NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T here was a headline last week: “Boeing Communications Chief Resigns Over Decades-Old Article on Women in Combat.” Find the story here. It explains that “Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago arguing women should not serve in combat.”
The man went lightly, too. He put up no fight, apparently. Indeed, he went self-flagellatingly.
“My article was a 29-year-old Cold War navy pilot’s misguided contribution to a debate that was live at the time,” he said. “My argument was embarrassingly wrong and offensive. The article is not a reflection of who I am; but nonetheless I have decided that in the interest of the company I will step down.”
Ay, caramba. If corporate America is to exclude people who have doubts about women in combat, or who are outright opposed to women in combat, many, many will have to be excluded (if they speak honestly).
May I quote to you an old piece — though not as old as Golightly’s — as I sometimes do? This is from an Impromptus of September 2012:
I must say, I find it very hard to argue about women in combat. This is bad news, because I’m supposed to be an opinion journalist, whose business is persuasion, right? But either you find the idea of women in combat appalling or you don’t.
Many regard the issue as a matter of women’s rights, even civil rights. To them, a woman in combat is like a black citizen in a voting booth. Hurray, progress!
Other people think that women in combat represent some kind of civilizational breakdown: Our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, and nieces in combat? What kind of monsters are we? It runs against nature, it cuts some kind of vital cord.
As I say, I find it hard to argue about women in combat.
Boy, do I. Anyway . . .
• Take some more news (if you can): “Halle Berry says she won’t play the role of a transgender man following criticism.” Increasingly, people won’t allow actors to . . . act.
In 2016, I wrote a piece on this general subject: “Killing Aida: A mortal threat to art.” Yup — getting mortaler all the time.
• But this was good news, in my book: “Britain’s Magnitsky sanctions will hit Putin where it hurts.” These sanctions are not only hitting Russian human-rights abusers, they are also hitting Saudi, Burmese, and other human-rights abusers.
Bill Browder has done a world of good. (I wrote about him — and his remarkable family — here.) In 2009, Russian authorities killed his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Tortured him to death, real slow. Browder — a wealthy investor — could have said, “Ah, well, that’s too bad,” and gone on with his life. Instead, he dedicated his life to achieving a kind of justice, whatever it cost.
The U.S. adopted its Magnitsky act in 2012. Looking on in the House gallery, Boris Nemtsov said, “This is the most pro-Russian law ever enacted by a foreign government.” (What he meant was, someone actually cared about the Russian people.)
Nemtsov, as you know, was a Russian opposition leader, murdered in 2015 within sight of the Kremlin.
• A different news story: “U.S. Citizen Pleads Guilty To Fleeing Country With Classified Data, Seeking Russian Help.” Ah, geez. We read these stories throughout the Cold War. And here we go again, 30 years after the Wall came down. Cripe.
• A different headline: “Belgium takes down statue, king regrets colonial violence.” The story begins,
Belgium confronted its colonial past and looked toward reconciliation Tuesday, with the king expressing regret for the violence carried out by the country when it ruled over what is now Congo. Later in the day, the bust of a former monarch held responsible for the death of millions of Africans was taken off public display.
Have some more:
As Belgium marked the 60th anniversary of the end of its colonial rule in Congo, King Philippe’s words had resounding significance since none of his predecessors went so far as to convey remorse.
And a paragraph more:
In a letter to the Congolese president, Felix Tshisekedi, Philippe stopped short of issuing a formal apology, but proclaimed his “deepest regrets” for the “acts of violence and cruelty” and the “suffering and humiliation” inflicted on Belgian Congo.
I’m glad the king spoke as he did. I do not quibble with him — but I think I would have addressed the Congolese people at large, rather than the president.
For many years, Congo has been a hellscape of war and rape: endless rape. In 2016, I sat down with Denis Mukwege. (Go here.) After we parted, I had the impression of having encountered a truly great man. In 2018, he would share the Nobel Peace Prize.
• Statues are being taken down all over the place. But at least one man is enjoying a revival: “Far from toppling statues, former Soviet Union puts up new monuments to Stalin.” Oh, yes. I’ve been following this trend for years. It is huge.
• My friend Daniel Foster — a National Review alum — tweeted, “Liberalism needs to form a popular front to survive.” By “liberalism,” he meant classical liberalism, not what you find at Bennington, Oberlin, or Reed. “If you’re into liberty, pluralism, tolerance, markets, and conscience, I’m your compatriot. We can quibble about the details if we manage to get off the gallows.”
I have thought about this a fair amount — throughout my life, really, but especially in the last few years. I am a conservative, or, more precisely, a Reaganite. An American conservative (as “American conservative” was long understood). Mainly, however, I’m a supporter of liberal democracy. A supporter of the frame, so to speak.
The rule of law. Separation of powers (including an independent judiciary). Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom of association. Property rights. Multiple parties. Regular elections. Rotation in office. Free enterprise. Individual rights. Equality under the law. Etc., etc.
If you are for those, then we are friends: allies. And the left–right stuff can be fought out within the “frame.”
You dig? (That goes way back.)
• I want to say something about trade — bear with me for a second, please. When I was growing up, cities and communities declared themselves “nuclear-free zones.” I always wished that they could be exempt, somehow, from the U.S. nuclear deterrent. That there could be holes in the “umbrella.” But no: They were covered regardless.
There are many — left and right — who disparage trade. Fine. They enjoy the blessings of trade regardless. I wish they could be exempt, somehow. I’d like to sentence them to live a year, or two, or more, without trade: in a condition of autarky, or juche, as the North Koreans have it.
I think the experience would increase their appreciation of trade enormously. After a short time, they’d be howling for Smith, Hayek, and Friedman.
• Who could get me to read about fishing? Sally Jenkins could. She is the renowned sports columnist of the Washington Post. Her piece — here — is about fishing but also about “life its ownself,” to a degree. It is a first-rate piece of writing.
I thought of something — and would like to quote from a review I wrote in 1997, when I was working at The Weekly Standard:
For a demonstration of Buckley in stylistic splendor, I invite readers to locate the November 25, 1996, issue of National Review, in which Buckley has a piece on cigars. Now, I, personally, would usually rather slit my throat than read about cigars, but so glittering is this essay that I had no choice but to xerox it, to keep as an example of what “the performing writer” (Buckley’s words) can do.
• A headline: “The NFL Will Play ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’ Before Each Season-Opener Game.” (Article here.) Hmmm. Back in 2008, “Lift Ev’ry Voice” made the news, briefly — and weirdly. For my piece on the subject — “Right Song, Wrong Place” — go here.
• End on a little golf? Okay. Bryson DeChambeau is the big man on tour: figuratively and literally. He is way bulked up. Hittin’ it long. Really long. Some have speculated that maybe the golfer is ’roidin’.
I just want to say that, in addition to hitting it long — historically long — DeChambeau is putting the lights out. And commanding every other aspect of the game, too. He is a golfer, and, indeed, an athlete. Back when he was a slip of a boy — pre-bulk — he won the NCAA Tournament and the U.S. Am in the same year.
Like Jack, Phil, Tiger . . .
So, he’s got that goin’ for him. (And did you know he majored in physics?)
Thanks for reading, my friends, and see you.
If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to firstname.lastname@example.org.