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Posted on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 10:34 a.m.

Women in Combat: Agree with Gen. Boykin this time?

By Wayne Baker

0130 General Jerry Boykin.jpg
Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing women in combat roles.

The majority of Americans favor allowing women to serve in combat positions, as we discussed Monday, but not everyone agrees. Some of the strongest opponents are ex-military.

In a CNN opinion piece, Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin weighs in against the change. He is a three-decade-plus Army veteran who was a commander of the Green Berets and served in the Delta Force. In his CNN column, he argues that the decision to allow women in combat was “ideological.” He writes, in part:

“The proof that this decision is ideologically and not militarily based is its very sweeping nature. It appears that the people who did this are engaged in a vast social experiment in which hundreds of thousands of men and women will be the guinea pigs. We are now testing a hypothesis that may impair the military effectiveness of our ground forces.”

Do you agree or disagree?

Does it sway your response to recall that Gen. Boykin has been a lightning rod for conservative Christian causes over the past decade? He now works for the James Dobson-founded Family Research Council. In 2003, he stirred controversy around the world for remarks naming Islam as a dangerous threat and describing God, as worshiped by Muslims, as “an idol.” He finally retired from government service in 2007.

A 2012 Congressional Research Service report for Congress, which Gen. Boykin cites in his opinion piece, outlines different sides of the argument. On one side, there are “those who emphasize equal rights, responsibilities and women’s abilities” and who argue that “women in the armed forces cannot advance to the top without combat experience.”

On another side, “those opposed to women in combat note that the progress of women is not the most important issue at hand.” They believe that “national security has been and would further be jeopardized because of the presence of women in the ranks.”

DOD’s decision seems reflect a third position: Allowing women in combat would help to equalize advancement opportunities for women and result in a stronger military.

What do you make of Gen. Boykin's argument?

Can women—or men—advance in the military without combat experience?

Are you in the armed services or a veteran? We’d like to hear from you.

Wayne Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.