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[Kingsley Browne, guest-blogging, December 3, 2007 at 10:50am] Trackbacks
Co-ed Combat -- Overview:

Many thanks to Eugene for inviting me to guest-blog about my new book Co-ed Combat (Sentinel (Penguin USA)). Today, I am going to provide an overview of the book, and subsequent entries will discuss specific issues in greater depth. I obviously cannot cover all of the issues raised in my book, but many that I don't address initially may come up in responses to comments.

Co-ed Combat starts from the premise that policies concerning sexual integration of combat forces should be measured first by their effects on military effectiveness. Other goals, such as expansion of women's opportunities, must give way to the extent that they impair combat effectiveness. Although the premise is contestable, it is a foundation upon which virtually all political discussions of the role of women in the military rests. Advocates of sexual integration of combat forces seldom argue that military effectiveness must be traded off against equal-opportunity concerns; instead, they contend that there is no tradeoff at all.

Under policies in place since early in the Clinton administration, women are permitted to serve on warships (other than submarines) and in combat aviation. They are still barred from "direct ground combat," however, including positions that "collocate" with (that is, operate side-by-side) ground-combat units. The Army seems to be violating the collocation rule routinely in Iraq, a practice that results in increased combat exposure for women, and some argue for completely scrapping the bar on women in ground combat.

I argue that those who believe there are no substantial tradeoffs involved in including women in combat roles are wrong. Inclusion of women in those roles results in a segment of the force that is physically weaker, more prone to injury (both physical and psychological), less physically aggressive, able to withstand less pain, less willing to take physical risks, less motivated to kill, less likely to be available to deploy when ordered to (partly, but not exclusively because of pregnancy), more expensive to recruit, and less likely to remain in the service even for the length of their initial contracts. Officers and NCOs must reassign physical tasks (or do them themselves) because women cannot get them done fast enough, if at all.

The fact that women, in general, are less effective warriors is only part of the problem. The more fundamental problem comes from the mixing of men and women in combat forces, which creates a variety of problems for reasons rooted in our evolutionary history. Women frequently are placed in units with men who do not trust the women with their lives and who do not bond with women the way that they do with other men.

The groups into which women are introduced become less disciplined and more subject to conflict related to sexual jealousy and sexual frustration, and men receive less rigorous training because of women's presence. Officers and NCOs must divert attention from their central missions to cope with the "drama" that sexual integration brings. Men, who traditionally have been drawn to the military because of its appeal to their masculinity, now find that the military tries to cure them of it to make the environment more comfortable for women.

Against these impairments of the military's ability to wage war, what are the benefits to the military of full combat integration? One possible benefit is an increase in the recruiting pool. Contrary to rhetoric, however, the pool is not "doubled" in any meaningful sense. Sexual integration of the military generally has increased the pool by only fifteen to twenty percent. Expansion of the potential pool of combat volunteers (in the ground forces, at any rate) would probably be more on the order of one percent at most.

If it is not numbers that women bring, then it must be something unique to women, but it is not obvious that women qua women would bring much in the way of specific benefits to the combat forces. In short, no one argues that eliminating the combat exclusion would unleash the whirlwind on America's enemies.

I should emphasize that my arguments are not an indictment of military women, although I do not believe that many women are suited to combat, especially, but not only, ground combat. But, in researching my book, I was struck by the high regard that most military men I spoke with have for military women outside the combat context -- even though most of these men opposed women's participation in combat. One can simultaneously appreciate military women's service to their country and also believe that all-male combat forces are more effective than mixed-sex ones.

The argument that full integration would be effective rests on a number of assumptions, including:

• That the high-tech nature of modern warfare means that the sexes no longer differ much in combat-relevant ways

• That as long as a woman possesses the individual physical and psychological attributes of an effective soldier, her inclusion in a combat unit would not impair its effectiveness

• That the primary obstacle to integration are men's "masculinist" attitudes, which can be overcome with adequate training and leadership.

All of these assumptions are flawed, in my opinion, and, as a result, the costs and difficulties of sexual integration of combat forces are often substantially underestimated.

I will discuss some of these issues in subsequent posts. My next post will talk about physical differences between the sexes and their continued importance in combat.

Brennan:
Perhaps you might explain what you mean by "combat," "ground combat," and "combat forces." It would also be helpful to know when you plan to address (1) the applicability of the analogy to racial integration and (2) comparisons to other countries with sex-integrated armed services.
12.3.2007 11:05am
IB Bill (mail) (www):
I think it's certainly possible that women can be effective warriors and soldiers with proper training, same as men. I think the Armed Forces could be integrated. I just don't know if it's desirable as a national policy. Guess I'm just old-fashioned.
12.3.2007 11:13am
rarango (mail):
As a former armored cavalryman, I think it is demonstrably true that at least within two standard deviations, women lack the upper body strength and physical endurance than their male counterparts have. And this has to do with muscle mass and lung capacity. I welcome any refutation of my assertion, but please provide physiiological data and not anecdotal evidence.

Brennan asks some good questions, because I come at the issue from the perspective an ground combat arms officer. The combat arms in the army are armor, infantry, artillery, engineers, and signal. Discussions of aviation are always interesting, but as long as the planes show up and deliver the ordnance on target when and where it is required, I don't care about the pilot's gender.

My bottom line is this: physiological differences are genuinally important when it comes to ground combat and that should be the basis for policy.
12.3.2007 11:26am
marghlar:
My bottom line is this: physiological differences are genuinally important when it comes to ground combat and that should be the basis for policy.

Well, why shouldn't that mean that women who CAN meet those physiological standards get included (I have definitely known some women who could make your cut), while men who cannot meet them are excluded (as I assume they already are)?

In other words, isn't the physiological argument really off the point? Because no one is saying that women who aren't physically capable of serving in combat should be included. The argument is that women who ARE capable of doing so should get the chance.

So the real question should be: IF a woman who matches the key physical characteristics of a typical member of a combat squad wishes to join, should she be able to? Framed like that, your point becomes kind of a non sequitur, rarango.
12.3.2007 11:33am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
rarango.
You're a Neanderthal.
As an ex-grunt, I guess I'm one, too.

I recall the Senate hearings during the gay issue when one witness said that we are so powerful that we could afford a slight reduction in combat efficiency. I don't have to tell you what the currency is that "afford" refers to.
12.3.2007 11:33am
Oren:

Women frequently are placed in units with men who do not trust the women with their lives and who do not bond with women the way that they do with other men.


Sounds like a problem with the military culture and not one to do with integration. Why a soldier cannot trust a woman that has taken the same oath and shown the same dedication that he has is beyond me.

As far as the physical attributes, perhaps women are not suited to be grunts but I can't see why physical strength or stamina (an area in which I concede women are genetically lacking) matter much in driving a tank or similar tasks.
12.3.2007 11:39am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I also look forward to answers to the issues Marghlar raises. It would be a bad thing if gender integration (and please, if there is a value-neutral term for this let me know and I'll use it) in the military came with (or continues to come with) any lowering of standards, as gender and all sorts of category integration have done in much of the civilian world. Nevertheless, there are a lot of women outside rarango's two sigma, and you've got to do more than write them off because the average woman is weaker than the average man.
12.3.2007 11:43am
rarango (mail):
Marghlar: you, of course, have a point with respect physiological differences; and it is the point in Professor Browne's second bullet above. I would still not be willing to have a woman in my troop or squadron because of the possibility of romantic entanglements which have the possibility of adversely affecting unit effectiveness. I will continue to be a neaderthal on this point, hypotheticals notwithstanding.
12.3.2007 11:43am
rarango (mail):
Oren: "Driving a tank" implies a lot of other tasks such as cabling up some very heavy recovery equipment, changing some very heavy track blocks, lifting crew served weapons from the ground to the tank, and many other tasks involving what can only be characterized as brute strength. Finally, fighting as infantry is the ultilmate task for any soldier.
12.3.2007 11:51am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Come guys, the best pilot in the Galactical fleet is Starbuck and she is a woman. You would think that this example would turn this debate around.
12.3.2007 11:56am
Don Miller (mail) (www):
I feel I have a unique perspective on the the women in combat question.

I had the pleasure to serve in the US Navy for 6 years. During the late 80's there were not very many Navy ships that women could serve on, I happened to spend 4 years on one of them. I then served in the US Army for six years. While in the Army I served as a Combat Engineer for 3 years and straight leg infantry for 3 years.

As a civilian, I have served for several years as a volunteer firefighter.

I do not have issue with women filling shipboard combat roles. With one caveat. The pregnancy problem needs to be addressed seriously. During deployments we had pregnancy rates as high as 20%. It was almost entirely the young 18-23 year olds (not suprisingly). Youth has a lot to do with this. The typical scenario is, young woman, gets bored and homesick on a long deployment. Drilling holes in the ocean for months on end, not as exciting as it seemed. The young men are just as bored and frustrated. Young lady realizes that she can get pregnant and go home for a while though. She makes nice with young sailor and 4 weeks later is winging her way home.

This becomes a problem for unit readiness. Training and replacing these young ladies is a pain in the b**t. It is expensive as well.

Figure out a solution to the pregnancy issue and I have no qualms about shipboard combat.

Army Combat though is a whole different ball of wax. Like another poster mentioned, physical strength is a major issue for ground combat. As an engineer and as an infantry soldier, my typical gear load was 85-100lbs. I needed to be able to carry that for hours and be able to perform in combat at the end of it. Most men have the ability to develop the muscle mass required to handle this kind of load. Most women do not.

I have been around armor units. The entry level job in a tank crew is loader. The loader has to be able to move the 120mm rounds from the ammo storage to the breach of the gun rapidly and safely. Most male loaders have to work out. It is not easy. Very very few women have the upper body strength. Just the maintenance on a tank is strenuous. Tank parts are heavy. Fixing a thrown tank tread is an all hands operation that might have to be done under fire. Adding women to the crew slows down the process. Unless it was handpicked, an all female crew, might not be able to do it in a reasonable time.

Artillery units have similiar issues, but I didn't spend that much time around them.

I am not even going to get into the issue of personal hygiene in combat conditions. Some people think it is a real issue and some people think it is a made up issue. I will just say, it is an issue.

Whenever this topic comes up, I have people argue with me that we should test and allow women to 'volunteer' for this type of duty. Fine. Do they get to unvolunteer if they decide they can't hack it? Does their career suffer if they unvolunteer?

What is someday we get into a situation where we have to bring back the draft? Do male draftees get the opportunity to volunteer or unvolunteer for combat duty? Or is this going to be a special privilege reserved for female soldiers.

As long as we allow women in the military, there will be women that are involved in combat situations. It's going to happen. I don't believe that is is the best interest of our military to have women in the combat specialties.

Combat, ground combat especially, is among the worst things that human beings do to each other. There are so many important roles in the military that women can do so well, I don't know why we keep insisting on letting them do one that at best they will be mediocre at.
12.3.2007 12:03pm
LizardBreath (mail):
I've never really understood the upper body strength argument as a reason to differentiate between combat and non-combat military roles. Obviously, no one should be doing a job that they're not physically strong enough for, but is it really the case that all roles defined as 'combat' by the military require physical strength that would be unusual for a woman, while women are generally capable of filling all non-combat military roles? That seems like a peculiar coincidence; that the breakline between the jobs that most women can do and most women can't do for reasons of physical strength should be the same as the distinction between combat and non-combat.
12.3.2007 12:06pm
Oren:

There are so many important roles in the military that women can do so well, I don't know why we keep insisting on letting them do one that at best they will be mediocre at.


Agreed, so long as we limit the analysis to womens' actual aptitude at these tasks as opposed to the "men can't handle women around" arguments that seem to be fairly prevalent.
12.3.2007 12:08pm
rarango (mail):
Lizard breath: with the possible exception of signal corps tasks, the answer to your question is yes. If you were to look through the essential tasks lists defining each (combat) military occupational specialty, you will see what is required of the modern soldier. For all the high tech we have, much of it has translated into more weight to be carried and heavier things to be moved around.
12.3.2007 12:15pm
CDU (mail):
I think the horse is out of the barn on this one. We're fighting a war in Iraq where every unit is in "direct ground combat". Hell, they're even giving stepped up ground combat training to Air Force ground crews who make supply runs to airbases in country. When the wing wipers are shooting it out with insurgents, there's no way to keep anyone in the Army out of harms way.

The division between "direct ground combat" units and support units is an artifact of the way the U.S. Army is organized. Since at least World War II, we've had a relatively small number of units that actually go out and fight the enemy (the "tip of the spear") supported by a massive organization intended to ensure that the units out on the tip get all the food, ammo, aviation support, artillery fire, etc. that they need to do the job and keep casualties to a minimum.

