UNDER United States law and military regulations, women are forbidden from taking part in combat operations and are theoretically limited to playing supporting roles in transportation, supply, medical services, administration and intelligence.
But in an era of push-button, computer-chip warfare and fluid, fast-shifting battles in which the concept of a static "front line" is obsolete, women serving with U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf are inevitably being placed at risk of becoming casualties or prisoners.
There is still a significant difference, however, between women playing such supporting roles and women storming fortified positions or driving tanks. It is a line the nation is not yet ready to cross.
Women, by virtue of their commitment and skill, have earned their essential new role in the modern American military forces. They have willingly accepted the risks that invariably accompany their heightened responsibility.