said that removing the ban formally acknowledges the changing realities for women at war, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. Women are often serving alongside male combat units, and in Female Engagement Teams, which manage Marine Corps interactions in areas where contact between local women and men is restricted. They are often found in the line of fire, regardless of the fact that they aren't officially designated as combat troops. Now, supporters of the new policy say, women can be formally recognized for the roles they play on the ground and servicemembers can be assigned to any position they are qualified for.
Opponents of the ban say the presence of women in combat units will disrupt the cohesion of the team, and male soldiers won't be able to trust that a female is able to adequately back them up. They also say women are not physically capable of the same duties as men, which could endanger other members of the group. They maintain that attempts to include women in unit camaraderie will lead to accusations of sexual harassment and prevent women from being fully integrated into the team.
Should women be allowed to fight in combat? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Rachel Natelson Legal Director of the Service Women's Action Network
Ariela Migdal Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project
Loretta Sanchez Democratic Representative from California
Michael O'Hanlon Director of Research for Brookings's 21st Century Defense Initiative