In Iraq, this distinction has broken down. We're dealing with an insurgency, an enemy that often strikes from ambush when and where they choose. There's simply no way to ensure that only have an opportunity to attack units organized for direct ground combat. Everyone is on the tip of the spear. In this environment, limiting women to units not intended for direct ground combat is a distinction without difference.
12.3.2007 12:16pm
Cornellian (mail):
What if some women are capable of the physically demanding tasks involved in a combat role, but only an extremely small percentage of women, such that out of a unit of 1000 soldiers you'll end up with 999 men and 1 woman if you apply the standards without regard to gender. At what point is it not worth it from a cost-benefit point of view to accomodate that 0.1% and how much should society be willing to spend in order to avoid that quantity of gender discrimination?
12.3.2007 12:19pm
LizardBreath (mail):
Lizard breath: with the possible exception of signal corps tasks, the answer to your question is yes

So, what's the point of excluding women from combat signal corps tasks? I can see that combat roles might be generally more physically demanding than non-combat roles -- that makes perfect sense -- but where they aren't, why draw the line at combat versus non-combat, as opposed to on the basis of the physical requirements of the individual task?
12.3.2007 12:20pm
Lugo:
What if some women are capable of the physically demanding tasks involved in a combat role, but only an extremely small percentage of women, such that out of a unit of 1000 soldiers you'll end up with 999 men and 1 woman if you apply the standards without regard to gender.

What will obviously happen is that physical standards will be relaxed until a politically acceptable number of women can meet them.
12.3.2007 12:25pm
rarango (mail):
Lizardreath: the answer to your very legitmate question has less to do with women and their ability to perform signal corps' tasks than to the instance by senior members of the signal corps that their branch be included as a combat arm. Women could very easily perform signal corps tasks. In the "old brown shoe" army there were only armor, infantry and artillery as combat arms. These categories had major implications for who rose to senior levels in the army and many felt (rightly) that combat arms officers had an inside track to flag rank. This is probably more information than you needed, but in an organization with long standing traditions, the army is not always amenable to rational analysis.
12.3.2007 12:29pm
LizardBreath (mail):
This is probably more information than you needed,

Not at all -- not having served myself, my only hope of keeping up with a discussion of military policy is if people with more background knowledge than I have explain matters. Thanks!
12.3.2007 12:32pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Lugo, you are probably right. Cornellian, if they require accomodation to do the same job, they can't do the same job.

Since these arguments all sound familiar, maybe the military could adopt a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for women in combat roles.
12.3.2007 12:38pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
CDU:

I agree that fighting an insurgency type of battle makes the term "rear area" almost meaningless.

I also agree that we need to provide women in the military some combat training to protect themselves, the distinction between support units and combat units is not a meaningless artifact.

In many important ways, support units are even more specialized than combat units. The have a wider variety of training, a lot of it extremely technical. These men and women are extremely important and are very good at their tasks.

But working in a combat zone is not the same as being the person, to use your phrase, at the tip of the spear.

In Iraq, the MP units are basically on the tip of the spear. Women do serve in these units. I can not speak with any authority about the physical requirements of the MP job. I do know one young woman in a National Guard MP unit. I might make a point to ask her some detailed and pointed questions.
12.3.2007 12:47pm
Uncle Fester (mail):
This issue is multi faceted, and casting it as a physical strength issue oversimplifies.

1. There's a very long tradition in Western Civilization of men protecting women. (Women and children first when the boat sinks, etc.) Furthermore (although I can't cite specifics) I believe that this has been demonstrated to be a key aspect of the socialization of young men. When this does not occur, we see the breakdown of truly functional society. I think the failure to do this has been linked to some of the dysfunction in urban America. Men have to be nice to women. Men don't have to be nice to each other, and if you've ever worked in an all-male environment, you know what I mean.

So what's required to make "women in combat" go is that male soldiers have to put that all of that out of their heads, ignore everything that they have been taught since birth, but only with regard to the women with whom they fight, and only while they are in combat, because the rules of civilized society still apply when not in combat. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

2. I have some firsthand knowledge of "women in combat" issue in a similar environment- the Fire Department. I will say in no uncertain terms that women, even when they are physically equal, are not equal overall- and it's no one's fault. A very real issue is that if you push the women as hard as the men, and they fail, you can't do anything about it because nobody wants to hear it. In fact, one might get labeled a sexist. So women don't get pushed as hard. Also, the "physically equal" woman is fairly rare. So the men pick up the load- because the job has to get done. And the good- (or not so good) natured razzing that occurs when a man screws up is easily twisted into a "hostile work environment" when the exact same words are said to a woman.

Note that none of that says women cannot do the job. It is simply a description of what actually happens. If it happens in the Fire Department, it will happen in combat.

3. This does not address the romantic/sexual/jealousy issues. Or what happens when (inevitably) the physical requirements for women are lowered.

There's no room for posturing on this issue. People's lives are on the line. This needs to be discussed dispassionately.

I doubt that can be done, though.
12.3.2007 12:47pm
Amy Alkon (mail) (www):
Briefly, because I'm on deadline for my syndicated column, I've read Kingsley's book, and it's terrific. His claims about the costs and problems of sexual integration of combat forces are well-supported.
12.3.2007 12:48pm
David Walser:
While it's true that there are some combat positions that women can fill as well as men (I'll accept rarango's word that the signal corps' one of these), the problem is that solders need to be able to fill in the ranks on an as needed basis. You don't need to be a member of a tank crew to help repair a tank's tread. You just need to be strong and willing to follow instructions. You don't need to be a machine gunner to lug a .50 up a hill. You just need to be strong enough to get the job done. In combat, the person whose job it is may become suddenly unavailable. Finding an immediate replacement is far easier in an all-male unit than it would be in a mixed-gender unit where many roles cannot be filled with women because they simply lack the strength.
12.3.2007 12:56pm
PLR:
In Iraq, the MP units are basically on the tip of the spear. Women do serve in these units. I can not speak with any authority about the physical requirements of the MP job. I do know one young woman in a National Guard MP unit. I might make a point to ask her some detailed and pointed questions.

Like, how she is perceived by the non-English speaking people that she is charged with policing?
12.3.2007 1:00pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
I've been making these arguments for years, and I'd say most military officers agree with them.

However, politically it is not allowed to say these thoughts out loud. With the sexual discrimination classes and lawsuits hammering at the military constantly, few officers would be willing to risk their career to say in public that women are not suited for the military in most roles.

In the Marine Corps, we believe that every Marine is a rifleman. We live this. But the truth is that except in dire emergencies, no woman should ever be allowed in combat arms or even in combat.

I've never met a woman who can rise to the level of stamina and strength of the most mediocre healthy male. Most men who aren't in shape but can get in shape with appropriate training.

When I was at The Basic School, the women were ranked mostly in the bottom of their company in class standing. Since physical requirements were lowered to compensate for their physical weaknesses, there didn't seem a clear reason why. One of the women lieutenants explained to me that after a full day of training, the women were all exhausted and went to bed while the men were still able to study.

Only on the television and in the movies are women able to keep up with men.
12.3.2007 1:06pm
TerrencePhilip:
What will obviously happen is that physical standards will be relaxed until a politically acceptable number of women can meet them.

Absolutely correct- the Army will simply place a thumb on the scale; or even consider lowering its standards overall, so that women can meet them. How many military women can pass the men's airborne PT test? Very few. The small number of women who could meet minimal physical requirements for entry into infantry units does not justify the cost- in separate housing, toilet facilities, etc. The result of changing the policy will be that standards will fall, or be ignored so as to cook the books and avoid political fallout from rejecting essentially all women.
12.3.2007 1:13pm
NesterT (mail):
Christopher Cooke: Sorry to burst your bubble, but Starbuck was a man.
12.3.2007 1:18pm
Mike M. (mail):
When I was taking Naval War College courses, we were told that ships that had pregnancy problems usually had disciplinary problems all the way around. A taut ship and crew doesn't have them.

That being said, I think Mr. Browne brings up some VERY good points. Fighting is often extremely hard physical work...harder than many civilians realize. Hard mental work, too. Putting women into the middle of this does not improve fighting power.

What might work better for everybody is to organize all-female units for certain functions. Rear area maintenance. Long-range UAV operation. Missile crews. Intelligence. Jobs that require intelligence and concentration, but which don't require the ability to schlep a hundredweight of gear.
12.3.2007 1:21pm
wfjag:
As a retired military officer, I'm glad to see someone finally attempting to address the issues systematically, and with reference to facts as a starting point, instead of starting with an ideological conclusion (e.g., experience of the effects of the civil rights movement) and then making the "facts" fit pre-conceived conclusions.

For example, Oren said:


As far as the physical attributes, perhaps women are not suited to be grunts but I can't see why physical strength or stamina (an area in which I concede women are genetically lacking) matter much in driving a tank or similar tasks.


Oren apparently has never had the pleasure of replacing a thrown track from a M-1, Abrams, M-2, Bradley, or M-113, APC, in the mud, snow or desert sand. All crew members of any vehicle have to be able to perform such tasks. The proposed Future Combat System will reduce the crew of many armored vehicles to 2 people, which will require even more physical strength from each individual crew member. Meanwhile, the Army's height/weight standards require Soldiers to be slim and trim. However, physical strength and stamina is only one issue.

I hope the book and future comments will also address the effects, sometimes fatal, of pushing ideology. The first female Navy fighter pilot was killed during a not uncommon take-off mishap during a launch. The bolt securing the plane's front wheel to the catepult failed to break as it should, which prevented the plane from having sufficient air-speed at launch. The navigator punched out when he should (immediately) and lived. The female pilot delayed ejecting a few 10ths of a second, and ejected towards the water, breaking her neck and dying. Part of her training, which but for the push from the Clinton White House to have a female Navy fighter pilot, is training carrier pilots to not to attempt to save the plane when that happens. She was rushed through her carrier pilot training/qualification, and died as a result. This is only one of many examples of tragic results from reasoning from an ideological (such as "equal rights") perspective, instead of looking at whether a service member is properly trained and qualified.

I have no doubt that women can perform many, if not most, of the same military duties as men. However, the same standards must be applied to both -- and are not. The Army Physical Fitness Test standards for women are much lower than those of men. Thus, before concluding that women and men are meeting the same standards because their test scores are close, you must ensure that they are taking the same tests and having to meet the same standards. That is too frequently not true.

After these basic standards types of issues are addressed, then you can address issues like pregnancy, lack of privacy, boys and girls being driven by hormones (including that some men and women never getting past the "boy" and "girl" stage of emotional development), and other issues affecting unit cohesion, as well as the fact that what happens at home also affects service member performance and unit performance.
12.3.2007 1:26pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
That someone should say, probably smugly, that he didn't see the problem with a woman driving a tank is part of the problem. He probably didn't. In which case, the First Amendment notwithstanding, he ought to save himself some embarrassment and learn something before speaking on this subject again.

Years ago, the Pentagon critic Dina Rasor, mentioned in her book "The Pentagon Underground" that she'd found something unexpected. As a rookie, she was working for another outfit. When she noted that some things she was supposed to be saying weren't exactly true, she was told something interesting. We're not interested in cutting the fat. We want to cut the lean. But we can't sell the public on directly weakening the military, so we have to, in effect, lie. She left and set up her own shop which was the most honest--not saying much--of the military procurement critics.
At another point, opposing the upgunning of the M1 Abrams from 105mm to 120mm, she observed that there was a group, started by Gene McCarthy, devoted to directly weakening the US military.
I called her office, before the Gulf War when these morons all took sabbaticals and got nose jobs and name changes, and found that their positions were based on the likelihood that the public didn't know enough to know better. Even Rasor was disingenous.

Point is, there is no certainty that at least a few of those promoting women in combat have the goal of weakening the military. It's happened before. No reason this shouldn't be another attempt.
12.3.2007 1:36pm
abu hamza:
how many US military women have been killed in the Iraq war? next question is how many wounded? Does anyone here know? Or maybe the guest blogger will post the data.

CDU makes the best point I've read so far in the comments.

wonder if the "values voters" consider that under W we now have women getting killed in a war?

and it's off topic but isn't there a value involved in the decision whether to go to war, drop a 500 lb bomb, etc.?
12.3.2007 1:39pm
Muskrat (mail):
I thnk it's interesting that two of the points cited by Browne are women's being "less physically aggresisve" and having "less willingness to kill."

We just spent four years and seveal thousand American lives in Iraq slowly figuring out that "willingness to kill" and aggression are NOT, in fact, the best attributes for fighting an insurgency, that simply spraying the countryside (and oncoming traffic) with heavy metal is NOT a good way to fight a population-based resistance, and that maybe, just maybe, we need to do a little more thinking and little less shooting. But that wouldn't be very manly, would it?

