The Public Interest

Women in combat?

Seth Cropsey

Fall 1980

LAST February, when President Carter proposed registering 19 and 20 year olds in case a draft were needed, the debate skipped over questions about mobilization times or the military’s ability quickly to teach conscripts how to use sophisticated weapons. It focused instead on whether women as well as men should be required to register. In the heated debate which followed, the Pentagon was the chief non-participant-for the simple reason that its policy towards women was already set. Since the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) replaced conscription in 1973, the Defense Department has moved steadily-sometimes by itself and, at different times, in the face of judicial or congressional decisions—to abandon every distinction between the functions of male and female personnel. As a result the U.S. has surpassed all other nations in positioning its women soldiers very close to possible combat areas. American women today serve aboard Navy supply ships in the Indian Ocean, and in the Army at European posts where they would surely fight and die in war. Air Force women fly airlift missions around the world and would presumably be in great danger if an enemy tried to cut the flow of materials to a war zone. 

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