Those who want women in combat seem to think that the only relevant issue is the physical ability of female soldiers, but that is almost beside the point. True, many women are not capable of the extreme physical exertion that men are. According to the AP, "When the Marine Corps sought women to go through its tough infantry course last year, two volunteered, and both failed to complete the course." However, there are certainly some women who can meet the qualifications to serve in combat, but that does not mean that they should serve in combat.
What I am about to say is so anachronistic, so sexist, so insensitive, that it may grievously offend most modern Westerners, but it must be said. War is unfeminine. Even just killing is a terrible thing that should be done by men when it must be done at all. Since prehistoric times, men have been warriors. Men have fought for millenia to defend their homes, their people, and especially their women. To bring women to the battlefield and place them in front of enemy guns is contrary to instinct and tradition, but our ruling class nominalists have little use for either.
In his interview with Peter Seewald titled God and the World, then Cardinal Ratzinger says,
It is false when people want men and women to be cut to the same measuer and say that this tiny biological difference has absolutely no significance. That tendency is dominant nowadays. Personally it still horrifies me when people want women to be soldiers just like men, when they, who have always been the keepers of the peace and in whom we have always seen a counter-impulse working against the male impulse to stand up and fight, now likewise run around with submachine guns, showing that they can be just as warlike as the men. Or that women now have the "right" to work as garbage collecters or miners, to do all those things that, out of respect for their status, for their different nature, their own dignity, we ought not to inflict on them and that are now imposed no them in the name of equality. That in my opinion, is a Manichean ideology that is opposed to the body.One might accuse Ratzinger of putting women on too high a pedestal of feminine domesticity. However, his basic point is absolutely correct, that women are not supposed to do all the things that men are, and that among those male jobs is the business of killing and dying in war.
The fact that war is not a feminine occupation does not mean that women should not serve in the military. Support positions are a way for women to serve their country in uniform and frees up men for combat duty. It is entirely appropriate that women are trained in the use of weapons and that they are armed in order to defend themselves. In extraordinary cases, female soldiers may be sent into combat. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, it made sense for the desperate Russians to throw everything they had at the invaders, including female soldiers. To use an example from fiction, it was appropriate for Éowyn to fight at the battle of the Pelenorr Fields. If the Free Peoples were to fail, the people of Rohan both male and female would be subject to torment and death. At that point, women might as well fight. It should be noted that after her brief military career, Éowyn married Farimir and became a housewife. Hardly a model feminist.
Unlike the people of Middle Earth, the United States faces no existential threat from foreign enemies. Women need not fight. Women should not fight. Instead of trying to conform the U.S. military to trendy egalitarianism, Secretary Panetta should respect the natural differences between the men and women in the armed forces. The secretary is leaving his position soon, and will presumably have more free time. I recommend he read some Tolkien.