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Andrew Gumbel

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Women Now ‘Given the Opportunity to Succeed’ in War

Posted on Jan 24, 2013
AP/Kristin M. Hall

As of 2012, more than 800 women had been wounded and more than 130 killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Mark this as a moment of progress in the struggle for gender equality in America. The Pentagon has announced its plans to let your mother, girlfriend and daughter kill and be killed on a battlefield.

The New York Times lauded the decision—made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta shortly before his retirement—as fitting neatly within President Obama’s “broad and ambitious liberal agenda” pertaining to matters of “equal opportunity.” An article in the paper Monday attempted to convince readers that “unbound from much of what defined him upon taking office four years ago ... Mr. Obama intended to use the full powers of his office for progressive values.”

Those who have been paying close attention know better than to credit the president for his slick use of words and politician’s sense of rhetorical opportunity. Writing at CounterPunch, Dave Lindorff understood that it was what Obama did not say that constituted the most significant part of his inaugural address as it pertained to left-wing hopes and values. The president presented global warming and education as issues primarily of economic competitiveness, while the continued and indefinite stationing of 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan currently under negotiation and the expansion of the administration’s aggressive multinational drone campaign directly undermine what Obama called an end to 10 years of war.

An article in the Times was unclear about whether the military’s move to let women fight had anything to do with a possible future decline in the number of available troops or an increased need.

The decision overturns a 1994 Pentagon rule restricting women from “artillery, armor, infantry and other such combat roles, even though in reality women have frequently found themselves in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, where more than 20,000 have served.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The New York Times:

A military official said the change would be implemented “as quickly as possible,” although the Pentagon is allowing three years, until January 2016, for final decisions from the services.

Each branch of the military will have to come up with an implementation plan in the next several months, the official said. If a branch of the military decides that a specific job should not be opened to a woman, representatives of that branch will have to ask the defense secretary for an exception.

“To implement these initiatives successfully and without sacrificing our war-fighting capability or the trust of the American people, we will need time to get it right,” General Dempsey wrote.

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