Columnist Cathy Young has an interesting piece on the matter of women in combat–she doesn’t believe, as I do, that women should be automatically exempted from combat.

I think a society that routinely sends women to war in a fighting capacity is lacking in civility. But Young examines the practical issues of women in combat that feminists and other advocates refuse to admit:  

“Champions of women in the military need to face up to other contradictions as well. For one, they tend to discuss the issue solely in terms of equal opportunity for women, without noting that currently men have the unequal obligation to register for the draft. What’s more, women’s relative disadvantage in upper-body strength is a real obstacle to their service in ground combat units; if integrating women comes at the cost of lowering performance standards and requiring more personnel to carry out arduous, demanding tasks, such faux equality will serve no one. Unfortunately, the politically correct taboo on these problems often makes it difficult to gauge women’s performance in the military.

“The eagerness to celebrate the prowess of women warriors was undoubtedly one of the reasons the media bought into the vastly exaggerated tale of Jessica Lynch’s heroics during her capture by Iraqi troops in 2003. Opponents of women in the military, on the other hand, were eager to use Lynch’s story to write off the female warrior as a feminist myth. Some women serving in Iraq have proven their effectiveness in combat — such as Army Airborne Captain Kellie McCoy, who led a patrol out of an ambush in Fallujah in 2003 and was awarded a Bronze Star with a combat ’V’ for valor.”

But here’s where Young and I differ:

“When it comes to serving their country in a time of war, women should be truly treated as equal. Gender should not be an arbitrary barrier but it also shouldn’t be a special exemption — whether from service obligations, from the risk of violence, or from equal standards of performance and effectiveness.”

Gender is not an arbitrary barrier.