Associated Press
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta watches a Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey sign a memorandum ending the 1994 ban on women serving in combat roles in the military, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, at the Pentagon.

Although journalists and pundits are universally hailing the recent Department of Defense decision to open the combat arms (infantry, special forces, armor, etc.) to women in the armed forces, there has been virtually no discussion of the question that matters most: will women on the front lines of combat make our forces stronger or weaker? This is not merely a question of numbers because by this measure, having more soldiers would always increase the likelihood of victory. However, history has shown repeatedly that numerical superiority does not guarantee success.

While it is good to foster equality and opportunity in the military, this goal is secondary to the absolute necessity of fielding forces that can win in battle. Indeed, a strong, efficient military gives all Americans unprecedented security and liberty. Any dilution in the armed forces' ability to fight puts all Americans at risk, men and women alike.

I would feel a lot better about the DOD's landmark decision if there were some honest discussion, research and testing about women's effectiveness when integrated with men in the crucible of combat. General Douglas McArthur made mistakes in his illustrious career, some grievous, but he got it right when he stated, "There is no substitute for victory." If only the Pentagon still thought that way.

Steve Fillerup