On the other hand, I have to admit all the arguments about being able to manhandle tank parts are pretty convincing. Assuming we were getting ready to fight the USSR in the Fulda Gap.
12.3.2007 1:41pm
edhesq (mail):
I'd be interested to hear about the contribution of women in counter-insurgency warfare, such as in Iraq.

During house-to-house searches, for instance, are women soldiers of advantage in mitigating the fear that might be instilled among civilian women and children? (I assume the dynamic is complicated by the Moslem culture.)

Strength versus social skills: It's why I've always seen a clear advantage to having female police but not fire fighters.
12.3.2007 1:45pm
ejo:
uh, don't you think we are using tanks and other such vehicles in Iraq? what are those thingamajigs I see the soldiers being driven around in? as to more thinking and less shooting, you could be right but wouldn't you have to be prepared to do both?
12.3.2007 1:50pm
whit:
two issues:

Strength Issue:
i have a long history in strength training (myself and others) with both women and men. it is undeniable that women, on average, are much weaker than men. that;s why we discriminate and don't allow men to compete against women in weightlifting, track and field, etc. that is undeniable (although back in the day, gloria steinem claimed it was purely cultural and not genetic lol...)

the primary reason (not the only one) that women are much weaker is that they have 10X less endogenous testosterone as men have. that makes building muscle, maintaining muscle, etc. much more difficult. again, "genetic outliers" tend to significantly exceed the average levels, which is why - they are genetically better. and rare.

however... i've trained with women (olympic weightlifters) who were literally stronger than 99% of men and who could squat over 350 lbs (not protective gear), clean and jerk near double bodyweight, etc. granted, these are EXCEPTIONAL women, but it is clear that SOME women can meet and exceed the strength standards. i lift 3X a week with some former Rangers, and i'm pretty familiar with their strenght standards. any of the (elite) women weightlifters i trained with would have no problem with those standards.

with that in mind, the history of women integrating into traditionally male jobs (firefighter and cops) has been a WEAKENING of the physical standards, because too few women could pass. that's a fact. it happened in hundreds of PD's (including my own) and ditto for fire dept's. the political reality is that disparate impact theory raises its ugly head (with liberals) and any test that results in disparate impact is 'discriminatory' against women.

i'm not saying that the standards can't remain the same, but the political pressure to change them to make them more reachable for (weaker) women is IMMENSE.

2nd - the cultural issue.

this is the more problematic issue (imo). i've never been in the military, so i don't have an opinion on whether women in combat would "work." but it is of PRIMARY importance. the author is correct - it is more important to have an effective military, than to have a military that meets all our desired gender integration goals. period. again, i have no opinion on whether they WOULD harm the "culture" and cohesion, etc. and i think it somewhat arrogant of those who have no military background (since it is such a unique way of life) who think they KNOW that it would (or wouldn't)

then there's the other cultural issue of : do we want to send "our women" into combat. that's a whole other question.
12.3.2007 1:51pm
Common_sense:
1. Signal Corps is not a combat arm as defined by the army. I believe its combat support, and may even be combat service support.

2. Saying we must train these soldiers to deal with an integrated environment ignores the reality of where the Army recruits from. For many of the same reasons we had to settle on don't ask don't tell, we can't assume training will fix everything. When you get replacements in combat, you really don't have time to train them up, and basic already includes so much that Soldiers don't integrate that there is no chance for the training to take hold. Some of these kids are raised as bigots, and you have to take a little of that into account.

3. Hormones will be discipline everytime, especially over year long deployments.

4. Comparing race discrimination to sex is a non-starter. One is based on perceived differences, the other on actual.
12.3.2007 1:54pm
Patrick S Lasswell (mail) (www):
Agreed, so long as we limit the analysis to womens' actual aptitude at these tasks as opposed to the "men can't handle women around" arguments that seem to be fairly prevalent.


My Navy Reserve unit has women who do the job just as well as men, in a field environment. We also have a firm "No Princess" policy. If you are a woman and you want to be part of our unit, you don't get to be a princess. We've had women come in and try to be princesses, and they left in a hurry because there was no support for it in our command. We also have women in the unit who have been with us for over a decade.

I've been to other units where they didn't have this policy and it was a mess. When there was all-hands work to be done, the women were off in a corner while the men worked and it took much longer. This hit the units cohesiveness and effectiveness.

In the Reserves, we have a lot more time to build cohesiveness and culture. I am less certain that the impact of destructive behavior on active duty units is sustainable. Things get broken that never get fixed on active duty, and if women's presence is causing that, this is a problem that needs to be looked at.

Maybe we should be pushing the "No Princess" agenda earlier in training, like the Delayed Entry Program, and more strongly throughout the force? I feel this is the best way to implement an Equal Opportunity environment.
12.3.2007 1:54pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Muskrat.
See the number of tank actions we've had in Iraq. Ditto other vehicles. Do you have clue? I mean, any clue at all? Even one?
The Iraqis aren't going to be standing up with us until a satisfactory number of bad guys are killed dead. Not until when their units need backup and can count on getting devasting firepower.

Yeah. See "Lioness", units of Marine women who are tasked with searching and otherwise interacting with Iraqi women. In Afghanistan, some women will hop off the choppers, strip to their sports bras, rig their battle rattle back up and thus be able to search or talk to the local women without pissing off the so-easily-offended goat humpers in town. Seems like a big concession to me.

But that's not the same has hauling a couple of hundred rounds of .50cal up a hill.

Or fighting hand-to-hand. See Michael Yon on the incident where LTC Kurilla was wounded.
12.3.2007 1:55pm
Cro (mail):
In my military experience, most women had no interest in combat roles. Even if we opened them up, it wouldn't draw many volunteers. A lot of people might feel compelled to take those roles for the sake of their careers, but actual interest in combat from women was low in my experience.

A lot of the agitation for women in combat is from outside the military. What agitation there was existed because officer promotion is biased in favor of those who have filled combat roles (there was a Supreme Court case that decided that preferential treatment for women when deciding promotions was warranted because of this bias).

Also from my experience, if we simply enforced the male physical requirements for combat roles, very few women would be able to meet them. I never met a woman in any of my units who would have passed the male PT requirements. I'm sure that they are out there, but between that and the few women who would volunteer for combat there would be few women in combat units.

That doesn't address the integration issue. It's obvious to me that men and women operate differently in groups, but whether that is critical in combat I am not sure. If the armed services were consistent in what they demand of people, that should not be a problem. I'd also be curious as to whether the same argument would apply to homosexuals. Or different races of people, for that matter. That might not be a sustainable argument in the modern world.

My father (a retired infantry Master Sergeant) summed up the debate on women in combat with the phrase, "they can't carry the machine gun." He also had high regard for women in noncombat roles. He didn't hate women.

Since women make up a fraction of the total manpower of the military, I don't think it's woth the cost of integrating when we don't have to. War is about winning, not about civil rights politics. Women aren't oppressed if they can't be infantry. I support equal rights for women in almost every other context (I say almost even though I can't think of one, just to be safe). That's a result of my personal eperience.

I'm happy that someone has compiled data from the war to make this argument. Perhaps wartime practicality can overcome peacetime BS.

CTR2 USN (1992-1996)
SGT Colorado Army National Guard (1998-2001)
12.3.2007 1:55pm
pete (mail) (www):
'wonder if the "values voters" consider that under W we now have women getting killed in a war?'

Considering that women died under FDR, Truman, LBJ, Nixon, and HW Bush during war (just to name a few off the top of my head) I do not think value voters think much about it.
12.3.2007 2:01pm
whit:
"4. Comparing race discrimination to sex is a non-starter. One is based on perceived differences, the other on actual"

fwiw, this works for the physical capabilities argument (for or against) but not the cultural argument.

there is a twofold argument - the culture thang, and the physical thang. clearly the race thang is a non-issue for the physical aspect of combat, but (was) an issue for the cultural aspect.
12.3.2007 2:02pm
rarango (mail):
Muskrat: cute but totally clueless--you would stand to benefit from the advice the late Gen Creighton Abrams gave junior officers: never miss a chance to keep your mouth shut.
12.3.2007 2:07pm
Uncle Fester (mail):
I think Lasswell above makes a good point. No Princesses is a good rule.

I'm not sure that Equal Opportunity is a good goal. For something like this, you need to have Equal Mission Outcome.
12.3.2007 2:07pm
whit:
"'wonder if the "values voters" consider that under W we now have women getting killed in a war?' "

interestingly (or not) not a single female firefighter was killed in line of duty on 9/11 at the WTC.
12.3.2007 2:11pm
rarango (mail):
Muskrat: I should have previewed my post and not have been so snarky: Assuming you really are interested in the topic, you will find that almost all military equipment is large and bulky. We rely, for example, on self propelled artillery which has all the external characteristics of a tank. Stryyker vehicles and Bradley fighting vehicles are big and heavy. None of these vehicles have anything to do with fighting russians in the fulda gap. The army still relies on mechanized vehicles along with light infantry and special ops forces which are not nearly so mechanized but even more physcially demanding.
12.3.2007 2:12pm
rlb:
I think a big part of the push for women in combat is television. It's just plain ridiculous.

Anyway, when I think of women in Iraq I think of Jessica Lynch, who ran around topless and carried an M-16 that somehow jammed "without firing a shot," Lyndie England, the "thumbs up" girl (who was sleeping with another soldier and ended up pregnant) from Abu Gharib, and General Karpinski, whose incompetence let Abu Gharib happen. That's the anecdotes.

I don't have anything by way of facts, because the Army isn't keeping them for some reason. The Navy, though, reports that 10% of women deployed at sea end up being evacuated due to pregnancy, every year.

You don't need much of an imagination to guess why having a relatively small number of women around a lot of lonely soldiers is a bad idea, especially in a combat zone.
12.3.2007 2:12pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
Unfortunately,

Except to people in the military, war doesn't seem to be about winning anymore.

I agree the agitation for these seems to be mostly from people outside the military and with little interaction with the military.

One poster commented how some of these points might be accurate if we were getting ready to "fight the Russians in the Fulda Gap". But that is the point. The military needs to be ready to take on any mission any where any time.

We were tragically unprepared for an insurgent type battle, but we are getting up to speed, but our forces still have to train and be ready for long drawn out full combat operations war like WW2.

Don't tell me it will never happen though. People said that after WW1. The longer and longer we go from ww2, makes it more likely not less likely that it will happen again. Part of the reason it hasn't happened is that the people in power remembered their own personal experiances and worked to make sure it wouldn't happen again.

These people are dieing off and the younger generations have no real appreciation for how bad all out war is.

You know it is true because we are having this discussion again.
12.3.2007 2:13pm
Muskrat (mail):
Hey, I actually agree that we shouldn't gender-integrate combat units. I'm just saying that it doesn't take much squinting to read a lot of these comments as "Cooties! They all have cooties! If they fight alongside me then I won't be a big, brave, scary man who in no way is overcompensating for anything!" (You have to do it in the Homer Simpson voice to make it really funny)

As for the "tank battles", is it a "tank battle" if your tank shoots up a taxi? Two taxis and a water buffalo? The Battle of Kursk it ain't. Not even sure it's good counterinsurgency. But that's OK, as long as we have lots of willingngess to kill we can't lose.
12.3.2007 2:30pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Muskrat.
I see you do have a clue. You really do know. But you hope the rest of us don't.
We've lost more tanks and more tankers in Iraq than we did in Desert Storm where we were up against other tanks, such as they were.
And, the fact that the tanks are shooting up taxis--mean ol' Americans aren't getting killed fast enough, it's unfair--doesn't mean they are excused from maintenance and breakdowns and so forth.
First, you seemed clueless but redeemable.
You kept on and now you seem simply not worth engaging.
Adios, my friend.
12.3.2007 2:36pm
anym_avey (mail):
Christopher Cooke: Sorry to burst your bubble, but Starbuck was a man.

He can be forgiven for this confusoin, though, on the basis that the Starbucks Coffee logo has Lady Godiva peeping out of the middle (albeit now in a much more modest form than the original logo).
12.3.2007 2:42pm
john w. (mail):
IMHO, you folks are all arguing about peripheral issues, and avoiding the central point which is this:

** The fundamental purpose of civilization is to protect women &children; and any society that deliberately puts women -- especialy young women -- in harm's way is not worth risking one's life for. Period. **

I think there is a good Robert A. Heinlein quote on that subject, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now.
12.3.2007 2:50pm
Patrick S Lasswell (mail) (www):
As for the "tank battles", is it a "tank battle" if your tank shoots up a taxi?


If the taxi is carrying enough explosive to flip a seventy ton Main Battle Tank on it's back, hell yes it's a tank battle.

Go here: http://avengerredsix.blogspot.com/
Read everything in it.
Then tell us there are not tank battles against insurgents.
12.3.2007 2:53pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Patrick.

