WOMEN IN COMBAT
Slate has an excellent dialogue on Women in Combat. Stephanie Gutmann begins by making a point that I have been meaning to:
With their indiscriminate use of phrases like “died in combat” (when they really mean “died in a combat zone”) or “fighting for their country” (when they actually mean something like “supporting the war effort”), the news media have done an excellent job confusing the public about what exactly women do in the military these days. So, I hope you don’t mind, Debra, if I try to make clear what we’re going to be talking about.
Now, everybody but Debra, listen up! Women in the Air Force and Navy are currently allowed to pilot planes that engage in combatÃ¢€”by dropping bombs or by shooting at an enemy plane. They are allowed to serve on combat shipsÃ¢€”which are used to launch cruise missiles and the aforementioned fighter planes. But in the Army and Marines, the services that supply the people who toil on the ground, women do not take combat jobs. In a combat position, as the Department of Defense puts it, a GI’s “primary goal is to engage, close with and [neutralize] … the enemy.” Pvt. Jessica Lynch, for instance, an Army supply clerk, had been trained to use a gun to defend herself and her unit if need be, but she wasn’t supposed to go around proactively “engaging” the enemy (and, of course, she didn’t).
This is an uncomfortable thing, given the harrowing circumstances that PFC Jessica Lynch endured. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to say, with no evidence whatever other than my experience, that I do not believe that she engaged in a firefight with Iraqi soldiers in some sort of Shootout at the OK Corale. Not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a supply clerk.
The rest of the piece is interesting and, presumably, will expand for a couple of days as the authors write back and forth.