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Research Papers on Women in the Military

For most of human history, the military has been an overwhelmingly male pursuit. Beginning in the 20th century, women in the military have been a growing, and often controversial, change to an ancient tradition. Women in the MilitaryHowever, there is a long history of women serving in the military, with notable cases dating to the American Revolution, when several women disguised themselves as men in order to enlist.

With the growth of professional nursing, many women were able to serve in the military in that role beginning in the First World War.

  • Russia was the only nation to allow women to serve in combat roles during that World War I.
  • In World War II, most of the combatant nations allowed women to serve in the military in nursing, clerical, and support roles.
  • Britain was the first nation to provide specifically uniformed units for women.
  • The Soviet Union allowed women to serve in combat roles.
  • Roza Shania was a celebrated sniper, with 54 confirmed hits.

Most nations, however, continued to deny women the ability to serve in combat roles. In the United States, restrictions on women have relaxed since the late 20th century, with women even serving alongside special ops units in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. However, women are still forbidden from joining Special Forces units, such as the Army Rangers. Women in the military have come a long way from having to disguise themselves as men in order to defend their country.

From a utilitarian calculus, advocates of inclusion maintain that women help the military by improving combat readiness.  Combat readiness involves the military’s ability to respond to threats in a timely manner.  By allowing women to serve in combat positions, “military readiness is enhanced when there is a larger pool of applicants”.  In evaluating assignments, military leadership has a greater variety of choices.  Ideally, the military functions best when the best candidates are assigned to certain conditions. 

Furthermore, allowing both men and women to compete for all military occupational specialties is not an equal rights issue, but one of military effectiveness. If the United States is to remain the world's most capable and most powerful military power, we need to have the best person in each job, regardless of their gender.

Thus, the consequentialist argument of readiness may be described as ultimately pragmatic.  Wars are difficult and winning a war depends having the most qualified people in positions of leadership.  If a woman is denied a position in favor of a less capable man, then the military as a whole is hurt.

Additionally, the American military needs members.  Military officials are concerned that with the modern era’s increased military responsibility and the global nature of defense, relying on men alone to fill certain roles will leave them vacant.  This could then compromise national security because the increased reliance on men only "creates potential long-term challenge to Army; pool of male recruits too small to sustain force".

However, opponents of women’s involvement in the military reject the readiness argument as false.  Most nations in the world do not and historically have not used women in combat positions.  Schafly (2003) explained that the argument of readiness does not necessarily prove true:

Every country that has experimented with women in combat has abandoned the idea. The notion that Israel uses women in combat is a feminist myth. Women are treated very differently from men in the Israeli armed forces. They serve only about half as long; they are housed in separate barracks; they have an automatic exemption if they marry or have a baby. Commenting on the sex-integration practices of the U.S. Armed Services, one Israeli general said, “We do not do what you do in the United States because, unfortunately, we have to take war seriously.”

While military readiness is a concern, it is unclear whether women serving in combat roles are the answer.  Women in combat could require specific accommodations such as separated sleeping areas, which can increase costs to the military.

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