Women In Combat

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta reportedly will announce today that the long-time ban against allowing female soldiers to participate in combat operations will be ended.  The move is being made upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The decision would overturn a 1994 edict that barred women from participation in ground-combat units.  It also recognizes the reality of what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the turmoil of terrorist-oriented wars has caused female soldiers operating in “combat support” roles to become involved in combat itself.  In those chaotic situations, women have performed coolly, competently, and with valor — like the well-trained, capable soldiers they are.

The primary objections to women soldiers in combat have been that they could create a sexually charged atmosphere that might detract from performance of the mission and might not be physically capable, from a strength standpoint, of performing all tasks that could be necessary on a particular operation.  The first excuse seems antiquated, and in any case can be addressed by proper training of soldiers of both sexes and attentive leadership.  The answer to the second concern is easy — establish the physical capabilities that actually are needed and see whether individual women, as well as individual men, can meet them.  If so, they should be permitted to participate.  What is the point of arbitrarily excluding professional soldiers who want to serve and can do their duty?

I’m all for knocking down exclusionary barriers — particularly those that arose from outdated cultural and social mores.  I’m glad we are discarding the lingering, Victorian era notions about the delicate conditions of women and giving them the opportunity to fully serve their country and pursue a military career, if that is their choice.

Why Must Angela Merkel Always Be Kissed?

Why is it that, whenever you see a photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting with other world leaders, she’s always being kissed on the cheek or even on the lips?

It’s interesting that, even as they talk about gender equality, our world leaders still cling to old-fashioned, sex-specific forms of greetings.  Angela Merkel leads an economic powerhouse that props up countries like Greece and is supposed to figure out a way to bring fiscal sanity to the Eurozone, yet every time she goes to a summit meeting she’s got to put up with getting smacked on the cheek by every head of state in attendance, like she’s their favorite granddaughter.

Merkel’s got to be a tough individual to steel herself to the constant kissing, and she must not be a germaphobe.  Nevertheless, I’ll bet she dreads going to the really big gatherings, like the start of the UN General Assembly, and coming away with chapped cheeks from all of the slobbery pecks she gets.  For every suave kisser on the world stage there have got to be some third-world potentates whose smooching technique closely resembles a dog lick.  Imagine how she feels when she sees Hugo Chavez advancing, with that glint in his eye and his lips pursed for a big smackeroo.

I think it’s high time that the women leaders of the world get a firm handshake, like everybody else.  Let’s give their lips and cheeks a break.