Women in combat: An idea whose time has come, aided by technology
"Women," Time magazine wrote last year, "are not small men."
This is ... true. And yet for a long time, the military -- an organization that operates under the core auspices of pragmatic conformity -- sort of ignored its truth. Martial technologies -- uniforms, weapons, vehicles -- have tended to be one-size-fits-all, or at least one-size-fits-dudes. Guns are huge and heavy. Packs the same. Body armor is long and narrow, designed for a guy's long-and-narrow frame. And with good reason, of course: It is both unsurprising and quite practical that an institution headed mostly by men, populated mostly by men, would take a male-centered approach to its equipment. Tall, heavy, narrow, straight: the tools, for the most part, matched the humans who were using them.
That has been changing, however -- and changing long before this week. The Pentagon'sdecision to end its ban on women-in-combat -- a change announced, formally, this afternoon -- is simply a decision whose time, in many, many ways, has come. But it is also, importantly, a decision that technological advances have made easier: more sensible, more practical, more impermeable to objection. While some will still make social and cultural arguments against women serving on the front lines -- most of which will boil down to the idea that it's hard for "bands of brothers" to coalesce when sisters are part of the equation -- many other objections are now, or will soon be, preempted.