Militarism remains intact

Last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced a policy change lifting the ban on women in combat.

This change reversed a ruling made by the Pentagon in 1994 that prohibited women from artillery, armor, infantry and other combat positions.

A major component to Panettas decision relates to the weakness of the 1994 legislation.

Though many American civilians and members of the military are critical of this new policy, just and logical conclusions can support it.

This policy officially allows women to fully partake in the dual-dependent rights and duties of American citizenry.

To be guaranteed rights in a Democratic system is not a gift; it is an exchange in which active citizenship grants government protection.

Denying women the right to fulfill desired duties denies equal rights of citizens.

Some degrade the policy change down to a mere formality. Women have been serving in these positions for years due to the weakness of the original legislation.

Although this downplays the actual accomplishment for womens rights, having the policy in writing only strengthens its integrity.

The new policy will also allow women greater opportunity to excel in their fields, and reach higher ranks with improved benefits and salary. The acknowledgement of women as combat soldiers will allow them to attain high leadership positions that were not accessible before.

As an extension of equal opportunity in the workforce, this legislation was imperative. This does not mean that any and all women will be allowed to fill these positions. Combat roles prove incredibly difficult to qualify for, regardless of gender.

Some who oppose the legislation are concerned that standards for entry into combat units will be lowered in order for women to qualify. I do not believe any rational argument could support such a change. I believe women are physically up to the task.

Standards should not be changed, and should be set at a level that mimics the duties required in service. One will find that this legislation will not change the capability of U.S. forces.

Another major concern is the safety of women in the military once combat units are integrated. Some worry about the treatment of women as POWs, arguing that we cannot guarantee that they will not be raped or sexually abused.

Somehow, there is greater concern for the sexual abuse of women than potential sexual abuse of men already serving.

This argument also falls short when one takes into account findings posted in a recent New York Times article, detailing that a woman in a combat role has a greater likelihood of being raped by her colleague, than of being shot by enemy fire.

Some claim the answer to this conflict is to simply keep women at home. If there werent women in the military, women wouldnt be raped.

Although she does not completely support the policy, Professor Jan Feldman of UVM likens this notion to ending anti-Semitism through the non-existence of Jews, or ending racism by having only one race.

Women have a right to belong in the armed forces, no matter the potential for adversity. This legislation is a huge step forward for woman throughout the United States, and should be celebrated as a victory, not chastised as the end of militarism.