The debate over women in the infantry has heated up in recent weeks. Advocates of integration were thrilled recently when two female officers passed the rigorous Army Ranger course. But they suffered a setback when a nine-month, $36 million study conducted by the Marine Corps indicated that all-male units performed better in the field than integrated ones.
According to news reports, the summary of results from the unprecedented study indicated that all-male ground combat squads were faster, stronger and more lethal in most cases than units that included women. The women also suffered higher injury rates during physically demanding training.
Advocates of integration were quick to respond to the Marine study. In the Christian Science Monitor, Anna Mulrine penned a hit piece on the Marines (“Why Marines, unlike Army and Navy, are so against women in combat,” Sept. 11), essentially arguing that a form of machismo “has prevented the Marines from taking steps toward integrating women more seamlessly into the force — steps the Army took long ago, such as opening support jobs in combat units to women … Within the halls of the Pentagon, the Marine Corps has widely been regarded as foot-dragging on the matter of women in its combat ranks.”
She also publicized the arguments of those who attacked the views of retired Marine Gen. Greg Newbold, who had contended in a previous article for the military blog, War on the Rocks (“What tempers the steel of an infantry unit,” Sept. 9), that focusing exclusively on the physical side of women in the infantry provides an incomplete picture. As General Newbold says, “the issue we’re now debating has to include a recognition of cohesion and the cost of sexual dynamics in a bare-knuckled brawl, amidst primeval mayhem, in which we expect the collective entity to persevere because it has a greater will and fighting spirit, and not because it is bigger, faster, or more agile.” Posted on Facebook, the comments on Ms. Mulrine’s article included multiple snipes from Army officers, active and retired, at their benighted Marine brethren.
Meanwhile, in an interview with NPR, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a proponent of integration, questioned the integrity of the study, saying the fact that it “started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking this is not a good idea, and women will not be able to do this” could quite possibly have had an impact on the results. I cannot imagine any previous secretary of the Navy so gratuitously insulting one of the services that his own department oversees.
During my 27 years teaching at the Naval War College, I met many impressive…