Muskrat knows better. His agenda isn't exactly in the nature of promoting combat effectiveness.
12.3.2007 2:59pm
Christopher Gerrib (mail) (www):
Female MP wins Silver Star http://userpages.aug.com/captbarb/silverstar.html.

I served in the US Navy before we had women in combat. However, very few jobs on the ship required brute strength.
12.3.2007 3:00pm
Kate S (mail):
"I have no doubt that women can perform many, if not most, of the same military duties as men. However, the same standards must be applied to both -- and are not. The Army Physical Fitness Test standards for women are much lower than those of men. Thus, before concluding that women and men are meeting the same standards because their test scores are close, you must ensure that they are taking the same tests and having to meet the same standards. That is too frequently not true."

As a former woman Army officer, who had the misfortune to be branched Field Artillery in the early 80's when the Army ill advisedly opened certain portions of the Artillery to women, I have a couple of relevant comments on this subject. First, I have seen the above argument before and it kind of falls apart when you realize that the PT test is not only sex adjusted, it is also age adjusted. Right now the PT test is given for no other reason than to make sure that all members of the Army maintain an appropriate level of fitness and health for their age, nothing more. It is not a physical agility test or an MOS qualification test directly related to combat performance. I have seen few of the gung ho Artillery types who state so confidently that women should have to pass the same PT tests as the men stick to the argument long enough to coherently maintain that the Colonel or General commanding their unit should have to meet the same PT standards as the 18 year old E-3. The fact is there are a lot of different jobs in the Army which require quite a few different mixes of brains and brawn. There are also many situations where a lack of brains and nerves will get you killed faster than an inability to run two miles sub 15 minutes. From anecdotal stories brought back from some of my high ranking Army officer friends who have served in Iraq, the quickest way to get killed is by getting lost when you are driving around in a convoy. Mill about and pass the same unfriendly town twice while you are trying to find the right route, the third time will probably earn you an IED under the lead vehicle.
At the same time I believe there are probably legitimate reasons for keeping women out of the infantry where the brawn factor is the overwhelmingly dominant one. It is logistically difficult to provide separate facilities which our cultural sensibilities require for the small number of women who would be qualified although I have known (a very few) that were better than most men physically in almost every respect.
The issue of comparing race to sex in the context of military policy is an interesting one. The ASFAB effectively screens many minorities almost out of certain MOS classifications. The Army PT test for the combat arms could probably be set up to do the same with regards to the Combat arms, with the worry, of course, that in order to eliminate all the women you might lose quite a few men that the combat arms would like to have.
If the author of this post is interesting in hearing about my personal experiences in the Field Artillery and how and why it ruined the careers of a lot of good women officers I would be more than happy to discuss it in a private e mail. Just tell me how to get in touch with you. Thanks K.
12.3.2007 3:02pm
jhp (mail):
I have long wondered if women in military roles should be reserved for positions that do not require large upper body strenght and naturally lead to seperate or individual quarters. Something like scout sniper.
12.3.2007 3:04pm
Muskrat (mail):
Aubrey, you're right that I'm not promoting combat effectiveness. I was trying, in a not very clever way, to suggest that the utility of armored forces is tied to the effectiveness with which we can shoot things, or win any particular engagement, and thus is not relevant to winning the overall war in Iraq, any more than it was in Vietnam. Anyway, that's outside the scope of this thread, and I'll shut up now.
12.3.2007 3:10pm
Patrick S Lasswell (mail) (www):
I have long wondered if women in military roles should be reserved for positions that do not require large upper body strenght and naturally lead to seperate or individual quarters. Something like scout sniper.


What part of holding a heavy barreled sniper rifle absolutely steady for as long as it takes doesn't require upper body strength? Are you familiar with the weight of a M107 .50 caliber sniper rifle? http://www.barrettrifles.com/rifle_82.aspx

Scout snipers are incredibly fit.
12.3.2007 3:17pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Well, why shouldn't that mean that women who CAN meet those physiological standards get included

How many women are you willing to physically break in order to identify the exceptional, two standard deviations above the norm women, to qualify them for ground combat units? It's not like failure was not running fast enough on a PT test. The tests involve the kind of strain you don't encounter in spin class. Physical failure in combat arms units more often than not is blown knees, bulged discs in the back, stress fractured feet and hips, things of that nature. It's axiomatic that two peacetime assignments of 3-4 years to a light infantry unit will damage most men, except for the lucky mutants who thrive on 20 mile forced marches with 100 pound backpacks. Women in ground forces units tend to suffer the same types of injuries men do, just suffering joint injuries at a much higher rate. So the integration of women into these units would not be consequence-free. Moreover, soldiers who can't hack it don't just disappear. If the Army or Marines break somebody, they become the permanent responsibility of Uncle Sam, to greater or lesser degree. That means they take a year or more to get medically evaluated, boarded and discharged. The military (with VA) undertakes vocational rehab, and maybe disability compensation for the next 50-60 years.

Above and beyond that is the moral question. The decision to risk and spend life to achieve necessary military objectives in combat is a grave one - those soldiers and Marines are precious, they are somebody's child or spouse, and they are Americans who volunteer to serve. How can you possibly justify, as a routine matter, putting women into training where the vast majority of them will fail, with a great many incurring serious injuries as they do? Isn't that inviting needless waste to satisfy our political urges?

I served in ground combat units and have no objection to women being trained to fight, when need be, and even in some special ops units in certain capacities. I will note that some women have acquitted themselves admirably in Iraq when they needed to fight, and I'm proud of the way many of the women I served with performed their jobs. But the physical demands of actual, day-to-day ground combat operations are non-negotiable, and opening the combat arms branch door to women is going to require either lowering physical standards (a concession that will be paid for with men's blood) or breaking a lot of women in training. And please, don't try to pretend that we can just restrict applications to those exceptional women with a chance of making it. As soon as the door is opened, there will be Congressional hearings as to why the Infantry has inadequate representation of female soldiers and Marines.
12.3.2007 3:19pm
lurker-999 (mail):
This may be the Heinlein quote alluded to earlier:

Spelled out in simple Anglo-Saxon words "Patriotism" reads "Women and children first!"
12.3.2007 3:23pm
rarango (mail):
KateS: I read your post with great interest. I was a faculty member at the Military Academy when female cadets entered in the 1970s. It is not too far off the mark to say the first couple of classes of female cadets were treated horribly both by their peers, and unfortunately, many serving officers at USMA. Even though there was considerable prepartion consisting of training sessions, coaching, lecturing, and the like, these interventions had, at most, marginal effects for the first couple of years. Moral of this anecdote? There is a culture in all organizations that shapes, and is shaped by myths, stories, values and the like.

The military may have one of the better developed and long lasting organizational cultures. It is not easily changed and especially for reasons that have more to do with political considerations than military effectiveness. As several posters have noted above, once the strength/physiological issues are dealt with, the cultural issue remains salient and may be even more intractable to solve.
12.3.2007 3:24pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):

I have long wondered if women in military roles should be reserved for positions that do not require large upper body strenght and naturally lead to seperate or individual quarters. Something like scout sniper.


Unfortunately, I went to BNCOC with guys who fit your scout sniper role.

There might be direct combat related jobs, but this is an infantry job and low upper body strength doesn't fit.

The guys I knew were in LRP units Long Range Patrol. They were trained to operate behind enemy lines (up to 100km). The operated in small teams (less than 5). Between radio equipment, camo, ammmo, weapons, batteries, first aid supplies, climate suitable clothing, etc., they typically carried 120-150lbs of gear with them on a mission.

Scout snipers are in a similar position. They have to be able to carry not only enough equipment to survive, but to communicate in case they need help. Typically, a modern sniper rifle is heavier than an M16 as well.

There is a lot more to it than the ability to pull the trigger.
12.3.2007 3:24pm
Jeff the Baptist (mail) (www):
The fundamental purpose of civilization is to protect women &children; and any society that deliberately puts women -- especialy young women -- in harm's way is not worth risking one's life for. Period.
While I'll probably get hammered for it, there is some truth to this. If we ever get into a position of having to fight a war or series of wars lasting decades, we do not want a lot of women in combat. Even if women were equally competent combat soldiers, women are far more important to maintaining a birth rate than men. It's just sexual biology.
As for the "tank battles", is it a "tank battle" if your tank shoots up a taxi?
Is it a tank battle when an insurgent drives a VBIED up to your tank and blows it? When your tank catches fire after an RPG is shot up your exhaust? When you have to pull your buddies' APC out of a canal while under fire? I know all this stuff has happened because I've talked to the guys it has happened to. And that was just one unit.

Oh and all this business of "no front line" isn't entirely correct. There is a difference between going out and engaging the enemy and not. Working on a FOB is a lot safer than kicking down doors. Not safe, but safer.
12.3.2007 3:25pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Muskrat.
The rest of us are worried about combat effectiveness, so knocking it off would be a good idea.
As would looking at how often and how usefully tanks have been used in this war.
That it isn't Rommel vs. Montgomery doesn't mean the tanks are not useful.
After all, it was the difference between tanks and jeeps that annoyed all the folks looking at unarmored humvees. More armor, more weapons. For a reason.
A tank has a 7.62mm. co-ax machine gun tied into the world's best mobile fire control system, with 10,000 rounds of continuous feed. It has a .50cal which can be fired from behind it when the commander's up and from within otherwise. It has the best tank gun in the world with a selection of ammo. And it provides tank shock, also known as panzer fever. And, EFPs aside, it can take a lot of hits. When an Infantry unit needs a building taken out, they can call for arty or air, which could take time, or be too close to dicey locations like, say, schools.
We'd have a lot more dead grunts without tanks.
And they take work. There was a documentary on Marines getting basic armor training, which had to be interrupted for the OIC to call out the guys with relatives in New York City. Given your insouciance and insistence that it's all about "cooties" and other bullshit, I presume you didn't see the guys managing the maintenance, changing a drive wheel, or hauling the cables to unstick a tank.
If you had a clue, Muskrat, you hid it extremely well, but not well enough. You know better. You have an agenda which does not include the welfare of the guys at the sharp end.
12.3.2007 3:30pm
Smokey:
Lugo:
What will obviously happen is that physical standards will be relaxed until a politically acceptable number of women can meet them.
Exactly. I recall a letter to the editor about 15 years ago from a firefighter applicant, who described his preparation: he had nailed a piece of tire to a log, and practiced swinging an 8 lb. maul at it so he could pass the 60 chops per minute requirement. He ran until he could do 5 miles in 40 minutes. He lifted weights so he could carry a 190 pound sack down a ladder for four stories. And so on.

But by the time he got the opportunity to qualify, every one of the test requirements had been reduced to the point that anyone with a pulse could qualify. And even though his performance was rated "excellent," he was bypassed by lower-qualified women, in order to fill the fire department's new female hiring quota.

Every time I hear something on the news to the effect that 'firefighters arrived on the scene, and all but two of the building's occupants were saved,' I wonder if the crispy critters would have made it out alive, if the fire department had insisted on hiring only the best qualified applicants.


Re women in combat: Several years ago my niece enlisted in the Marines. About eighteen months later she got an assignment that she didn't want. She promptly got herself pregnant, and just as promptly got herself a discharge, followed by an abortion. Hey, win/win! Except for the Marines she up and left behind. And the taxpayers.
12.3.2007 3:32pm
rarango (mail):
As has been noted elsewhere on this thread, there appears to be a lot of misinformation and downright ignorance on the nature of the military in terms of its missions, composition, and equipment. I think this may be, in part, a function of a complete generation plus of an all-volunteer force. Many of the military topics discussed today would have made perfect sense, and not required explanation, to any one who had served during the draft.
12.3.2007 3:34pm
john w. (mail):
" ... Several years ago my niece enlisted in the Marines. About eighteen months later she got an assignment that she didn't want. She promptly got herself pregnant, and just as promptly got herself a discharge, followed by an abortion. Hey, win/win! Except for the Marines she up and left behind. And the taxpayers. ..."

And, of course, the dead baby.
12.3.2007 3:36pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Even allowing the physically qualified women to participate may have costs: With such low numbers of women in combat, pressure would accrue to lower the overall physical standards or adopt different standards for women.

Now, this might not happen, but experience in other professions with similar dynamics, like firefighting, suggest that this is not only probable, it may be inevitable once the initial influx orrurs.

As for the seperate issue of comparing with other militarys' forces... do remember to only include only militaries that have seen signifigant action, okay? Manning a checkpoint after the marines have taken an area is less physically demanding than taking it in the first place.
12.3.2007 3:40pm
Lugo:
the utility of armored forces is tied to the effectiveness with which we can shoot things, or win any particular engagement, and thus is not relevant to winning the overall war in Iraq, any more than it was in Vietnam.

