Rick Santorum on Women in Combat

 

Rick Santorum’s remarks this week about women serving in combat, and the possible ramifications of it, sparked many heated reactions. This post at Gunpowder & Lead does a good job of encapsulating why what Santorum highlighted is a serious and unavoidable issue for our armed forces to consider.

His concern is not, as was initially spun, about the “emotional” nature of women — but rather about the way good men naturally respond when a woman is put in harm’s way. As Santorum noted on CNN: “It already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat, but I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat. And I think that’s not in the best interests of men, women or the mission.”

The whole conversation brought to mind Robert Heinlein’s numerous comments on the hard-wired nature of men since the dawn of time to protect women and children – defense of the species as our primary role. Heinlein has a rather famous story about a tramp who was killed trying to save a woman from a train in Swope Park which he would cite as an example. You can read it here.

As Heinlein put it: “Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you’ve had it, you’re done, you’re through!” Or, as Mark Twain put it: “What, Sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce.”

But this also brought to mind this fascinating bit of conversation from an Uncommon Knowledge interview with Victor Davis Hanson:

PETER ROBINSON: “Now here’s the question. Whereas the leading figures of Greece all understood the military from firsthand experience, American elites, Northeast, Coastal California, can lead their entire lives without brushing up against military culture, let alone military experience. Is this something new in American military history and is this healthy? Is it sustainable?”

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: “We’ve had people who have not had a lot of military – Abraham Lincoln was in the Black Hawk War for a few weeks. FDR was secretary of the Navy. So we’ve had people but what the difference is that this is the first time that we’ve had commanders in chiefs either have not had military experience or they haven’t had anything comparable. What I mean anything comparable, anything from the underbelly of American life, anybody who’s had to take apart an engine, anybody who’s had to build a house. “So there are approximate experiences, not the same but there’s a tragic sort of notion that you’re in a dead end job, you have to work with muscular strength, there’s no good and bad choices, bad and worse choices. All of that tragic view is necessary to understand what war is but yeah, I’m afraid that in a very sophisticated technological society we are certifying excellence and this is a larger topic, expertise based on basically an Ivy League credential which is not commensurate with real experience in the real world. It doesn’t tell us really what somebody in Fallujah is really thinking about. “What saves the United States when it goes to war is that we have a subset of the population for a variety of reasons enlisted in officer corps that are 19th century in mentality. They live according to the protocols of the 19th century. What do I mean? They’re more likely to believe in a transcendent religion. They’re more likely to believe in nationalism. They’re more likely to believe in a tragic view that you can be good without having to be perfect. So they don’t become depressed or inordinately give us because of an error. They are more likely to have had experience with muscular matters and so military really hasn’t changed since the 19th century. The people who are ordering it and organizing it and auditing it have changed greatly. But so far it’s sort of like it’s stuck in amber and they’ve been a great salvation to the United States.”

Thought-provoking stuff, to say the least.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs
    Duane Oyen: Believe what you will, Katie.  Mitch Daniels was still, I believe, correct.   The question is not who is right regarding social issues- all the candidates and virtually all of us agree on the substance. 

    Of course I’ll believe what I will.  What I object to is two things:

    1) Your consistent tendency to characterize conservatives whose political judgments differ from yours as foolish or idiotic or stupid or naive.  You may think Daniels’ strategy was “correct” (as if were matter of objective truth rather than prudential judgment).  I think events have shown how wrong-headed it was.  But either way, countless thoughtful, serious-minded, politically astute commentators opposed it on grounds of both principle and prudence.  They deserve better than to be dismissed as idiotic naifs.

    2) The tendency among so many on the right to pay more attention to possible political ramifications than to the truth and justice of a statement like Santorum’s. I think it contributes to the PC climate that has done so much damage.  Why castigate him when he says something true–something you believe?  If you can’t bring yourself to support the statement, okay.  But why trash him for it?  

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs
    Trace Urdan: This just shows me that Rick Santorum is a witless pawn of the media’s desire to make him out to be a nutter. We don’t need one more non-material, unimportant issue to fight about. 

    This just shows me that you live in San Francisco.

    You think he’s letting himself be baited by the media; I think he’s appealing to the sound good sense of normal Americans who have been culturally marginalized and cowed into silence by the PC power brokers.  He’s signaling that he’s not afraid to take them on.

    You see this as a non issue.  I see it as part and parcel of the Obama administration’s aggressive undermining of all traditional American institutions, especially those that inculcate moral resistance.

    The family, the Church, the military.  

    I for one am glad and grateful that there’s at least one man running for President who’s more concerned with truth and right than short term political expediency.  I’m glad he’s got enough confidence in the majority of Americans to be willing to try to persuade rather than cobble a majority together by avoiding unpopular stands.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Member
    @MarkE

    Every time a mixed-gender unit rolls on a convoy in Afghanistan and, until recently, Iraq, women were put into combat situations.  This is the kind of thing you get in a war with no front.

