The make-up of America's combat forces will change dramatically in coming years as the Pentagon is today expected to lift a ban on women serving on the frontlines, a move that could open thousands of fighting jobs to female service members. "About time", says Gail Collins in a powerful op-ed for the NYT.
Opposition to this change has come primarily in two forms. One fear, as expressed by Rick Santorum, is that women lack the necessary stamina and strength to serve in high stress combat zones. There are also less Victorian concerns that the American public would not be able to support any kind of military action that saw high numbers of women returning in bodybags.
But - as Collins points out - the reality of war in Afghanistan and Iraq means that women are already in extreme danger without serving combat roles. More than 130 have died and 800 been wounded from support positions.
The biggest danger female troops face is in fact sexual assault from their peers. 3,192 cases were recorded in 2011 - and the crime is thought to be massively underreported. Allowing women to serve on the frontlines might improve things in this regard, says Collins, as more women will be promoted to the top of the military and in a position to oversee change.
In 2010, Britain decided not to implement similar changes; women remain barred from infantry and combat teams. Where do you stand? Should we follow America's lead here?