If you can shoot things effectively, you may lose, but if you can't shoot things effectively, you will lose, and quickly. This applies equally to Vietnam and Iraq, but perhaps more so to the former. It is amazing to me that anyone can argue that the ability to defeat the Tet Offensive and the Easter Offensive was "not relevant" to victory or defeat in the overall war in Vietnam. If we had not defeated those two enemy offensives - which required the ability to shoot very effectively - we would have instantly lost the overall war, right then, end of story. Defeating those enemy offensives bought time, which as it happens, wasn't used well, but without those victories there would have been no time at all to try to give South Vietnam the ability to stand on its own feet.

The reason we're fighting a counterinsurgency in Iraq is (a) because we defeated the Iraqi armed forces in 2003, which required the ability to shoot effectively, and (b) because the bad guys know that we can shoot effectively, and if they try to engage us in a stand-up fight with regular units, they'll die. Again, if we did not know how to shoot effectively, we would already have lost the overall war, decisively, a long time ago.

You don't get to do counterinsurgency if you're no good at regular warfare, because if you're no good at regular warfare, the enemy will defeat you head on. Regular warfare is the shield that allows counterinsurgency to operate. Regular warfare skills are not an optional luxury, but a necessity, even in a counterinsurgency.
12.3.2007 3:40pm
Kate S (mail):
Rrango, woudl ahve e maile dthis too you but it bounced back. My husband is USMA Class of 80. I am very good friends with one of the women in the Class of 80 and was on speaking terms with a few of the others. She and I were in the same Lance Unit in Germany from 1981 until 1984 and then we were stationed at Ft Sill together. You are absolutely correct, she and her women classmates was treated horribly and she is no cry baby. My husband fortunately, was not one of the abusers. He was trying hard to stay on the swim team and make good enough grades so he could actually graduate. Thanks for your interest, Kate
12.3.2007 3:44pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
As a reservist remf, far be it from me to question Rarango's combat stud qualifications, but at least as far back at 1989, the signal corps was NOT a combat arm - they are combat support.

I could be wrong, not being a hoo-rah ranger type, but I believe that there have been female signal officers since the tail end of Vietnam.

That quibble aside, the physical requirements of the actual combat arms seems to be beyond dispute. Unless someone can demonstrate that physical size just doesn't matter, then it is problematic to say that opening the combat arms to women would not affect combat performance.

However, I find the unit cohesion arguments silly. The exact same arguments were made about racial integration and are being made about allowing open homosexuals to serve. I think the knuckleheads who said/say that allowing blacks/women/gays to serve would undermine unit cohesion underestimate the professionalism of our soldiers. They also seem to be divorced from reality. I suspect that once the bullets start flying that most folks stop caring about race/gender/orientation and are more concerned with who can do the job.

My father served with the Marines in the Korean War and he came out of the service firmly believing that race didn't matter. Some folks, both white and black, could be relied on. Other folks were dangerous to be around. My Dad is free of prejudice - a remarkable trait for someone of his generation. Serving with blacks in combat made him that way (as Frederick Douglass predicted it would way back in 1862).

When it comes to unit cohesiveness and combat efficiency, it seems that we keep arguing about standards and hypotheticals. Are there examples in the real world that demonstrate the consequences gender/orientation integration. It is too bad that there are no militaries anywhere in the world that have allowed women and/or gays to serve in combat.

It would be really interesting if a country fighting for survival in a major conflict had made a decision about female combatants. In the stress of survival, the only decision that would have mattered would have been combat efficiency. I wonder if Russia had female soldiers?
12.3.2007 3:58pm
rarango (mail):
Small holder and common sense are both correct, and I am wrong in referring to the Signal Corps as a combat arm. My memory is obviously failing me. I do know the signal guys militated to be designated a combat arm, but that is obviously the extent of it.
12.3.2007 4:05pm
Alex650 (mail):
I don't want to weigh in on one side of the debate so much as point out something that, I think, people have been missing (at least based on my cursory reading of the comments): given a fixed number of soldiers, doubling the pool of recruits (by allowing in women), absent other countervailing effects, will make those soldiers better. That's a logical necessity--and, incidentally, the reason that discrimination is generally economically inefficient.

So my point is that, if we all agree that military effectiveness (measured either in terms of numbers, quality, or some combination of the two) is our sole concern (as it should be), including as many people as possible--women, minorities, and non-citizen immigrants--in the recruiting pool is presumptively good. We've seen from experience that the second two of the list increase military effectiveness.

The question is whether including women in certain military roles is so disruptive as to offset the gain--and I haven't seen anyone frame the question like this yet. Not having been in the military I don't feel like I'm competent to answer this question, though I can certainly speculate (and follow up on Kate S's comment) that the cultural factors and small pool of qualified women in infantry might make this a bad idea, but possibly beneficial for roles like pilots and intelligence officers. I don't know.
12.3.2007 4:08pm
Cornellian (mail):
Are there examples in the real world that demonstrate the consequences gender/orientation integration. It is too bad that there are no militaries anywhere in the world that have allowed women and/or gays to serve in combat.

The British, Canadian and Israeli militaries all allow gays to serve openly in the military. I don't think they (or the U.S. military for that matter) have ever distinguished between combat and non-combat roles for them - they're either in the military or they're not.
12.3.2007 4:11pm
Cornellian (mail):
Several years ago my niece enlisted in the Marines. About eighteen months later she got an assignment that she didn't want. She promptly got herself pregnant, and just as promptly got herself a discharge, followed by an abortion. Hey, win/win! Except for the Marines she up and left behind. And the taxpayers. ..."

And, of course, the dead baby.


For the sake of the kid, it's too bad she didn't take the claim-to-be-lesbian ticket out, rather than the pregnancy ticket out.
12.3.2007 4:13pm
Christopher Gerrib (mail) (www):
Russia did in fact have large numbers of female soldiers, including sniper teams. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyudmila_Pavlichenko (300 confirmed kills).

Unfortunately, the level of training in the Soviet army of the time was so wildly inconsistent from unit to unit that evaluations of overall effectiveness are hard to come by.
12.3.2007 4:13pm
Waldensian (mail):
There's (at least) room for argument about whether women should be exposed to ground combat. But from what I have seen, women are fully capable of operating as combat pilots.
12.3.2007 4:35pm
J_A:

Are there examples in the real world that demonstrate the consequences gender/orientation integration. It is too bad that there are no militaries anywhere in the world that have allowed women and/or gays to serve in combat.

The British, Canadian and Israeli militaries all allow gays to serve openly in the military. I don't think they (or the U.S. military for that matter) have ever distinguished between combat and non-combat roles for them - they're either in the military or they're not.


So does the Spanish military, which have had a significant presence in peacekeeping operations in several places like the former Yugoslavia (besides Iraq)
12.3.2007 4:38pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Come guys, the best pilot in the Galactical fleet is Starbuck and she is a woman. You would think that this example would turn this debate around.


Question for BSG fans -- is Kara Thrace's character in total on the new BSG a positive or negative example of female combat pilots?

One the one hand, she can be a hotshot pilot (although I'm not sure she qualifies as the "best pilot" considering that both Kat and Apollo managed to beat her at different points) and has displayed some real talent when it comes to strategic planning (such as the mission to take the Tyrillium processing plant) and did a pretty decent job at CAG. On the other, she also had some definite issues with training pilots, first by fudging the standards so her boyfriend Zak would pass (and get killed in an accident as a result) and then washing out an entire class of trainees because of her guilt. She managed to shoot Apollo during a hostage rescue mission and she's had several self-destructive episodes that resulted in her being grounded because she was a danger to herself and others.

On balance is she a good example or a bad example of a (fictional) female combat pilot?
12.3.2007 4:46pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Cornellian.
During the Senate hearings on the matter of gays, the presence of gays in the Israeli military was made clear
Then a witness pointed out that they are not in line units. They are in jobs--important and difficult, some of them--which do not require barracks living, nor the unit cohesion of, say, an Infantry platoon.
It would be quite in keeping with an advocate to pass over that point.
12.3.2007 4:57pm
Cornellian (mail):
Christopher Cooke: Sorry to burst your bubble, but Starbuck was a man.

You're showing your age. Starbuck was a man in the original (and horrible) TV series. In the new (and very good) series Starbuck is a woman, played by Katie Sackhoff.

As for whether she's a good example, it's hard to say. She has her problems, but then all the characters have their flaws - that's why they're like real people and not Star Trek characters.

And what about Boomer? She was a pilot too.
12.3.2007 4:58pm
Cornellian (mail):
It would be quite in keeping with an advocate to pass over that point.

Or maybe just in keeping with someone who has a full time job. Anyway, I take it you don't dispute the point about the British and Canadian militaries?
12.3.2007 5:00pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> I was trying, in a not very clever way, to suggest that the utility of armored forces is tied to the effectiveness with which we can shoot things, or win any particular engagement, and thus is not relevant to winning the overall war in Iraq, any more than it was in Vietnam.

Except that you're wrong.

An armed forces that isn't very effective at winning engagements/shooting things has fewer tools for winning wars than one that is more effective. As to whether one should shoot things, that's a choice, not to mention that deterrence works on the rational and shooting is pretty much the only thing that works on the irrational.

And the example was wrong also. Pre-surge was a mix of take ground, give it up, hope that folks remember, and repeat when they forget. The surge has been take ground, keep it, and work the politics while in control. The per-soldier capability hasn't changed, but the increase in overall capability has made for less violence. (See deterrence.)
12.3.2007 5:06pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Since we're dealing with people, the "they can't be trained to overcome their prejudices" argument is winning me over. Not so much as applied to the members of the armed forces, as applied to the legislatures that would seek equal outcome.

Common_sense said
4. Comparing race discrimination to sex is a non-starter. One is based on perceived differences, the other on actual.

I'm glad we're in a place where we can say there are real differences between the sexes, at least physically. Why can't we say the same thing about races? The differences may be statistically less for race than sex, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Depending on what you select for, whether it's physical or mental, nature or nurture, you shouldn't expect different races, in aggregrate, for a useful definition of race, to divide identically at any given time.
12.3.2007 5:07pm
Smokey:
Alex650:
The question is whether including women in certain military roles is so disruptive as to offset the gain...
OK Alex, I'll play: What's the 'gain' for the combat unit?
12.3.2007 5:12pm
anym_avey (mail):
Perhaps much of what is being said here, can be said more simply if we merely observe that the introduction of sexual politics into any setting generally proves a disruptive influence to that setting.

For most settings, the cost of a sexual flare-up is not measured in human lives. In that case, clearly-stated and enforced policies on personal display and behavior are usually sufficient to govern actions before problems arise, and address problems when they do arise, while allowing humans to be their normal social selves otherwise.

But for certain types of settings where extremely close and sustained personal contact, social isolation from the outside world, and high levels of stress are involved...sexual politics will almost invariably weaken the effectiveness of the parties involved. And when that setting DOES have a cost measured in human lives, then there is an imperative cause to take the necessary measures that will mitigate the introduction and influence of those politics. Racial distinctions are not a valid cause. Coed combatants and homosexual combatants, potentially are.
12.3.2007 5:12pm
Mateo_G:
Active duty signal here, 25B (computer nerd). Out of 15 soldiers in my detachment, 2 are female. They have no problems doing the day to day stuff, except when we load our stuff up and unload it. Tactical commo gear is really heavy and the men do far more of the grunt work. Our NCOIC has done his best to address this, but it is simply a matter of strength.

Some signal MOS (jobs) are combat, like 25C (radio operator). A guy in my unit came from 7th group as regularly was knee deep in the shit. Currently, we are support but were involved in the invasion of Iraq. We operated our equipment in a mansion and got shot at all the time. At that time, no females were with us.

As far as unit cohesion, I can tell you only what I have seen and experienced. Being in the desert for long stretches of time turns many women into desert queens and many men into bumbling jealous idiots. Being young, filled with hormones and far from home will do that. Morale can and does take hits. This effect is less prevalent on larger installations; I could only imagine what kind of shit-storm would take place when you introduced women into the tightest of infantry or armor units.

I personally have formed bonds with fellow male soldiers that is more powerful than brotherhood. I have not yet and probably never will form that kind of bond with a female soldier. The introduction of a homosexual would be the same - we'd be as professional as we could but no one in a dangerous job is going to form that bond.

Most all women I've met in the military are professional and competent, worthy of the uniform and our nations highest praises. It is just that you want the people defending your country to be a close batch of killers that trust each other with their lives.

But what do I know. I'm just a guy in the Army.
12.3.2007 5:15pm
Jam:
I do not have a military service background but I have worked with men who have. A coule of examples:

1) Former USAF reconaisance pilot in Germany. We worked together in the early 90's and the reason he gave for leaving the USAF was that he thought that military/USAF was going down the tubes. He told me that he decided to get out when women pilot candidates were giving passing grades in approach training, when being so far off the landing cone while the men were being flunked, for being less off.

