Jim Webb: Women Can't Fight

Here is the well-known article by Jim Webb, Naval Academy graduate, novelist, senator, Secretary of the Navy, and combat officer in the Marines during Vietnam. He was wounded twice and has the decorations to show for his experience and courage. His article has raised controversy for years. He says women can't fight and he explains why.

In his article, Webb is highly sympathetic to the rights and the cause of women. He simply believes they have no place in combat. He believes "the country's fighting mission is being corrupted, with grave consequences to the national defense. One of the main problems, he says, is women." Among other issues, he states that sexual tensions in such an intimate, twenty-four-hour environment could cause problems of discipline and morale, and put women at risk of mistreatment.

His novel Fields of Fire conveys the stench, the filth, the fear, and the bewildering unexpectedness of fighting an elusive enemy in a jungle. It has often been called the best book about Vietnam. As for the article, this is an excerpt from "Women Can't Fight":

"We would go months without bathing, except when we could stand naked among each other next to a village well or in a stream or in the muddy water of a bomb crater. It was nothing to begin walking at midnight, laden with packs and weapons and ammunition and supplies, seventy pounds or more of gear, and still be walking when the sun broke over mud-slick paddies that had sucked our boots all night. We carried our own gear and when we took casualties we carried the weapons of those who had been hit.

When we stopped moving we started digging, furiously throwing out the heavy soil until we had made chest-deep fighting holes. When we needed to make a call of nature we squatted off a trail or straddled a slit trench that had been dug between fighting holes, always by necessity in public view. We slept in makeshift hooches made out of ponchos, or simply wrapped up in a poncho, sometimes so exhausted that we did not feel the rain fall on our own faces. Most of us caught hookworm, dysentery, malaria, or yaws, and some of us had all of them.

We became vicious and aggressive and debased, and reveled in it, because combat is all of those things and we were surviving. I once woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of one of my machinegunners stabbing an already-dead enemy soldier, emptying his fear and frustrations into the corpse's chest." More

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