What are the long-term implications of allowing women to serve in combat?

There are at least three hypothetical scenarios that could require the United States to rapidly expand the size of our armed forces. A war with Iran in the Middle East could spread throughout the region. Both a war on the Korean peninsula with North Korea’s million-man army to defend South Korea and a war in the Taiwan Strait with China to defend Taiwan could require large numbers of troops and take a long time. If any one of these occurred while we still have forces in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, it would make the situation even worse.

As unlikely as these scenarios may be, the prospect of U.S. involvement in a future protracted large-scale war requiring the reinstatement of the draft should be a consideration in deciding current U.S. policy on women in combat. Drafting women in a national emergency and in what ratio to men and whether they would be assigned involuntarily to combat units are separate but related issues.

Once women are permitted to voluntarily join front-line combat units, will advocates of women in combat also insist that the military involuntarily assign women to them along with men when that time comes? Doesn’t the concept of “full equality” demand that? If so, what would be the attitudes of Americans about women in combat under these circumstances? It’s one thing to support women in combat when it’s women who volunteer to serve. It’s a different matter when it comes to compelling women who don’t, especially if it’s you or your daughter.

I support women voluntarily serving in combat units because I’ve seen how capable, dedicated, and professional women in the military are. And I believe the Israelis have it right. They draft both men and women, but only women who volunteer serve in combat units. Congress should not act to approve a change in policy without hearings that explore all the implications for that change and the potential unintended consequences.

Ed Ross is the President and Chief Executive Officer of EWRoss International LLC, a company that provides global consulting services to clients in the international defense marketplace. He publishes commentary at EWRoss.com.