Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addressed a cadet’s question about women serving in combat roles- and it might very well be the best answer anyone has given thus far.
Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute yesterday, “America’s Lord of War” began his Question and Answer segment of his appearance, remarking that it “gets really weird, really fast.”
Taking on his first question, Mattis chose a cadet -identified as “Cadet Amico” (possibly “Miko”)- who immediately took the Q&A down a very serious turn, complete with what appeared to be a hint of “white-knighting” on behalf of the female cadets.
“First of all, I’d just like to say ‘pardon my language,’” Amico began, stumbling on his words. “But there are a lot of bad-ass women here, some [more] physically fit than I am and smarter than I am.”
“I remember I was doing research on the Marine Corps experiment to see if females in combat arms makes us more combat effective,” he continued, “And I would just like to hear your thoughts on that.”
Staring the cadet in the eyes, Mattis walked back to the podium and leaned in.
“It’s a very, very tough issue because it goes from some people’s perspective of ‘what kind of society do we want?’” he began.
Mattis then used a scenario to explain his stance on the situation more clearly.
“In the event of trouble… While you’re sleeping at night in your family home, and you’re the dad or mom… and you hear glass break downstairs, who grabs a baseball bat and gets between the kids’ door and whoever broke in, and who reaches for the phone to call 911?” he asked. “In other words, it goes to the most…primitive needs of a society to look out for its most vulnerable.”
“This is an issue right now that we have,” he added. “Army, Navy, Marines, all looking at [it] as we speak- and that is the close-quarters fight. Being what it is, is it a strength or a weakness to have women in that circumstance?”
Mattis went on to say that his job is to work with the heads of each branch, solve problems and that because so few women have enlisted or qualified in combat arms branches, there is very little data to go off of.
The Defense Secretary then explained that he was never “under any illusions” of how his Marines would regard him if he were physically incapable of being as good -or better – than they were, referring it to the unforgiving, meritocratic and tribal culture of combat arms as the “unfairness of the infantry.”
“How did the infantry get it’s name?” he asked. “‘Infant soldier,’ ‘young soldier,’ ‘very young soldier.’ They’re cocky, they’re rambunctious, they’re necessarily macho and the most primitive… I would say, ‘evil’ environment.”
Mattis recalled the words of the articulate Civil War veteran and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who spoke of the “incommunicable experience of war.”
“He meant close combat,” Mattis said. “This is an area we’re going to have to resolve as a nation. [The] military has to have officers who look at this with a great deal of objectivity, and at the same time, remember our natural inclination to have this open to all. But we cannot do something that militarily doesn’t make sense, and I’ve got this being looked at right now.”
“This is a policy that I inherited,” Mattis noted, referencing former Defense Secretary Ash Carter of the Obama Administration. “So far, the cadre is so small, we have no data on it. We’re hoping to get data soon. There are a few stalwart young ladies who are charging into this, but they are too few- I mean, right now, it’s not even ‘dozens,’ it’s a few. So when we get a little more data, I’ll give you a much more objective answer.”
Mattis admitted that the “jury is out” on the matter, and that other countries who have implemented gender integration “still have too few women in the infantry ranks to even make or draw a conclusion.”
Mattis then thanked the cadet for having “the guts to ask the question” before continuing with his session.
“What else?” Mattis asked. “You’re not getting off that light, folks.”
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