    I don’t think anything should prevent women from serving in Combat Arms units, provided they can pass a PT test on the men’s scale.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Unfortunately I served with women in the USN.  The experience convinced me that women should have approximately zero involvement with the military.

    But actual experience matters not at all. The left doesn’t see military service as service. They see it as a group they despise- men- getting a privileged seat on the government gravy train- and they hate that.

    So they relentlessly push to get their constituent groups into that privileged seat- military effectiveness be (expletived)- as a matter of principle.

    When I was in the navy I saw enormous political pressure applied to make it seem as if women in the military was a great success. From what I’ve heard since from other veterans that political pressure continues.

    But it seems not a coincidence to me that the same national leadership that gave us women in military also gave us- to pick one example- the idiotic rules of engagement that hamper the US military in Afghanistan. Military effectiveness just isn’t a priority.

    As evidence I note we have failed to win, despite ten years and lots of money spent there. This is what failure looks like- and we should stop it now while we still can.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Redleg, I’m afraid a comparable PT test won’t cut it. Much more is required to demonstrate that someone possesses the requisite fortitude and skills for combat arms work. I’m swayed by Stephen Dawson’s brief mathematical analysis of women and physical fitness: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/56930.html

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Member
    @LookAway

    I agree with Redleg. In this day and age any woman who volunteers for military service needs to be ready to undertake any combat arms task if qualified. Only when implemented will we be in a position to see how this impacts how the mission is performed. If we cannot learn from the Russian and Israeli experience, they pulled women out of co-ed combat arms roles, then we are doomed to repeat the actions that led to their findings.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @MarkE
    Michael Labeit: Redleg, I’m afraid a comparable PT test won’t cut it. Much more is required to demonstrate that someone possesses the requisite fortitude and skills for combat arms work. · 13 minutes ago

    I agree with you there.  But having women go through the same Advanced Individual Training (or OBC for the Officers) should do the job to determine if they possess the fortitude and skills.  At least to make sure that they have the same basic skills we expect from the males that get through it.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs

    This is another case where Santorum comes across to me as a man willing to say what he thinks is right, even though it’s un-PC and is likely to get him into hot water.  

    He’s my kind of president.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member
    @user_83937

    There is no, “in the abstract”, and people that suggest there might be are unlikely to ever have ever been in a similar circumstance.

    Intellectually, I suspect Claire Berlinsky could kick my rear end.  She is younger and well trained.  In the moment, I would smash through bad guys to get to her and throw her resistant self over my shoulder.  That would be a problem, as I would have to fight my way back out, (if she didn’t knock me out), with her kicking and screaming, with barely one hand to spare.  If she didn’t knock me out and have to carry me out.

    I would feel the same way about any male, but I would protect her first, which is a strategic vulnerabilty.  That is the entire point to this nonsense being preached by the left.  They don’t care about women serving, or anything else.  All they care about is winning.

    They know we are decent people so they are inculucating this into our military, to seed weakness.  Not in gals, but in guys.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @NoesisNoeseos

    Maybe we should try an experiment:  put a regiment of mamma grizzlies on the front line.  (Full disclosure:  Sarah Palin’s speech at CPAC is serenading on the browser’s next tab.)

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @EThompson
    Michael Labeit: Redleg, I’m afraid a comparable PT test won’t cut it. Much more is required to demonstrate that someone possesses the requisite fortitude and skills for combat arms work. I’m swayed by Stephen Dawson’s brief mathematical analysis of women and physical fitness: http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/56930.html · 47 minutes ago

    This makes sense to me; I’d assume similar standards should apply to fire departments as well. (I was always annoyed by that whining female firefighter in TV’s Rescue Me.) The goal is to provide civilians with the best possible protection, not equal gender representation.

    I did read recently in Dick Cheney’s In My Time, that female medics have been serving as capably and heroically as their male counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Would be curious to hear any feedback from Rico military on this particular subject.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Member
    @

    I’m not a military person, but as long as women are in the fighting forces, how about this:  segregate the front-line infantry units.  Put all-female groups deep in the action (stay with me, guys).

    I coached girls’ soccer and I also had a son who played and assistant coached there a bit.  In a competitive environment, girls are far more vicious than guys, especially when someone’s hurt.  What they lack in raw strength and athletic skill they make up for in raw spirit.  And they hold a grudge like guys don’t.

    For a moment lets put aside the fear a whole pack of mama grizzlies would unleash in Taliban hearts, but invariably a unit the front ends up in dangerous situations and need backup — STAT.

    That’s where you harness the real power of the protective male psyche.

    You and the other guys in the secondary unit get word over the radio that “the grizzlies” are pinned down 5 miles away under heavy fire and beginning to take injuries.  Choppers are ready and your commander gives 30 seconds for everyone to scramble … we’re rolling boys!

