The argument that women's performance on de facto front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan has proved concerns about combat roles unwarranted is false logic. Just because women in forward support companies can return fire when necessary — or die — doesn't necessarily mean they are equal to men in combat.
Unbeknown perhaps to many civilians, combat has a very specific meaning in the military. It means aggressively engaging and attacking the enemy with deliberate offensive action, with a high probability of face-to-face contact.
Not a rational argument
If the enemy is all around you — and you need every available person — that is one set of circumstances. To ask women to engage vicious men and risk capture under any other is beyond understanding. Every objective study has argued against women in direct combat for reasons that haven't changed.
The threat to unit cohesion should require no elaboration. But let's leave that obvious point to pedants and cross into enemy territory where somebody's 18-year-old daughter has been captured. No one wants to imagine a son in these circumstances either, obviously, but women face special tortures. And, no, the rape of men has never held comparable appeal.
We can train our men to ignore the screams of their female comrades, but is this the society we want to create? And though some female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have endured remarkable suffering, their ability to withstand or survive violent circumstances is no rational argument for putting American girls and women in the hands of enemy men.
It will kill us in the end.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP