The most effective fighting force

Army Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver made history last week. They became the first women to make it through the Army’s rigorous Ranger training program.

Now, they may be part of making even more history as the Army studies whether combat tasks still off-limits for women, such as serving in the infantry, should be opened to them.

Griest and Haver distinguished themselves during the Ranger training course, according to several accounts. But they are realists. Asked whether the Army should water down physical requirements for combat jobs in order to get women in them, the two said no.

They are absolutely correct. Each one of the armed forces has elite units with strict, sometimes harsh requirements. They are not relaxed for men for the very good reason that doing so would make the units less effective – and those in them less safe.

As Griest and Haver have proved, a few women may be able to serve in combat units, even elite ones. But there are other considerations about women in combat that cannot be dismissed, either.

Army officials considering whether to allow women in the infantry should have one criterion only: Will making the change result in a less effective fighting force? That, after all – not serving anyone’s notions of social justice – is the Army’s responsibility.