Just weeks after protesters at Middlebury College in Vermont violently shut down a presentation by the distinguished author Charles Murry for publishing ideas they didn’t like, the thought police have struck again.
Decorated war hero and lifelong public servant Jim Webb has been forced to decline the Distinguished Graduate Award from the Naval Academy Alumni Association due to what he described as a “small but vociferous group of women graduates” who oppose him.
Webb graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968, served as a U.S. Marine in a rifle platoon, was a company commander during the Vietnam War, received the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism,” the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts, was secretary of the Navy (1987-1988), and served as a U.S. senator (2006-2013).
He also gave one of the most impressive answers of the 2016 presidential election when, during one of the Democratic debates, in response to the question “Which enemy that you made during your political career are you most proud of?” he replied it was the enemy soldier who threw a grenade at him, but “he’s not around anymore.”
The Naval Academy’s Distinguished Graduate Award is given to alumni whose ”character, service and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities that the U.S. Naval Academy strives for in keeping with its ideals of duty, honor, loyalty and integrity,” of which Webb is clearly worthy.
Webb wrote in a statement explaining his decision to decline the award, “I am being told that my presence at the ceremony would likely mar the otherwise celebratory nature of that special day, and as a consequence I find it necessary to decline to accept the award.” In other words, there would be protesters to shut down the ceremony.
Jim Webb’s Unpardonable Sin: Crimethought
So, what, per this vociferous group of women graduates, is the unpardonable sin that trumps Webb’s phenomenal record of service? In 1979 Webb wrote a lengthy essay in the Washingtonian called “Women Can’t Fight.” Pointing out the physical differences between men and women that lead to demonstrably different warfighting capabilities is blasphemy against progressive doctrine.
It isn’t enough that he was (presumably, still is) willing to die for our country, or that he chose a life of public service. Nor is it enough that when he was secretary of the Navy he expanded the number of opportunities for women to serve in the Navy. Webb tried to defend himself by pointing to his record and the statements of many women who know him, but the protesters would not be reasoned with. That’s a characteristic of the hard Left. They reject reasoned discourse, differences of opinion, and any good faith show of compromise.
In addition to the offense some women still take from Webb’s thoughts on a narrow topic, women Academy graduates also claim Webb’s thoughts made a hostile environment at the Academy worse for women. In 2006 ret. Cmdr. Jennifer Brooks said at an anti-Webb news conference, “Jim Webb didn’t create harassment against women at the academy, but I truly believe he increased its intensity.”
While refusing to apologize for the arguments he made in the essay or accepting the claim that his words made an aggressive military environment more…aggressive, he did say “to the extent that my writing subjected women at the academy or the active armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.” He has also apologized for some of the ways he illustrated his points, blaming his youth.
Jim Webb Is Being Punished for Telling the Truth
So, aside from the provocative headline to the essay, what are these dangerous and unacceptable thoughts for which Webb must be punished, not merely for expressing one time decades ago, but for thinking them at all and possibly even still thinking them?
It is that men and women are naturally different and that those differences, at war, are especially meaningful. According to Webb (and nature), not only are men better suited for combat, but women affect men such that mixing the sexes in combat is not conducive for making the most effective lethal force, and that the combat environment is not good for women. In other words, he expressed obvious truths of which most honest people recognize, and are considered sexist bigotry by the Left. Moreover, he did it in a powerfully compelling way, which really got him into trouble.
Webb began by illustrating some of the horrors of war in details from his own memory that are not easily forgotten by those who read them.
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.
He went on to explain some differences between the sexes, even using the politically explosive term “sexual roles.” His descriptions were unvarnished and impolite, to be sure, but false?
Men are more aggressive than women, observes Webb, and war entails brutal aggression. In his words, “The function of combat is not merely to perpetrate violence, but to perpetrate violence on command, instantaneously and reflexively. The function of the service academies is to prepare men for leadership positions where they may someday exercise that command.”
If You Can’t Take Contrary Ideas, You Can’t Take Combat
Realizing even then as he wrote that some might understand him, Webb clarified that he thought the military held non-combat roles suitable for women, that he was glad to see women advancing in other civilian careers, and that he could envision a woman president one day.
But combat? No. Women, are not only different than men by nature, they also naturally have an effect on men that weakens the lethality of the force. They, according to Webb, have a refining effect on men, precisely what was not needed when men are training to be effective warfighters.
Towards the end of the essay, Webb laments the damage to women of the military training necessary for combat missions, and says he admires such women “more for who they are than for what they are doing.” I can just see the women Academy graduates who oppose Webb and their modern feminist cohorts seething at the notion that a manly warrior cares about their wellbeing and has a natural desire to protect them from harm.
Those thin-skinned women only prove themselves unfit for any kind of opposition, let alone combat. Whoever is unable to grapple with another’s ideas without taking great personal offense, especially if those ideas come from an American hero who happens to believe women are worthy of esteem and worth defending and keeping out of the misery of war, it’s safe to assume isn’t going to fare well against barbaric jihadists.
Webb includes in his essay a statement about how individuals could not freely state what he was willing to without fear of retribution, and although his words certainly applied then, they seem especially apropos now: “Courage comes in many forms. And today at the Naval Academy, courage sometimes means simply stating your opinion when it varies from prescribed policy… It is as if one statement of dissent left unrepudiated might beget a tidal wave of agreement.”
Webb is an American patriot, a war hero, a keen observer of human nature, and a courageous defender of free speech. May many more men follow his example, because now more than ever, the country needs them.