On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers retreated from plans to restrict the roles of women serving in Iraq. The plan, led by House Armed Services Committee chair, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, had sought to codify a 1994 Pentagon policy that barred women from serving in most direct combat roles.
"The policy, based on Cold War-era concepts of warfare, was rendered partly moot by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan who do not distinguish between troops on front lines and those on theoretically safer missions elsewhere, such as escorting cargo convoys," the Los Angeles Times explained. "Women now serve as gunners atop Humvees on perilous Iraqi streets. Hunter was particularly concerned that women were allowed to serve in armored Stryker vehicles that are used in combat situations."
The plan to scale back women's service was shot down by opposition ranging from the Secretary of the Army to the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as Democrats and some members of Hunter's own party. "At a time when our armed forces are overstretched, we shouldn't be turning away people who want to serve their country," Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, a Democrat from California, told the Los Angles Times. "Invoking the names of two female soldiers captured by Iraqi insurgents and later freed, she added, 'This step is a slap in the face to the Jessica Lynches and Shoshana Johnsons of our military, who served our nation ably and nobly.'"
Of course, theres a pragmatic reason as well as a patriotic one for letting women continue to serve on the dangerous streets of Baghdad and beyond. Considering the extreme lengths that military recruiters have been going to get soldiers signed up, it's no wonder that the Pentagon doesnt want to diss women willing to give their all. Yet, not even today's serious recruiting crisis can shake the military's conviction (so far, anyway) in dont ask/dont tell, the policy that keeps gays and lesbians from doing the same.