New Book Examines Role of Women in Combat

Review: Deadly Consequences: How Cowards are Pushing Women into Combat by Lt. Col. Robert Macginnis
female soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division train on a firing range / AP

female soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division train on a firing range / AP


In May of 2010 while operating in southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as an infantryman, I was attached to a unit that was employing a female engagement team to supplement their already robust outreach campaign to the local villagers of Marjah. While the Marines—or “lioness” team—did an admirable job, it was clear that their presence in the midst of an all-male infantry company currently involved in combat operations clearly restructured the dynamic on the ground.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Macginnis in his book Deadly Consequences: How Cowards are Pushing Women into Combat proposes that this dynamic—the close knit hierarchy that is an infantry unit—will be destroyed by recent policy changes allowing women into direct combat roles. He blames a military that has been overrun by political correctness and the politicization of the Joint Chiefs for this oncoming destruction.

Macginnis asserts that calls for equality within the armed forces are coming from “fringe” feminist groups by citing a number of surveys claims that the majority of women within the services are not interested in frontline jobs.

The debate to include women in combat transcends our current generation, and Macginnis does a good job summarizing the chronology of the debate. However, he really shines when he breaks down other countries’ policies toward women in combat. The U.S. military is large and extremely unique, and by juxtaposing other countries next to the United States it strengthens Maginnis’ argument considerably.

Maginnis ends the book with a number of measured suggestions including questions that Congress should pose to the Joint Chiefs and policy recommendations that would keep women out of combat. Macginnis reinforces that political correctness is smothering the military and that the Joint Chiefs have stopped being soldiers and are now just well-trained “yes men” to whatever administration occupies the White House. Salvation, he believes, lies in the hands of Congress.

Deadly Consequences is a short read. Though lacking in excitement, it does a good job at summarizing the anti-women-in-combat side of the debate. There is no doubt a book like this needs to be read, but it could have probably garnered a wider audience with a less biased approach, softer title, and more first hand accounts of women in combat during the Global War on Terror.

It also could have used subject matter experts that are responsible for preparing units for combat, such as instructors at some of the military’s combined arms training centers.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to educate himself on a debate that will greatly affect our military in the coming years. This is by no means the entirety of the “women in combat” debate but a good perspective nonetheless.