Caitlin delves into the arguments that a) men will react differently towards female comrades than male from a protective emotional basis and b) the physical differences of the sexes. I think she rightfully dismisses the former. There is some literature that this occurs apparently, but norms change and I think they will over time with this one. On the latter argument, Caitlin also rightfully draws out that not all men are stronger than all women. Lord knows I've served with women who were in much better shape than I was that I'm sure would have excelled in the infantry (take that statement for what's it worth: I was a mech cavalryman, but I'm pretty sure I have an understanding of what light infantry does from small doses).
So what do I have to add to all of this? I'll start by pointing to this AP article when the ban was lifted (that I lambasted on Twitter because of its very flawed description of brigades relative to battalions and what the change actually meant - this is not an endorsement of the entire article) and a quote towards the end from Anu Bhagwati, a former captain in the Marine Corps and executive director of the Service Women's Action Network:
"To continue such a ban is to ignore the talents and leadership that women bring to the military, and it further penalizes servicewomen by denying them the opportunity for future promotions and assignments that are primarily given to personnel from combat arms specialties."I can't argue with her - it is unlikely that we'll see a woman as a COCOM commander, service chief, or CJCS if their career paths are combat service and combat service support. Logisticians of either gender are simply not considered for these roles. I'm not going to argue for or against this de facto policy - just acknowledging that it exists. And it's a very good reason to argue that women are being held back because of who they are - an idea that is antithetical to modern American military ethics. Or at least it should be. (I should also note that as the Air Force and Navy have opened so many of their positions up to women, they are going to lead the way with female GOs in a generation or so - that's when things are really going to start getting embarrassing for the Army).
But getting back to how this relates to the issues discussed by Caitlin. If the most practical reason for continuing a ban is that most women are weaker than most men, then the solution to integrating women into all combat arms MOSs will be to ensure that only our military's fittest women will matriculate into those combat arms. However, if the main reason to do this equality in general and specifically to provide women with a path to the highest levels of uniformed service, it seems that we're putting a pretty big emphasis on how much of a PT stud that woman is and not her capabilities to command, lead troops, think strategically, and so on and so forth, that you look for in a high-level commander. PT is important for males and their progression as well, but the bar isn't as high as it would be for women. I foresee continued problems with providing women with real equality in uniform even if we come up with physical standards that are equally applied to men and women.
It might take time (and we do still have to solve that little draft issue), but women in combat arms MOSs is an inevitability. Just as with issues of race and homosexuality, change is coming. And I do hope sooner rather than later, as painful as it's likely to be at first. But this might be a good time to also take a good, hard look at how we choose our highest ranking leaders. PT studs and successful brigade command do not a strategic leader make - for men or women. Full equality - that also meets the best interests of the nation - may require looking to those intelligence and logistics officers who think and lead strategically for higher commands, outside of AMC. So while physical differences are an impediment to full women's equality in the military, it's not the only one.
*(And can we all stop talking about "women in combat"? Women are in combat. They're not allowed in combat MOSs. It's not the same thing.)