2) I currently work witha former Army guy. He has told me about women asking him to help him lift/handle equipment that men had no problem lifting. His opinion was that if women want in the Army that they ought to perform as expected of everyone.

Many years ago I read of a statistic: that a physical test that would cause 20% of the men to fail would fail 80% of the women.

I do not know if that statistic is true but it sounds about right in my experience. If true, combined with the low rate of women who choose a military career, the actual percentage of females that make it into the military on a real equal basis as men, is it worth it?

Me thinks not. But my main objection to women in the military is not utilitarian, anyway.
12.3.2007 5:16pm
Arkady:
Some grist for the mill:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/17/national/17medal.html

http://www.blackfive.net/main/2005/03/after_action_re.html
12.3.2007 5:26pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
And what about Boomer? She was a pilot too.


Boomer's a cylon and it wasn't a combat pilot, it flew a shuttle right before its programming kicked in and had it try to murder then Commander Adama.
12.3.2007 5:33pm
jmw:
While I am also concerned that the sole purpose of the military be winning and that including females in combat roles might reduce effectiveness, has anyone consider the physc. damage which could be done to our enemies?

Imagine a well trained SPEC OPS unit of females deployed alongside our regulars for the purpose of letting our enemies (especially in chauvanistic societies) believe that they were defeated by females. Hard to recruit disenfranchised males to AQ if they are being beaten by US women.
12.3.2007 5:34pm
Carolina:
Among the many good points made in these comments, those referencing what happened when "firemen" became "firefighters" seem especially prophetic.

It is all well and good to say "If only 1 in 1000 women can meet the requirements of an infantry officer, it is invidious discrimination to deny that one woman in each thousand her chance." The real life result is that this is politically unpalatable and the standards get watered down. Way watered down. Such that we now have female "fire fighters" who can't carry an adult male out of a burning building and female cops who pull their handguns because they don't feel comfortable in a physical confrontation with an adult man.
12.3.2007 5:34pm
M. in Boston:
There is one question that needs to be asked in this debate, which I feel has been under-addressed by both sides over the years.

Do women in the military, in general, *want* to be assigned to combat roles?

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness once pointed out that the GAO and the Army did a series of surveys of women volunteers' attitudes toward future combat roles some years ago. It found that women officers were somewhat in favor (understandably, since combat commands bring more opportunities and more rapid promotions - and women officers wish to excel at their career as much as the males do), but enlisted women were less in favor (20 percent for women officers, 10 percent for women enlisteds).

Link to survey results.

I think this is a very relevant question, and deserves some attention before any change in policy is made.

Speaking of Ms. Donnelly's work, here are a couple of articles of hers that answer several questions raised here by commenters:

NRO

1991 Post Gulf War analysis
12.3.2007 5:41pm
Dave D. (mail):
...I was a State Police officer when females were first hired by my Department. Standards were adjusted down and numbers fudged to retain as many as possible. The female resignation rate was so high it cost 5 times more to train each female amortized over time. And recruiters were chosen for their ability to beguile women and meet their quota's.
..Apparently we never hired any olympic weigh lifters, so I can honestly say I never met one woman , on the job, or off, I didn't know I could physically take custody of. But I met many men in 32 years that could have whipped me. Nobody here seems to want to address the lack of physical agressiveness of women. Time and again I saw them hold back and step back when force was the correct response. It's not just men who are raised with expectations and cultural values of using / not using force. Other Troopers took up the slack; the job had to get done. Male officers lowered their expectations of these female officers and the female officers were o.k. with that, they came to expect it as their due. This behaviour was not the exception, it was the rule. It's the NATURE of the sexes. Walk into a mixed group of people anywhere and punch a woman in the face. Watch these dynamics play out the same way every time.
...Most of the women that joined the Department got their expectations about the job from T.V. and movies. They were sadly disappointed to find out that shift work, holiday assignments and nasty people are the lot of police officers. I suspect female combat soldiers will also be surprised to find out that they've been abandoned as the troops were on Bataan and as the 10th army troops were at the Chosin in Korea. Infantry is sent to be ground up in accomplishing it's mission. Losses are expected and planned for. This is foreign to almost every woman I've ever talked to. I think most men understand and accept the concept of selling their life dearly when death is unavoidable.
12.3.2007 5:57pm
KeithK (mail):
David Chesler:

I'm glad we're in a place where we can say there are real differences between the sexes, at least physically. Why can't we say the same thing about races? The differences may be statistically less for race than sex, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Depending on what you select for, whether it's physical or mental, nature or nurture, you shouldn't expect different races, in aggregrate, for a useful definition of race, to divide identically at any given time.

Yes, it is likely that there will be some differences in the means for different races. But as you note the differences will be much smaller than the differences between the sexes. If the average man of race A can lift 200 pounds and the guy from race B can press 210 then it's a pretty insignificant difference and not worth drawing distinctions as a consequence. If the average woman can only lift 75 then the difference is significant.
12.3.2007 5:58pm
KeithK (mail):

given a fixed number of soldiers, doubling the pool of recruits (by allowing in women), absent other countervailing effects, will make those soldiers better. That's a logical necessity--and, incidentally, the reason that discrimination is generally economically inefficient.


This is true only if the additional pool of recruits is similarly qualified. If the vast majority of the additional potential recruits are much less capable then you will at best see a negligible increase in efficiency. The argument here is that the vast majority of women are not physically capable of performing many of the tasks needed for combat duty. If this is true then it makes economic sense to restrict women - the additional cost of screening the added recruits would result in negligible benefits.
12.3.2007 6:01pm
Penry:

given a fixed number of soldiers, doubling the pool of recruits (by allowing in women), absent other countervailing effects, will make those soldiers better. That's a logical necessity--and, incidentally, the reason that discrimination is generally economically inefficient.

That would only hold true if the new (female) pool of potential recruits was being selected according to an equal or higher standard than the current (male) recruits. In fact, standards are being lowered in order to meet quotas.
12.3.2007 6:14pm
john w. (mail):
"... I suspect female combat soldiers will also be surprised to find out that they've been abandoned as the troops were on Bataan and as the 10th army troops were at the Chosin in Korea. ..."

Yeah, and they will be even more surprised when they get impregnated by their captors who (most likely) won't be terribly concerned about Geneva Conventions and other such legal niceties.

And then they will be really, really, REALLY surprised when the hostilities are finally over and they have to leave their babies behind in order to get repatriated to the USA. ... or will they bring the babies back with them so that said babies can be bitterly hated by everyone else the way the half-German babies in Norway were hated after WW2 ????

Has anybody thought this whole thing through to its logical conclusions?
12.3.2007 6:33pm
BABH (mail):
Mateo G (a little off-topic):
I was a grunt in the Army's Ranger regiment, in wartime. I am gay. There is nothing my old squad-mates would not do for me, or I for them.

>I personally have formed bonds with fellow male soldiers that is more >powerful than brotherhood. I have not yet and probably never will form >that kind of bond with a female soldier. The introduction of a >homosexual would be the same - we'd be as professional as we could but >no one in a dangerous job is going to form that bond.
12.3.2007 6:40pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Signal Corps is the army term for what Marines call Communications. A few decades ago it was considered in the Marine Corps to be combat arms. In the 1980's when I first joined the Marines and perhaps earlier than that, it had changed to non-combat arms.

The only reason I know that it used to be combat arms is because one of my predecessors in my reserve unit was a Marine Gunner. I asked him why he was the communications officer if he was a gunner and he explained that back then comm was a combat arms, and thus eligible for the Gunner designation.

I imagine the change occurred because communications had expanded quite far beyond people carrying radios on their backs, with station communication as just a sideline. As we started allowing women into more and more jobs, such as maintenance, wing support, etc., it made less sense to call it combat arms. Only a small portion of communicators actually carry radios on their backs now. It's appropriate for that specialty to be available to women except when attached to an infantry unit.
12.3.2007 6:48pm
Mateo_G:
BABH:

I was a grunt in the Army's Ranger regiment, in wartime. I am gay. There is nothing my old squad-mates would not do for me, or I for them.


Hoah! Being a ranger is no joke, and I dare say I'd get tore up in Ranger school (didn't enlist until I was 28). Got my old NCOIC going through it now (he just finished OCS).

That said, were you open about being gay with your buddies while you served?
12.3.2007 6:51pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Why not run war games with all-women teams against all-men teams? If the difference between the sexes really doesn't matter then you should learn that from the war games. Of course the military will never do the experiment because they know what the result will be.
12.3.2007 6:52pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Zarkov, are you saying the military really wants to pretend women would win?

But games are just games. You can make the rules of any game to get whatever outcome you want. We already know that women are not suited for the rigors of infantry and other combat arms. We don't need a game to tell us what is inherently obvious.
12.3.2007 6:57pm
holdfast (mail):
The British, Canadian and Israeli militaries all allow gays to serve openly in the military. I don't think they (or the U.S. military for that matter) have ever distinguished between combat and non-combat roles for them - they're either in the military or they're not.

This is indeed the Canadian policy. I can state that in ten years of service with the Combat Engineers (reserve and reg) and some cross-posting to the Infantry that I did not meet a single opnely gay male soldier. If one suspected that a fellow soldier was gay, the best thing you could do for him was to never, ever even think of mentioning it (and there were a few people I suspected, but they were generally good soldiers, so I said nothing). The practical effect was don't let on, don't get in trouble. Lesbians (especially hot ones) were a different story.

My reserve engineer unit did have female sappers. Most generally had a pretty good attitude, and a few were as physically fit as the weaker males. There were, however, some jobs that they simply could not do - upper panel party on an Medium Girder Bridge. Short males could not do this job either, but all males who were tall enough could do it - tall enough females lacked, in every case, the upper body strength. I also never met a female who could cock the .50 in the prone position. Since this was Canada, the reserves, and the nineties, the women were not the biggest hindrance to operational effectiveness (that was the Liberal government and their budgets and policies). Many of the women made a real positive contribution, and one of the best was probably the best 2i/c that a Section Commander could have. All that said, I would not have considered most of their performances acceptable for a unit heading into combat. Fortunately, in Canada the reserves are not deployed as formed units - instead picked soldiers are used to supplement Regular formations.
12.3.2007 6:57pm
Bart (mail):
A. Zarkov (mail):

Why not run war games with all-women teams against all-men teams? If the difference between the sexes really doesn't matter then you should learn that from the war games. Of course the military will never do the experiment because they know what the result will be.

The Canadians tried this by forming an all female infantry unit. The results were not encouraging.

My bonifides are that I served 7 years in the 82d Airborne and the 3d Infantry as a grunt sergeant and then officer. I was an infantry platoon leader during the Persian Gulf War.

The bottom line is that the job of the combat arms soldiers is to kill people and break things until the enemy has died or surrendered.

Killing efficiently is not a natural act, it is controlled barbarism. Soldiers have to be trained to become killers and to view the enemy as something less than human.

Men are better than women at this for two reasons:

1) Men are far stronger. No one in their right mind would send in women to fight men in our various combat sports like boxing, rugby or football. I cannot understand why anyone would think that women could effectively fight with men in real combat. Many men cannot cut it in combat arms. I am sure there are some women with Olympic caliber physiques who can make the grade in an Airborne infantry unit, but too few to talk about.

2) Men are more psychologically violent. War is not an intellectual exercise or women would be just as good or better at it than men. War is the selective application of intense violence. When civilians do this, we send them to prison for a long time. Note which gender populates our prisons serving time for violent crimes.

Finally, the argument that any unit can be attacked in a guerilla war is not an argument for placing women in combat arms units, but rather raises the question of whether they should be in any unit exposed to enemy attack.

Women should be able to defend a static position with small arms so long as the enemy does not engage them in hand to hand combat.

However, outside of nonsensical movies like G.I. Jane, marching into combat carrying over 100 lbs of equipment and then clearing the enemy out of their positions in close combat with the utmost violence over and over again is a job for men.
12.3.2007 7:30pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Heck, women can't even compete with men on the golf course! :)
12.3.2007 7:54pm
Bearster (mail):
I have a few quick points to add to a very interesting and lively discussion.

1) I don't think the difference in strength between men and women is 80/20. I think the average man is easily twice as strong as the average woman. While I am sure that the strongest women can be stronger than the average man, I assume that the average infantryman is a lot stronger than the average man. I have never served in the armed forces, so I don't know this for fact, but assume that lots of PT increases their strength and endurance. Finally, I think the strength difference between a strong man and an average man is much larger than the strength difference between an average woman and one who works out.

2) I don't think that one should casually underrate the differences between when a man interacts with a man vs. when he interracts with a woman. All politically-correctness, behaviorism, and marxist-feminist idealogy aside, there are huge differences. These differences will make it impossible for a mixed combat unit to form the same kind of esprit-de-corps as an all-male unit. I won't even address how many men will react to a woman-in-distress situation.

