Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Hearing Proves Women Can Handle Combat

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was strong and focused as she testified to Congress on Benghazi.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers questioned Clinton about the security failures during the September 11 attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya that led to the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

If there was any question, ahead of the Pentagon's decision to allow women in combat roles, about whether females could handle it, one needed only to look at the other major story of the day: Secretary of State Clinton taking apart the men in Congress who thought they could bully her into submission.

Lifting the ban on women in combat is long overdue, especially after the valiant performance of female soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. True, men are largely physically stronger than women, but modern wars are fought with technology and sophisticated weaponry. We're not looking at battalions going at it in hand-to-hand combat. And one of the biggest physical readiness problems the military is experiencing now is obesity among recruits, a health matter that affects both sexes.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Afghanistan.]

The "unit cohesivenes"' argument is still out there—it's the same one that had people insisting that gays should not be able to serve in the military. Women, some critics (still!) are fretting, will be a distraction to the male soldiers. Again, an old argument, and one used to keep women out of all sorts of jobs for which they are equally, or more than equally, qualified to do. Aside from the inherent insult to women—that women's purpose is largely ornamental, and they should leave the real work to the important men—the argument is nonsensical. The incentive to keep one's focus is even stronger in the military, since allowing one's mind to wander could get you killed—or court-martialed. It's hard to believe that commanders can train men to kill people and face death themselves, but be unable to discipline them to pay attention to their work, and not the charms of their female colleagues.

You want to see how strong women can be? Watch the tapes of Clinton testifying before House and Senate committees on the Benghazi affair. She was resolute, she was frank, she was humbled, and she expressed a sincere determination to find out what really happened the day four foreign service officers—one of whom was a personal friend of hers—were killed. She talked for seven hours on a highly emotional and complex topic. When first-term Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told Clinton that if he had been president, she would have been relieved of her duties, one could almost see the sides of Clinton's mouth turn up slightly (since the idea of Paul having been president is kind of like the rest of us in our living rooms on Super Bowl Sunday, saying, "Well if I were the Ravens coach…"). But she kept it together, controlling her emotions for the sake of professionalism.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

And when Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin continually sought to create a cover-up scandal, suggesting that the administration deliberately misled the American public about what led to the attack, Clinton would not be bullied. Johnson bizarrely asserted that the cause of the attack, a spontaneous demonstration or a planned attack, could have been determined in hours or days, an absurd notion to anyone who has been in a war zone or such a violent and chaotic situation. Clinton raised her voice, saying, "What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from happening again."

In other words, she was strong and focused. Just what we expect from the men and women in the military.

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