The debate over women in combat roles ignores a reality that has long existed. THE Skype-sex incident at the Australian Defence Force Academy sparked a media storm and an announcement by Defence Minister Stephen Smith of five inquiries concerning the Australian Defence Force. Smith also ordered the Chief of the Defence Force to expedite a policy that would open up all roles in the ADF to women, including combat positions. The decision has taken root in the media and generated much debate over the appropriateness of women fighting in the front line. It was discussed on the Nine Network's Today Show, which reflected much of the popular concern about the readiness of the ''fairer sex'' to engage in hand-to-hand combat. Presenter Georgie Gardner said, ''Really, when it comes to it, is a woman going to slit another person's throat?'' Co-host Karl Stefanovic asked, ''Do we want women to go through that? To see the horror of war?'' While perhaps well-intentioned, these sentiments reflect a much broader discussion surrounding the subject of women in combat, and service in the defence forces (police included) which assumes that the physical, intellectual, and emotional capabilities of women to operate at the ''sharp end'' of war are inferior to that of their male counterparts. On the same day the Today Show discussion aired, Channel Ten listed the countries that ''allow females at the sharp end'' of war. The truth is, regardless of what the state allows, women have participated at the ''sharp end'' for a long time. We all hope that war and suffering would cease, but while it exists, women continue to comprise an integral part of the conflict landscape. Maybe the idea of women serving on the ''front line'' is novel, but the practice certainly is not.