This letter to the Editor of the New York Times appeared in both the on-line and print versions of the New York Times on August 19, 2009.
To the Editor:
The topic of women in combat remains controversial. Conventional wisdom and current law prevent women, no matter how able, from serving in units with direct offensive combat missions — infantry, armor, artillery and special forces. The justification for this exclusion includes that women are not fit for combat and battlefield stress because they lack the emotional stability and physical strength.
The media has often proffered that Americans would not stand to see their daughters coming home in body bags, minus limbs or badly disfigured. The purported fear and outcry of a woman’s violent death from enemy fire has not materialized during the war on terror. The deaths of women have provoked no more and no less reaction that the deaths of male soldiers.
In reality, the strained armed forces need women and men in the fight. Circumstances have eclipsed arguments, and few in the military and government are anxious to rekindle the debate.
The combat exclusion policy was instituted for a linear battlefield with front and rear lines of combat clearly demarcated. Today’s battlefield is asymmetrical, and the soldiers prosecuting the war engage in combat in 360 degrees. The fact is that women are everywhere on the battlefield, as your series describes. The law has not yet caught up to the historical as well as present reality of war.
The opposition is fading fast and overcome by a new generation and a new reality.
Donna M. McAleer
Park City, Utah, Aug. 17, 2009
The writer is a member of the West Point class of 1987 and the author of the forthcoming “Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line.”