3) In combat, sometimes soldiers get captured. Since we're not fighting enemies with our sense of chivalry (or any sense of morality at all), let's acknowledge what kind of hell captured female soldiers will endure. This will be typical, not exceptional.

4) While it's (politically) easy to blame the men for "genderism", does anyone care to speculate on how a woman who feels scorned by a man in her unit will behave in combat? Also, how would a man behave towards another man who "took his girl"? Does sexual tension add to, or subtract from, combat effectiveness?
12.3.2007 8:24pm
M. Thompson (mail):
I'm currently active duty Navy, and when at RTC, I was assigned to an all men division. The belief of much of the staff was the all men units worked better as units, and performed better as well. My guess is the removal of the need to impress any women increases performance. It's also an item that can be controlled: There is one less thing to worry about in a stressful situation (unfamiliar place and people, long hours etc) that makes getting people through easier.

Also, as an item of anecdote, the group of people who failed the final PFA by a large margin (1.5 mi run, 2 min each pushups and situps) was mostly women.
12.3.2007 8:26pm
Bama 1L:
There are some errors of fact in the post regarding the death of the U.S. Navy's first female combat pilot, Lt. Kara Hultgreen (d. 1994).

The first female Navy fighter pilot was killed during a not uncommon take-off mishap during a launch.

Hultgreen was not launching. She had just missed an approach and lost an engine while climbing away. Low, slow, and dealing with the problems of one-engine flight, she arguably made a critical mistake by attempting to climb and stalling her aircraft.

The navigator punched out when he should (immediately) and lived. The female pilot delayed ejecting a few 10ths of a second, and ejected towards the water, breaking her neck and dying.

The F-14's ejection sequence is RIO first, pilot second, regardless of who pulls the D-rings. No one can independently "delay[] ejecting." Anyway, you do not want to stay with the aircraft after someone else has left. In the incident that claimed Hultgreen, the RIO initiated the ejection--to be expected, since the pilot was busy, you know, flying the aircraft.

If Hultgreen made a mistake, it was not so much in the timing of the ejection, but rather missing the approach and then stalling the aircraft by attempting to climb too steeply on one engine.
12.3.2007 10:08pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Cornellian.
The Brits and Canadians were supposed to be motoring along happily with gays. The only thing I recall from the hearings was that the Brits and the French are not really all that loosey-goosey. Dueling witnesses.
Don't know.
But the propensity of activists to lie leads me to think we need some additional investigation.

I need a show of hands. Does anybody think standards would not be lowered? Prior to their being lowered, does anybody say they'll have to be lowered? Nope. Standards will stay in place. Until they become unreasonably discriminatory. I would feel better if the proponents didn't take us for idiots once again and said up front that they were going to insist on lower standards. As it stands now, we're supposed to believe them when they say standards will be maintained.
IMO, we need to be shown that combat effectiveness will not be degraded. Anybody want to try that, or are we going to be blowing smoke about how talking about lowered combat effectiveness is misogny, sexual insecurity, and a howling civil rights outrage?
12.3.2007 10:12pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Regarding the effect of sexual relations on the cohesiveness of the troops, I thought the Greeks thought (in the same sex context) that it helped unit cohesiveness.

Why shouldn't the standards for physical strength, etc. be set in a gender neutral way, and whoever passes them is in, regardless of gender? To me, that makes the most sense. I understand the arguments about the military being a "macho" dominated culture and the difficulty that some young guys would have in accepting women in certain roles, but I am not sure we should tailor the military to the prejudices or biases of the troops. Better arguments against women in certain combat roles are (1) if only 1 in 10 women can meet the physical standards, the cost of setting up opposite sex bathrooms/barracks is not worth the gain from accepting them (2) the enemy treatment argument, i.e., rape etc of women soldiers. The "dumbing down" the standards argument is weak: it is just an argument against lower standards, not against keeping women out of certain roles.

By the way, I think it is great that we are getting present and former active duty men and women contributing their views, as they know much more than we do about these issues. This is an interesting debate.

Regarding Starbuck, those who say Starbuck is a man are indeed thinking of the original series starring Lorne Green, not the new series, in which Starbuck is Kara Thrace, and a woman. Boomer is a Cylon, so I am not sure she/it counts as a woman.
12.3.2007 10:55pm
Paul B:
An issue that has been covered here peripherally, but deserves more consideration is that lowering the physical qualifications for a strenuous job means that the men who are hired may be much less qualified than would otherwise have been the case prior to gender integration.

I know a retired battalion chief from the San Francisco FD who told me, "we made a terrible mistake by not getting more Asian and black firemen in the 1970s and 80s, and as a result, we were unable to defend ourselves when the Board of Supervisors viewed our opposition to hiring women as more of the same." SFFD is now 15% female, as compared to 1% for New York City. He went on to say that the men who were entering the fire department were far less fit than during most of his career, when a common source of recruits was from the building trades.
12.3.2007 11:10pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Bart:

"Killing efficiently is not a natural act, it is controlled barbarism. Soldiers have to be trained to become killers and to view the enemy as something less than human."


Men in pre state societies (bands, tribes and chiefdoms) were really efficient killing machines. They killed brutally and often. According to Keeler (War Before Civilization) about 95% of pre state societies engaged in continuous violence. The American Indians were more than a match for the colonists when it came to warfare. They were better because they did it all the time. Based on the kind of evidence Keeler provides, killing is indeed a natural act, and takes the restrictions of civilized society to tame the beast in us. Essentially the military reverses the inhibitions civilized society inculcates.
12.3.2007 11:23pm
Elmer:

Imagine a well trained SPEC OPS unit of females deployed alongside our regulars for the purpose of letting our enemies (especially in chauvanistic societies) believe that they were defeated by females. Hard to recruit disenfranchised males to AQ if they are being beaten by US women.

Bill Murray made essentially the same point in the early years of SNL.
12.3.2007 11:29pm
Janus (mail):
The USAF Thunderbirds epitomize current Air Force combat capability. The current show team features 33% female pilots (two of six), while females comprise less than 4% of all Air Force fighter pilots. If team selection is based on merit and statistical probability holds, then female Air Force fighter pilots are at least eight times better than male pilots.
12.3.2007 11:52pm
Alex650 (mail):
Smokey: "OK Alex, I'll play: What's the 'gain' for the combat unit?" I don't mean to be flip, but please read the post. A larger pool (so long as any member of that pool is better than the WORST member of the original pool) necessarily means the military has more to choose from.

KeithK: I appreciate your counter to my post. Two responses. First, you accept the proposition that broadening the pool helps--that was my main point, really. I'm arguing that (1) military effectiveness is the only proper objective and (2) accordingly, there should be a presumption against non-discrimination. Your point, as I understand it, is that the gain from effectively doubling the size of the recruit pool is "negligible," because women are generally unqualified for combat. I appreciate the point, but find it hard to believe as an empirical matter. We're not talking about a relatively small group: women are more than one-half of the population. To think that being able to choose from all those extra people would not be beneficial is hard to fathom, not the least because being an effective combat soldier is not primarily based on physical prowess (if we were talking about team hand-to-hand combat your position might be stronger).

My point is really that we should logically start with the presumption that non-discrimination is good, which the author of the post didn't seem to do. Personally, I think that the good arguments against women being in combat are the cultural factors--that is, they'll have a negative impact on unit cohesion and effectiveness, etc. It certainly may be that various protector instincts might kick in with the nearby males that would less combat effectiveness, especially in infantry. But is this really the case with, say, artillary or armor? Plus, we expect and encourage our soldiers to sometimes act in (short-term) irrational ways, such as risking many people to rescue a few, and that is often considered a point of pride rather than detrimental to combat effectiveness. And what about the increasingly police-like role that our military is being called on to play? Women in many cases may actually be better at certain aspects of this role. Perhaps the strongest argument against women in combat that I've heard is that they can--and often have an incentive to--get pregnant, particularly if they dislike their post. But non-PC, strict application of military law against sex within the unit could probably take care of that problem.

Whether the benefits outweigh the harms is an empirical question, and, while I obviously have a few thoughts on the matter, I admit to having no real idea which way the scales end up tilting. I'm just saying that we should start with the logically necessary proposition that non-discrimination is a benefit, and then consider particular reasons why the counterveiling harms might weigh more strongly in the other direction.
12.3.2007 11:55pm
JohnS:
Mackubin Thomas Owens addressed some of this back in 2005.

Contrary to common contention, Israel does not currently allow women in combat — they've been banned since 1948. But they have a history of integrated fighting there that we can learn from.

During the period of the British Mandate for Palestine, Palestinian Jews formed an elite, semi-clandestine, volunteer youth organization called Palmach. During Israel's War of Independence, Palmach served as the core of Haganah, the forerunner of the Israel Defense Force (IDF).

The ideology of Palmach was egalitarian socialism, and according to the Israeli military historian Marin Van Creveld, the organization "was sexually integrated to an extent rarely attained by any armed force before or since." Van Creveld writes that before Israeli independence, Palmach women accompanied men on missions, especially "undercover missions that involved obtaining intelligence, transmitting messages, smuggling arms, and the like."

Despite Palmach's ideological commitment to radical equality for women, the practical experience of the 1948 war — which involved coordinated, combined arms-offensive actions — convinced the leaders of Israel and the IDF that the dangers of women in combat outweighed the benefits — including commitment to an abstract concept of equality between the sexes. For one thing, according to the late Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, women reduced the combat effectiveness of Haganah units because men took steps to protect them out of "fear of what the Arabs would do to [the] women if they captured them."

The Israeli case demonstrates that, at least in the past, when confronted by great danger, reasonable people can sacrifice ideology to the dictates of nature. In other words, nature trumps attempts at human engineering.
12.3.2007 11:58pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Janus, you can't quite talk about a flight demonstration team and compare that to combat.

There's a very strong strain of thought in recent decades that women can be effective pilots in combat. I'm not sure I buy that line of thought because I don't think women are aggressive and sufficiently motivated to kill. Recent experience in the current war is indeterminate on this issue because there really has been no air threat. There is essentially no air war, except intermittent close air support and deep air support against virtually no air defense.

Regardless, whether they can be good in combat is not the same thing as saying they can fly planes in a circus environment.
12.4.2007 12:31am
Elais:
Bearster


3) In combat, sometimes soldiers get captured. Since we're not fighting enemies with our sense of chivalry (or any sense of morality at all), let's acknowledge what kind of hell captured female soldiers will endure. This will be typical, not exceptional.


Does chivalry come into play when it is a male soldier is capture? Men can be raped, beaten, etc too.

If a woman is physically capable of doing the job, regardless of what that is, let her. The 'hormones rule guys' as an excuse to bar women and men seems to be a cop-out to me.

It would take a while for a male-dominated culture to adjust to being able to culturally handle women and gays in the military.

The problems of pregnancy seems to be the result of not effectly screening out women who are more enamoured of the idea of serving than the reality.
12.4.2007 12:34am
theobromophile (www):

In combat, sometimes soldiers get captured. Since we're not fighting enemies with our sense of chivalry (or any sense of morality at all), let's acknowledge what kind of hell captured female soldiers will endure. This will be typical, not exceptional.

Good point, Bearster. A lot of people who advocate for gender equality forget that we are not treated equally by our captors. IIRC, the Iranian captors of the British ship threatened to rape Faye Turney (but none of the 14 men around her); she caved, none of them did. Our adversaries have a weapon to use against female captives that they simply do not have against male captives - or may have (yes, men do get raped), but are less willing and likely to use.

That aside, why not have all-women groups and all-women submarines? You wouldn't have to retrofit anything to make it accessible for two sexes; you wouldn't have the problem of sexual tension; and you wouldn't have the problem of having the few women stand out. You could have, for example, two all-women subs and 47 all-male subs, if that's how the numbers shake out.
12.4.2007 12:58am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Two all-women submarines? Good grief. So now we would have an affirmative action system to supply sufficient officers and crew to these boats?

I can see it now: "We regret to inform you that your daughter was lost at sea" because the best qualified person in a very small pool of people to select from just wasn't good enough to command the boat. There were plenty of men just as qualified as her, but they weren't given command because there were better ones to pick from. Since there are limited opportunities we're much more prone to mischance and misfortune to get good quality every time. So sorry.

There's no shortage of women with patriotism and desire to contribute. It's hard enough, though, to get good people in command without so restricting the pool of selectees for your hypothesis.
12.4.2007 1:22am
theobromophile (www):
Maybe I did not explain myself very well, because that is not what I meant. If I had to pick any phrase to compare what you wrote with what I meant, it would be, "the exact opposite."

