The Washington Post

Santorum and women in combat: You want ‘other emotions,’ senator?


Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (Eric Gay)

When CNN’s John King asked the former Pennsylvania senator about the Pentagon’s plan to allow women to serve in new combat roles, Santorum answered, “I want to create every opportunity for women to be able to serve this country . . . but I do have concerns about women in front-line combat.”

“I think that could be a very compromising situation,” Santorum said, “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. 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.”

Of course there are both men and women who are not cut out for the military — but that’s not true of the brave women who volunteer to put their lives at risk, train for that service and deserve our deepest respect and gratitude in return.

Patricia Murphy: “More than 240,000 women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, many already serving alongside men in chaotic environments that expose them to all of the dangers of what we traditionally think of as combat. So far, 140 women have been killed and more than 800 wounded. I think the only ‘various other emotions’ women in the military experience are confusion about why they are not being acknowledged for their service and frustration that they are not trusted to do more.”

Bonnie Goldstein: “Hell yes women in combat are likely to have ‘emotions.’ As do men, by the way, only theirs are often more repressed and dangerously internalized. But that is a reflection on combat and the nature of the mission rather than on women soldiers.”

Mary Curtis: “Politicians, especially those running for president, usually trip over each other in their rush to praise the military. But Rick Santorum seems to like the women and men who serve in theory more than practice.

At first, he questions the prospect of women in the military serving in roles closer to the front lines because of “other types of emotions that are involved.” Then he clarifies it to say he meant men’s emotions, their cultural tendency to “be protective” that would surely skew their decisions in combat. So he insults the professionalism, sacrifice and military discipline of both male and female soldiers. I don’t think that solves his problem.”

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