Supporters of women serving on the front lines of combat are cheering the Obama administration's policy change on the subject, but critics say the move hurts readiness in multiple ways and is simply a nod to the progressive cultural agenda.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis told WND he's not at all surprised by the decision. He said it was obvious this move was coming after a decision from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2012 that opened up 14,000 additional military positions to women and front-line duty was heavily considered then.
"They see this as a part of their movement and part of their agenda," Maginnis explained. "For a lot of reasons, I think it's wrongheaded."
He said his concerns center on two key areas: the simple differences in strength between the genders and the issues he fears will arise when men and women serve together in long stretches in close quarters.
When it comes to the physical differences, Maginnis said there are real, inescapable differences between the genders in strength.
"Front-line combat, if you're hauling a 60-80-pound pack in the mountains of Afghanistan, in severe cold or severe heat is incredibly grueling. It's the most physically demanding job known to man," he said. "Our own tests in the military have evidenced that women have only half of the upper body strength of men, which explains why they can't carry heavy burdens all that well. They also have a quarter less stamina or endurance.
"Women typically aren't as fast, so that's why we don't see women running in marathons against men. That doesn't mean women can't run or they aren't reasonably fast, but they aren't at the capability as the average man. We're dealing with hundreds of thousands of people, trying to get the best physically and mentally qualified. Women, in many cases, are very physically capable within their own category, but they can't do these tough jobs."
Defenders of the new policy say such concerns are unwarranted because female soldiers will have to meet demanding standards before being deployed to the front lines. However, comments from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey suggest those standards could get watered down.
"If we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn't make it, the burden is then on the service to come and explain to the secretary, 'Why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?'" said Dempsey.
Maginnis is not surprised that the military is already lowering standards to accommodate what he considers a policy dictated by cultural politics rather than what's best for U.S. national security, noting that sliding standards have already been imposed at service academies, on submarines and in special forces.
"All these jobs have been gender-normed, and when you gender-norm something so that you can satisfy the weakest of the two, you end up with a weaker military," Maginnis said. "We should not be trifling with national security. This is not about jobs. This is about a political agenda pushed by feminists so they can break the glass ceiling. They think the military is the last bastion in which that exists.
"But we all depend upon our armed forces, and the moms and dads of America need to understand the consequence of this is that their 18-year-old daughter will be registering for the draft just like their 18-year-old sons in the future," said Maginnis, noting the only thing stopping that is the policy the Obama administration now wants to scrap.
He further states that America's financial crunch will soon mean that military personnel can't be paid as much, and that will mean the return of the draft.
"Moms and dads of America, yes, your daughters will go, and that's something our political leaders of today have made a decision on," Maginnis said.
A more delicate issue is what mixing genders will do for morale or readiness in front line units. Maginnis said it will hurt cohesion and lead to many moral dilemmas.
"As we've evidenced over the last decade-plus in Afghanistan and Iraq, there's a lot of sex in the ranks," Maginnis said. "Even the Pentagon's own reports say, 'We can't explain why there's been a radical increase in sexual assaults.' What does this do to units? It really polarizes, tears them apart, creates mistrust and, of course, it hurts military families. These are issues that are not easily overcome even in local high schools or in our communities.
"We don't expect that we're going to put men and women in close proximity, intimate situations, for long periods of time," he said. "Moms and dads of America understand this but apparently the progressives don't."
When Gen. Dempsey was tapped to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2011, Maginnis lauded Dempsey as a great choice. After this decision, policies on homosexuals in the military, failing to change rules of engagement and dismissing a professor on Islamic extremism after protests from Muslims, Maginnis said Dempsey has been a major disappointment.
"I've known Marty Dempsey for 40 years," he said. "Unfortunately, general officers tend to change, and he's changed in a way that is unfavorable in my viewpoint. The issues are distressing, wrongheaded, not in the best interest of the military much less the country."
But he said this shouldn't come as a complete shock. Maginnis noted that President Obama never would have nominated Dempsey if he weren't confident Dempsey would carry out his agenda.
"I would say this is the compromise of principles," he said, "if in fact Marty did hold those principles years ago."