Rick Santorum is Wrong to Say Female Troops Can't Perform on the Front Lines in War

In response to the Pentagon’s recent announcement of plans to allow women in more front-line combat jobs, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently said that female soldiers are too emotional for such military roles.  

When a CNN anchor asked Santorum if easing opportunities for women in combat is a good or bad idea, Santorum responded, “I do have concerns about women in frontline combat. I think that can be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. And I think that’s probably — you know, 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. I think that’s probably not in the best interest of men, women, or the mission.”

In this modern age where women in combat have already proven their ability to face extremely harsh and uncompromising positions, it is extremely absurd and irrational to assume that women cannot handle front-line positions simply because of their emotions. 

Over 255,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan amongst the 2.2 million troops who served in the war; this makes up over 14% of those in the armed services. A pentagon policy from 1994 exempts allowing women to work in ground combat units below the brigade level. Historically, brigades often entailed staff based farther from the front lines, while battalions – now available to women – are usually in closer contact with the enemy. According to the recent Pentagon announcement, women have been released into jobs such as medics, military police and intelligence officers. Sometimes they were attached to battalions, but not formally assigned to them. A woman could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or provide medical aid to injured troops, but couldn’t be assigned as an infantryperson in a battalion heading out on patrol. The women doing these particular jobs are able to keep composure while they are in view of battle or assisting fellow troops in distress; what makes Santorum think they would become too emotional to perform at the front lines of a war? The military jobs that women have already demonstrated to handle should be more of a reason to trust their skills and diligence at jobs closer to the battlefield. 

In addition to the new rights the policy will create for women in the armed forces, women will also be able to take advantage of the promotions and job opportunities offered to troops who serve in combat. This will make it a bit easier for women to move into higher ranks. Currently, there are over 250,000 military positions restricted to women. The latest plans by the Pentagon will extend about 14,000 of these jobs to women. 

Although the rules still ban women from serving as infantry, armor and special operations forces, which are considered to be the most dangerous combat jobs, this is a step in the right direction to break the barriers that restricted women in the military. The next step would be to accept the talents and leadership women bring to the armed forces. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Sifat Azad

Sifat is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Kingston University in London as the first-ever recipient of the Hilary Mantel Creative Writing Scholarship Award. She is a CUNY Baccalaureate graduate with dual concentrations in Literature and Creative Writing. Her piece, "Covered," was featured in John Jay's Finest and her short story, "Brownstone," was published in J Journal: New Writing on Justice.

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