Opening up combat to women is largely heralded as a triumph for gender equity and a decision that will enable the career advancement for women in the military. And certainly some women will be able to meet the exacting physical demands of combat duty.
Women have served in combat roles in the Israeli army for decades. And recently on our Commentary page, columnist John Kass retold the story Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who recorded more than 300 kills on the Russian front during World War II.
But the delight that the Obama administration’s women-in-combat authorization has evoked in many quarters has a counter in the remarks of Mohandas Gandhi, the pacifist and egalitarian who led India to independence from Great Britain. During the second year of WWII, Mr. Gandhi observed:
“In my opinion it is degrading both for man and woman that woman should be called upon or induced to forsake the hearth and shoulder the rifle for the protection of that hearth. It is a reversion to barbarity and the beginning of the end. In trying to ride the horse that man rides, she brings herself and him down. The sin will be on man’s head for tempting or compelling his companion to desert her special calling. There is as much bravery in keeping one’s home in good order and condition as there is in defending it against attack from without.”
Mr. Gandhi, of course, was against violence in all forms.
That makes the distinction he draws in this instance even more notable.