I have been writing a series of columns on war and women. My hope was to question the continuing combat exclusion rules (though there have been important changes recently), highlight the contributions women are making in war, and recognize what they could contribute in the future. In last week’s column, I raised the prospect, based on President Obama’s speech at Barnard, that there might be congressional movement to push the issue to its ultimate and inevitable conclusion — that all exclusion rules will be replaced with objective physical requirement standards.
That appears to be happening, and there will likely be political consequences. In other words, the war on women may have just become war and women. In the Senate, Gillibrand from New York has now proposed legislation in the Defense Authorization Bill to require planning by the armed services to end all the exclusion rules that still apply. The House may be gearing up to do the same.
It will be interesting to see whether anyone actually protests this move, and whether Republicans will want to go on record, as Santorum did and later recanted, against integration. Over 140 women have died in the wars, and it is difficult to see how the rules are anything but antiquated paternalism. The military is fully capable of absorbing qualified women into its ranks and the new legislation may be the first salvo to force them to do so.