    90 Talibs gonna meet their virgins real soon.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Member
    @DuaneOyen

    No matter how much we want to characterize this as courageous truth-telling in intellectual debate, just as Santorum’s points RE Lawrence v. Texas and Griswold are intellectually correct arguments regarding the flawed bases for those decisions, all of these arguments were politically imbecilic and absolutely unnecessary unforced errors.  They will feed the Ron Paul contingents in every upcoming state, and had they been made later so as not to torpedo Santorum’s pre-nomination candidacy (as they likely have), they would have destroyed him against Obama except in Utah and the deep South.  

    Romney’s statements were also absolutely correct in his comments about the poor and the safety net, and you could even make an intellectual case regarding the minimum wage indexing, but both were also dumb unforced errors, but less damaging long term because they are recoverable and more at play in the primaries.

    But, to quote Casey Stengel when looking at his Mets team, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Member
    @NoesisNoeseos
    Duane Oyen: No matter how much we want to characterize this as courageous truth-telling in intellectual debate, just as Santorum’s points RE Lawrence v. Texas and Griswold are intellectually correct arguments regarding the flawed bases for those decisions, all of these arguments were politically imbecilic and absolutely unnecessary unforced errors…

    Until this year, I would have agreed with you, and I have written words to that effect here on Ricochet, but after having listened to Breitbart and my main man Allen West at CPAC, I am beginning to wonder.  The Ninth Circuit, HHS, and the rest of the Left may have pushed political correctness too far, and the dialectic is about to assert itself. 

    I guess we’ll see.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Member
    @MarkE
    Trace Urdan: This just shows me that Rick Santorum is a witless pawn of the media’s desire to make him out to be a nutter. We don’t need one more non-material, unimportant issue to fight about. Rick Santorum has never served in combat or in the military at all. So he should stay out of such pointless and futile debates. Honestly Michelle Obama’s opinion of child nutrition is more important. · 7 hours ago

    Rick Santorum wants to be Commander-in-Chief.  His viewpoint on this issue is important.

    And as I said upthread, I think he’s totally wrong on this.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs
    Duane Oyen: No matter how much we want to characterize this as courageous truth-telling in intellectual debate, just as Santorum’s points RE Lawrence v. Texas and Griswold are intellectually correct arguments regarding the flawed bases for those decisions, all of these arguments were politically imbecilic and absolutely unnecessary unforced errors.  They will feed the Ron Paul contingents in every upcoming state, and had they been made later so as not to torpedo Santorum’s pre-nomination candidacy (as they likely have), they would have destroyed him against Obama except in Utah and the deep South.  

    If our side were more concerned with what is true and right and less with what is politically expedient, we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Member
    @
    Duane Oyen: No matter how much we want to characterize this as courageous truth-telling in intellectual debate, just as Santorum’s points RE Lawrence v. Texas and Griswold are intellectually correct arguments regarding the flawed bases for those decisions, all of these arguments were politically imbecilic and absolutely unnecessary unforced errors.  They will feed the Ron Paul contingents in every upcoming state, and had they been made later so as not to torpedo Santorum’s pre-nomination candidacy (as they likely have), they would have destroyed him against Obama except in Utah and the deep South.  

    The big problem with Santorum is the paper and video trail is just so incredibly long. For his whole career, he has spent an inordinate amount of time on these kinds of issues (while racking up a pretty bad, George W Bush-like economic record).  The Obama campaign could probably cut a new ad on the subject of abortion, contraception or homosexuality every week from now until the election and not have to use the same quote or  video clip twice.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Member
    @BlueAnt

    Nassim Taleb recently made a similar point to VDH’s observation about the distribution of military experience:

    “And in fact it’s the first time we have power for people who don’t have courage.  It’s the first time in history in which the people on top have power without courage.  First time.  You cannot find that in any society.

    Take the knights.  The knights were people who, their trade was that they were risking their lives.  This is why they or lords were supposed to die first.  And of course the President of the United States was supposed to be first in battle. Not someone pushing a button.”

    This is a bigger issue to explore, worth its own post (and Heinlein would show up there too).  But I’ll tie it back in with the topic at hand:

    In the modern world, women as leaders are just now becoming normalized and encouraged.  Merits or dangers of women in combat aside, if they are banned from combat, we are essentially declaring we will never have a female leader who showed martial courage.

    (I don’t consider that a conclusive point for or against the argument.  Just noting one ramification.)

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Member
    @
    katievs

    Duane Oyen: No matter how much we want to characterize this as courageous truth-telling in intellectual debate, just as Santorum’s points RE Lawrence v. Texas and Griswold are intellectually correct arguments regarding the flawed bases for those decisions, all of these arguments were politically imbecilic and absolutely unnecessary unforced errors.  They will feed the Ron Paul contingents in every upcoming state, and had they been made later so as not to torpedo Santorum’s pre-nomination candidacy (as they likely have), they would have destroyed him against Obama except in Utah and the deep South.  

