Women comprise 14% of active-duty military personnel but have not been able to pursue combat roles. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is changing that.
Rescinding the 1994 Pentagon policy, Panetta's action recognizes women as an essential force in the U.S. military on the recommendation of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey.
The issue at hand isn't equal enrollment; it's equal opportunity — equal opportunity to serve one's nation and share the burden and rewards of military service. Panetta's decision to rescind this ban isn't complete however, since military departments have until 2016 to make the case for exceptions. Arguably, many departments will try to describe how women are unfit or unable to perform certain functions. While an understandable sentiment, shouldn't women have the opportunity to try and fail? Up until now they haven't been able to try, and that is why history has shown time and again of women who've done everything from bind their breasts and dress up like men to be able to serve their country.
Undoubtedly this is going to create quite a backlash from conservative and maybe even some liberals factions. The only way to balance out warfare from the reality of human imperfection is to allow human imperfection to be represented in full force. If women can be used by terrorists to be suicide bombers, why can't women be enlisted to be the people helping find and stop suicide bombers — and not just in the glamorized way that Zero Dark Thirty has portrayed the only woman involved.
The success or failure of allowing women to be part of combat will come in the analysis of troop unit behavior in future years, especially the impacts on a unit's PTSD, any change in the number of rapes and sexual-harassment cases that come up due to prolonged deployment, and even in terms of the overall success of different troops. If any department can numerically and indefatigably prove that women do not belong on the battlefield, is by actually trying it.