A reader writes:
I have, perhaps, a different perspective on the subject than your American readers: I am from Canada, and for most of my life, since 1989, women in Canada have been serving in combat roles. We've even been allowed in that last bastion of male-only service, submarines, since 2000. The only stats I can dig up on short notice are from 2006, but at that time 15% of Canada's military force was made up of women. The regular combat force had 225 female personnel (about 2% of the total regular combat force).
And yes, Canadian women have died in combat in Afghanistan. It's not a pretty fact, but considering that it's 2011, it's just that: a fact.
Captain Nichola Goddard died in 2006 in a firefight in the Panjwaye District of Kandahar Province. As a whole, Canada mourned her passing while honouring her service. There was no serious talk of rescinding the women in combat regulations, nor was there at the deaths of Trooper Karine Blais (killed in 2009) or Master Cpl. Kristal Giesebrecht (killed in 2010).
Most women, even those already in the military, aren't cut out for combat service. For that matter, neither are a lot of men. It's likely that in the future, combat forces will continue to be mostly male (as the Canadian evidence points). But to exclude one group, no matter their drive, talents, or motivations, based solely on their gender (and the resultant discomfort of the men in charge) is to be blinded to the real benefits they and their skills may offer in the field. Can any nation really afford to ignore that potential advantage?