    If our side were more concerned with what is true and right and less with what is politically expedient, we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in. · 3 minutes ago

    It’s hard to stand up for what is true and right when you can’t get elected.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Member
    @DuaneOyen

    You don’t have to compromise what you believe and what you would do.  There is nothing courageous about strategic foolishness- foolish is foolish.  I can go outside and scream truth into the wind, and blow my voice out- for nothing.  Have I accomplished anything?

    Who got more accomplished in the Supreme Court- WO Douglas or William Brennan?

    It is not a betrayal of principles to choose your words and situations for best effect.  Mr. Santorum seems not to be able to see that.  You don’t have to say everything you think on every occasion.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs

    But, as Rush always says, politics are dynamic.  Events happen.  Values shift.  Excellences that were once ignored are suddenly recognized and appreciated for what they are.  A thing that looks like “prudence” one day looks like craven appeasement the next.  There is such a thing as persuasion.  

    In any case, it seems to me that when someone on our side of the aisle says something that is true and take guts, we should commend him for it, even if we inwardly fear it may harm his chances. 

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs

    Note how the events of the last two weeks have radically shifted the political winds.

    When Mitch Daniels called for “a truce” on “social issues”, conventional wisdom considered it a prudent move.

    Well, now that we’ve had three dramatic aggressions of the left in the news, that strategy seems like foolishness.  

    Rick Santorum is positioned to go after the left on these issues in a way that Mitch Daniles wouldn’t have been able to.

    And even if he loses in the end, he will have done a lot of good for our side by drawing attention to them.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Member
    @JeffY

    Female combat units suck. You can’t get them up to 75% readiness. If any country needs women in combat, it’s Israel. Every attempt to field female Israeli combat units has failed. you just can’t get them to the lowest standard of readiness allowed by modern combat standards.

    98% of war dead are men because men are the only ones who can do the job. At some point, inspired by feminism, Western societies just stopped honoring men for their greater sacrifices. Yes, I said greater sacrifices.

    When honor dies, where will you find these 19th century men?

    And aren’t women more emotional than men? Is this even controversial?

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Member
    @katievs
    Jeff Younger

    And aren’twomen more emotional than men? Is this even controversial? · 11 minutes ago

    It shouldn’t be.  But say it out loud and the left shrieks and rants, while people on our side accuse you of being politically idiotic and foolish. 

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Member
    @WesternChauvinist

    I’m happy to agree with Jeff Younger.

    If there’s anyplace where we should resist dealing in theoreticals and hypotheticals, it’s military combat. These units aren’t supposed to provide affirmative action for women. They’re supposed to go kill the enemy — to make the other bastard die for his country or cause. I don’t care if some women qualify and want to do it. It’s not about what they want. Dear Lord, we’re turning into a bunch of narcissistic ninnies.

    I feel similarly about women presidential candidates, btw, barring the rise of an American Margaret Thatcher.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Member
    @barbaralydick

    One of the most ardent supporters of women in combat was former US Rep Pat Schroeder.  She was also very anti-military.  As such, I always thought she had ulterior motives with respect to her support.

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Member
    @Douglas

    Yet another attempt to “evolve” away differences between men and women. 

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Member
    @DuaneOyen

    Believe what you will, Katie.  Mitch Daniels was still, I believe, correct.   The question is not who is right regarding social issues- all the candidates and virtually all of us agree on the substance. 

    The question is one of setting priorities.  If you are about to go off the cliff (spending and entitlements), you first try to stop the train, then you worry about whether the crew is male or female, the engine is the right horsepower, or the club car is the right color.

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Member
    @

    This just shows me that Rick Santorum is a witless pawn of the media’s desire to make him out to be a nutter. We don’t need one more non-material, unimportant issue to fight about. Rick Santorum has never served in combat or in the military at all. So he should stay out of such pointless and futile debates. Honestly Michelle Obama’s opinion of child nutrition is more important.

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Member
    @jetstream
    Western Chauvinist: …

    If there’s anyplace where we should resist dealing in theoreticals and hypotheticals, it’s military combat. These units aren’t supposed to provide affirmative action for women. They’re supposed to go kill the enemy — to make the other bastard die forhiscountry or cause. I don’t care if some women qualify and want to do it. It’s not about what they want. Dear Lord, we’re turning into a bunch of narcissistic ninnies.

    I feel similarly about women presidential candidates, btw, barring the rise of an American Margaret Thatcher. ·

    I don’t know WC,  you’ve been regularly seen kicking some big time patootie around here …  the Marines might be a good look for you

    • #30

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