Iraq war veteran Pete Hegseth, head of Concerned Veterans for America and a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014, came out strongly Thursday against the Pentagon’s new plan to allow women in combat roles.
“This is about, the job of the infantry, the job of our war fighter, is to close with and destroy the enemy,” Hegseth told Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly. “How does this move advance that ball down the field?”
Kelly, a trained lawyer who can hold her own in an exchange of ideas, pressed Hegseth on how it would change anything if women were required to meet the same physical standards as men.
“You know how these things work when integration happens,” said Hegseth, who briefly put his hat in the GOP ring last year to challenge U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (who has endorsed outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s plan). “If it doesn’t happen fast enough, what do you do? You start to lower the bar, or you start to impose quotas.”
Hegseth, a Forest Lake native and Princeton grad who made a name for himself as head of the Iraq War era Vets for Freedom, also raised the issue of distracting battlefield romances. “It’s another variable that, as a platoon leader or a squad leader, you don’t want to have to deal with ‘Matt’s’ feelings toward ‘Mary.’”
Kelly, pointing to the presence of gays in the military, shot back: “’Matt’ may have been having feelings toward ‘Mike’ for a long time in the foxhole, and the military has been doing okay.”
Replied Hegseth: “That may well be the case, but there are a lot more ‘Matts’ that have feelings for ‘Mary.’”
The two also jousted on the problem of sexual assault in the military, which Hegseth called “an open secret that has not been figured out.”
Kelly argued that “because some bad apples are sexually assaulting them,” is no reason for barring women from combat roles that advance their careers.
Hegseth countered that the military’s mission is not to guarantee equality, but victory. “The end state of the military is not equality,” he said. “It is the ability to fight and win wars.”
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