Santorum Says Emotions Too Strong to Allow Women in Front-line Combat

Santorum responds to announcement of expanded role of women in combat.

By SHARE
Last night on CNN, John King asked Rick Santorum about Thursday's Pentagon announcement that said women will be eased into military combat roles beginning this summer. His comments, like many he has offered this campaign season, are being criticized for their sexist overtones. Here's what Santorum said:
I do have concerns about women in front-line combat. I think that 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. 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.At first, Santorum seemed to be saying that women might be too emotional to perform front-line combat tasks, which is probably not the best tactic when trying to win an election where women represent 50 percent of the electorate. As he continued to talk about "camaraderie of men," he seemed to be saying that emotions like affection, hypothetically between a male and a female soldier, could cause front-line troops to act in ways that might jeopardize military missions.[ See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates.]This morning on Today, Santorum clarified that the emotions he was talking about were men's emotions. "When you have men and women together in combat, I think men have emotions when you see a woman in harm's way," Santorum said. "I think it's something that's natural. It's very much in our culture to be protective. That was my concern."Santorum has displayed adroitness with narrowly missing putting his foot in his mouth (his declaration of war with China in October comes to mind) and last night he again showed he how can get right up to the campaign gaffe precipice and just barely keep his balance.His position against women serving in combat jobs is not a new one. Many have argued that emotions might get tangled up in mixed-sex outfits and cause someone to jump on a grenade in a situation where they might not need to. Still, Thursday's announcement has been a long time coming, as it changes a policy that has already been quietly disregarded in Iraq and Afghanistan.[ Rick Santorum an Attack Target For GOP Rivals.]The new policy will allow women to be permanently assigned to combat battalions, but in recent wars all-female outfits have been "attached" to battalion staffs and fought alongside front-line units already.Reports about their success indicate that "emotions" were not an issue.In Iraq in 2003, a group of about 20 female Soldiers, dubbed "Team Lioness," were attached to the Army's 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division and were involved with front-line combat missions. They were the forerunners of Female Engagement Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, whose main purpose is to enlist the help of women in counterinsurgency operations and gather intelligence. The Special Forces incarnation of FETs, "Cultural Support Teams," have been deployed with Special Forces and Ranger units and are required to undergo rigorous physical training and learn advanced weapon techniques.In June, a Military.com profile of Cultural Support Teams explained their effectiveness. "When I send an [Special Forces team] in to follow up on a Taliban hit…wouldn't it be nice to have access to about 50 percent of that target population-the women?" asked Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, commander of the Army Special Warfare Center and School, which runs the Cultural Support Team program. "We're doing that with huge success," he continued. "They are in Afghanistan right now and the reviews are off the charts. They're doing great."The Pentagon's decision comes a year after two different panels recommended allowing women on the front lines. Their argument was that the rules needed to catch up with what was already happening—women were on the front lines, and they were helping.[ New Culture War Will Help Rick Santorum, Barack Obama.]Thursday's Pentagon announcement will still bar women from about one-fifth of combat assignments, including infantry, artillery, tanks and special operations, but the Pentagon says the new policy will open up 14,000 new positions for female fighters.