A good friend asked for my thoughts about the new policy in The US Armed Forces that now allows women to serve on the front line in battle. I must apologize to her for being so late, but I had to form an opinion first.
Here it is: I feel this policy would be significant if it weren't just a formality. The military is allowing female soldiers the privilege of doing something that, in practical terms, they've been doing for years. This seems kind of redundant. For me, the bigger issue is the fact that, in this day and age, it's an issue. The fact that there needed to be an official decree to the fact is a little troubling.
In the Israeli military, everyone -- no exceptions -- is expected to serve two years in the military after age 17. It's a condition of citizenship. It's mandatory. And in times of war, all soldiers fight. Also mandatory. I'm not exactly the most gung-ho military guy, but for us to think we're somehow a more progressive nation because we've finally allowed women to officially choose to die alongside the "band of brothers..." well, it's a little late. The upside is that more female officers will emerge through battle. Currently there are 57 top-level female officers in the Armed Forces -- generals, admirals, etc -- and now these military minds may finally be put to the test in the theater of war. And who knows, this announcement may lead to a Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the future.
However, the notion of women on the front lines is far from revolutionary. Whatever meager arguments against putting a woman in the heat of battle -- physically weaker, no killer instinct or whatever -- are as antiquated as the idea of announcing something like this formally.
Welcome to the 21st Century.