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Santorum’s “Women in Combat” Comments Under Fire

The media vetting process on Rick Santorum is kicking into high gear this week, and his comments on women serving in combat are the latest to come under scrutiny:

Mr. Santorum had faced a brief storm of criticism after saying on Thursday in a CNN interview that to put more women in combat roles “could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”

He managed to quell some of the criticism – if not all – by saying later that he was referring to the emotional reactions of male soldiers. “Men have emotions when you see a woman in harm’s way,” he told NBC News on Friday, adding that “the natural inclination” is “to not focus on the mission but to try to be in a position where you might want to protect someone.”

The “controversy” over the remark is overblown. Not only is Santorum making a fairly standard argument against women in combat, it’s also one that’s made by women who have actually served in the U.S. military. That said, this line of reasoning has always seemed a little weak. Emotions will always play a role in combat; many times the men fighting alongside each other are close friends. Doesn’t this add an element of emotion that could impact the mission? And yet members of the military still manage to carry on and get the job done.

There’s also a shade of condescension in the idea that women shouldn’t serve in combat roles because men have a “natural inclination” to protect them. After all, what types of women seek out or qualify for combat roles? These aren’t delicate flowers. They need the size and physical strength necessary for the position.

Which brings us to the central problem of women in military combat: there are few who actually have the requisite strength. It’s not an argument that’s politically correct for politicians to make – in fact, women in combat is probably a subject Santorum should strive to avoid altogether – but it’s an objective fact that plays much more of a role than male emotions do.



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