You can now read 10 articles in a month for free on Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

The Boston Globe



Women in combat — the controversy that wasn’t

The most striking aspect of the Pentagon’s decision to lift a 1994 ban on combat duty for women last week was the lack of any substantive opposition in Congress. Normally, any policy change that hints at evolving social values leads to some kind of political uproar; it was a deeply divided Congress, for example, that repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell.” No comparable controversy erupted last week, as such Republicans as Senator John McCain embraced the change. That’s partly because the new policy reflects the actual practice in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also gives belated acknowledgment to the over 150 women who have died in uniform since 2001. They did, in fact, perish in combat.

In retrospect, the White House, which appears to have been taken by surprise by the timing of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s decision, was unnecessarily fearful of addressing the issue. All the service chiefs came to the conclusion some time ago that, in wars with no clear battle lines, the formal exclusion of women was impossible to enforce.

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week