December 11, 2012

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, invoking the same arguments that long kept both blacks and homosexuals from being accepted and integrated into the armed forces, insisted there’s no place (absent “data” to the contrary) for women in infantry and armor units [“Can a band of brothers include women?,” Washington Forum, Dec. 7]. Worse, he invoked the tiresome “band of brothers” trope to support the proposition that special bonding unites manly men (but not women) who engage in what he insisted is “intimate killing” (as if today’s soldiers regularly engage in hand-to-hand combat).

By the distorted logic of exclusion, any minimally qualified man is better than any better qualified woman. Better an ignorant man than a knowledgeable woman. Better a weak man than a strong woman. Better an undisciplined man than a disciplined woman.

Gen. Scales finished by saying, “[F]or heaven’s sake keep the decision [to exclude women from combat assignments] away from lawyers and judges.” Better, I say, that we keep such decisions from generals (and admirals), active and retired, who insist on substituting ossified “experience” for reason, while the rest of us unthinking dupes continue to let them have their way. That includes many civilians in positions of authority over the military.

Gregory D. Foster, Vienna

The writer, a professor at the National Defense University, served as an infantry reconnaissance platoon leader and company commander in the Vietnam War. The views expressed are his own.

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