My hypothesis would NOT limit the pool of selectees via a pre-determined number. You would simply pick off the most qualified of all the applicants, then break them up into sex-segregated units. If it happens that there are no units of women, fine. If 10% of the units are female, awesome. If it's 50/50, whatever.

I think I was pretty clear that the ENTIRE POINT of my hypothesis would be to avoid affirmative action, but some people are going to see it everywhere, even when you write, "if that is how the numbers shake out."
12.4.2007 2:07am
theobromophile (www):
To put numbers to the words, because it is apparently necessary:

Imagine that you need 1,000 recruits for a non-combat position, with 50 units of 18 to 22 recruits each. Several thousand people of both genders take intellectual and phsyical tests. At the end, gender-blind grading yields 58 women and 942 men. You would break that up into three all-female units (19, 19, and 20) and 47 all-male units.

If the numbers didn't work out so that you could fill up a full unit of with women, you would reassign them to another division and take the next batch of qualified men, as you likely would have to dig less deep into the pool to get 20 extra qualified men than, say, an additional five qualified women. Those 20 extra men may come from rank-ordered slots #1001-#1023, while the fifth women would be #1052.

Of course, the numbers here are just to illustrate the principle, but I see no reason why sex-segregated units would not be a good solution to the problems mentioned (except, of course, for combat; I do not forsee our enemies enlisting all-female troops to do battle with our female troops; this is not high school track and field).
12.4.2007 2:21am
tvk:
I think there is a bit of a contradiction between your argument and your rebuttal of your critics. Your main argument is that the presence of women undermine combat units. Your main rebuttal to the increase-recruiting-pool argument is that there aren't that many women. Obviously, if there aren't that many women, they can't undermine combat units that much.
12.4.2007 3:32am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
I remember reading where being a woman in combat had a positive effect (in the current environment).

They connect with the females in the population better.

They also shame Iraqis who are nor performing up to snuff. I mean seriously. What guy wants to be outshone in a masculine pursuit by a woman?

I understand the costs - what are the benefits? To the military.

It the current environment I think it has a lot of advantages that outweigh the disadvantages. The main one being that it give the women ideas. Our most important weapon.
12.4.2007 6:43am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
M. Simon.
Connecting with the females in a population is not combat. Connecting with the females in a population is police work. The military has already addressed that in two ways. One is to make sure that, when possible, female soldiers are in positions where interacting with females is likely (see Marine "lioness"), and the other is training local females to do the searching or whatever is necessary.

That is not combat.

Intereacting or connecting with the women in a house where there is fighting going on is a different matter. It isn't important who is screaming at them to get down and don't move.

Show of hands. How many think standards won't be lowered, again?
12.4.2007 7:44am
1gewehr (mail):
I have yet to see anyone mention the strategic argument against women in combat.

In WWI, France, Britain, and Germany suffered horrendous losses. As much as 6% of the total male population was killed. As much as another 15% was wounded in varying degrees. Yet, twenty years later, there was no lack of eligible men to draft into the armed forces of those countries. The reason is because there was not an appreciable loss in the FEMALE population of child-bearing years.

While combat losses of men cause a country to lose some of it's present, losses of young women cause a country to lose it's future. This is the basic premise behind 'Women and Children first'! It trumps ALL other considerations.
12.4.2007 7:58am
Bart (mail):
A. Zarkov (mail):


Bart: "Killing efficiently is not a natural act, it is controlled barbarism. Soldiers have to be trained to become killers and to view the enemy as something less than human."

Men in pre state societies (bands, tribes and chiefdoms) were really efficient killing machines. They killed brutally and often. According to Keeler (War Before Civilization) about 95% of pre state societies engaged in continuous violence. The American Indians were more than a match for the colonists when it came to warfare. They were better because they did it all the time. Based on the kind of evidence Keeler provides, killing is indeed a natural act, and takes the restrictions of civilized society to tame the beast in us. Essentially the military reverses the inhibitions civilized society inculcates.

I agree with Keeler that man has always been violent. The myth of the peaceful savage was always propaganda.

However, that is not what I am talking about when I refer to "killing efficiently." What I am referring to is the western way of war where the soldiers close with and systematically butcher the enemy. This is a trained way of war developed in western cultures.

I would recommend the book "Carnage and Culture" by Victor Davis Hanson on the subject.
12.4.2007 8:54am
Skyler (mail) (www):
TheoB,

The problem with your concept is that there is no such thing as the static situtation you describe. Numbers of people constantly change, people come and go on a regular basis. Such a plan as you propose inevitably will lead to quotas and putting people where they are not yet prepared, and potentially endangering the crew.
12.4.2007 9:22am
Lugo:
Why shouldn't the standards for physical strength, etc. be set in a gender neutral way, and whoever passes them is in, regardless of gender?

Because they won't be. The outcome would be politically unacceptable.

There's a very strong strain of thought in recent decades that women can be effective pilots in combat.

In recent decades, we have not had pilots shot down and spend eight years in a brutal enemy prison camp.
12.4.2007 9:30am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
In WWI, France, Britain, and Germany suffered horrendous losses. As much as 6% of the total male population was killed. As much as another 15% was wounded in varying degrees. Yet, twenty years later, there was no lack of eligible men to draft into the armed forces of those countries. The reason is because there was not an appreciable loss in the FEMALE population of child-bearing years.

But WWI was the last war in an historical anamoly--that brief period of history lasting less than 200 years--where combatant deaths outstripped civilian deaths. Certainly before the 18th century and again after WWI, and even in the 18th and 19th period in the colonial wars were the advesaries were not other Europeans or European Descendants (heck even in the Boer War), many more civilians died in war than soldiers. Even then, there have been very few wars (any?) in the history of mankind prior to the twentieth century where more soldiers died from their wounds than from disease.

Even in WWI, Britain's blockade against Germany was brutally effective and led to mass starvation. And of course don't forget the Armenian genocide, and the Russian Revolution and Civil War (a direct result of WWI) where millions of civilians died.
12.4.2007 9:39am
A.C.:
I do think people here are underestimating how violent women can be when under threat. On some random Tuesday in peacetime, sure, men will tend to be more violent than women. But every female animal turns vicious when home and family are threatened, and humans are no exception. Whether that viciousness is usable is another matter, one that depends in large part on training.

This suggests that women are more likely to have the will to kill if they are defending their homelands rather than deployed elsewhere. And, reasonably, that is when a country (especially a small one) is most likely to resort to female ground combat troops. The US is actually lucky not to have to go there. If our country were much smaller and in a different neighborhood, it might make sense to have a higher percentage of women (and perhaps older men and teenagers) trained in combat techniques to the extent of their capabilities. As it is, I'm not sure what the point would be.
12.4.2007 9:40am
john w. (mail):
1gewehr (mail)wrote: " ... I have yet to see anyone mention the strategic argument against women in combat.... losses of young women cause a country to lose it's future. This is the basic premise behind 'Women and Children first'! It trumps ALL other considerations. ..."

Actually, I did mention it way back at the beginning of the discussion, but the comment didn't generate any traction. Apparently folks here are so indoctrinated with the 'equality' meme that they have totally lost sight of the basic fact-of-life that men are expendable but women aren't.

To me, the idea of using our daughters as cannon fodder is appalling beyond words. You can't even call it 'barbaric' because that would be an insult to the barbarians. As far as I know, there has never been any society in the entire history of the human race that routinely used young women as soldiers. If such a society ever did exist, they must have become extinct very rapidly -- and it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why!
12.4.2007 10:07am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
If such a society ever did exist, they must have become extinct very rapidly -- and it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why!

See my comment above for the fallacy of your argument.
12.4.2007 11:14am
rafinlay (mail):
You might think that simply mandating a larger pool would improve overall performance, but the experience of the Vietnam-era Army does not support this. Even with theoretical access to the entire male population 18-30 years old, political considerations (deferments, reserve duty, MOS selection criteria) interfered. Standards of physical performance were lowered while I was in the infantry to avoid washing out too many. While it is nice to think that standards of efficiency would be the criteria used to select/retain people in combat arms, the armed forces are very much political organizations and the reality is that a quota-driven selection process will prevail. Today's army is much more effective than the army I knew. I will regret seeing it sacrificed for social-engineering ends.

It is also going to be very ironic when the people who see the Army as a career-advancement path to which all kinds of people should be allowed access, start crying discrimination when it turns out that those people are being killed disproportionately as part of their "career." It has happened before.
12.4.2007 11:19am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
If such a society ever did exist, they must have become extinct very rapidly -- and it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why!

Besides, western societies did not encourage plural marriages when their stock of men were depleted by war so it is not like men take multiple wives to replenish the population. In the vast scheme of things more people were killed by the flu in the waning days of WWI and immediately after than by the war itself. Disease has always been more of a limiting factor on mankind than war. It was disease, not war, that wiped out up to 95% of the population of the Americas, making its conquest infinitely easier for the Europeans.
12.4.2007 11:21am
rafinlay (mail):
Besides, western societies did not encourage plural marriages when their stock of men were depleted by war so it is not like men take multiple wives to replenish the population.

But you did see older men marrying younger women and having more babies.
12.4.2007 11:23am
Admiral Lord Nelson (mail):
This has been one of the more interesting threads, if that is the correct term, to follow and read through. There were a number of thoughtful postings, with a smattering of ideologues scattered through. My compliments to Bearster in his choice of questions to pose, as they covered many of my thoughts.

I have a couple of observations to make, or questions to pose, that he did not touch upon that I would like to offer for readers' consideration: (1) does anyone think that the idea of the necessity/desirability of gender equity in the military has anything to do with equity, or does it serve another agenda? (2) does anyone really think that gender equity in professions such as firefighting has to do prominently with equity or equality of opportunity? (3) does anyone really think that standards for combat readiness would not be watered down to accommodate females, despite the number of posters who suggested that such standards would protect unit readiness, when the currently fashionable shibboleth of "disparate impact" raised its head? (4) why is it not a court-martial and dishonorable discharge offense to (a) become pregnant while on assignment or on a mission/cruise in the military and (b) to impregnate someone while on assignment/mission/a cruise in the military [never mind the likelihood of false rape charges by females who inadvertently become pregnant?]

Lastly, while hoping that this post is not too long, let me suggest a final consideration. We have moved almost completely to a gender equity civilian society (lacking only laws for pay based on comparable worth). Men are now subjected to a steady barrage of propaganda extolling women's virtues and denigrating the value of masculinity. Some day we may just have to reinstitute a draft to enlarge our military in a survival war rather than a disciplinary war. What is the likelihood that young men of draft age will submit to, rather than resist, a draft when women are not drafted, or when they are drafted but sent to "safe" jobs and the men (continue) to be the sex doing almost all of the dying (remember that these young men will have had the "proper" way of thinking drilled into them for 12 years of primary and secondary education)? If you are a man under forty who has already had his fill of the feminist bent that our society has taken on - be honest - how many of you would give up his seat to a woman (other than a young mother with babe-in-arms) TODAY if you were in the north Atlantic on a dark night with water survival time in the 20 minute range? How many women under forty would expect a man to voluntarily relinquish his seat in the lifeboat and go and quietly and heroically die so they wouldn't have to? [You don't have to answer outloud though posted responses to this will probably be interesting - just think if you (males) would REALLY voluntarily die to save an "equal" whom you do not know and to whom you owe nothing; for the distaff reader, how many of you would expect that a man would relinquish his lifeboat seat to you, and would be dismayed if he did not.]
12.4.2007 11:25am
Lugo:
To me, the idea of using our daughters as cannon fodder is appalling beyond words.

I didn't spend three hours last night comforting a teething baby so that he could someday become cannon fodder, either...
12.4.2007 11:38am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Nelson, re: disciplinary charges for getting pregnant.

Conceivably you could court marial a woman for getting pregnant while on cruise or deployment. In general it's not likely to happen for a couple reasons:

1. The military has restrictions against fraternization, but not love. This is a subtle point, but it goes like this: If a male officer has sex with an enlisted woman he (and she) can be charged with fraternization. However, if he subsequently marries that woman then they will not charge him because the marriage is an indication that there is a deeper commitment and not a simple abuse of authority. I personally know of at least two male Marine officers who saved themselves from prosecution through marriage this way. If a woman were to get pregnant, I imagine that this would be a similar indicator.

2. As a prosecutor, just go ahead and try to convict a woman for getting pregnant. For all the talk here about equality, our society still, and rightly, has a high regard for motherhood. It would be callous indeed to prosecute a pregnant woman unless the crime were especially notorious. It just doesn't play well in public opinion and the sympathy factor for a jury would be pretty high.

So, yeah, you can do it, but it aint' likely.
12.4.2007 11:42am
john w. (mail):
Lugo wrote: " ...I didn't spend three hours last night comforting a teething baby so that he could someday become cannon fodder, either..."

I don't want my son to be cannon fodder either -- especially in a stupid, pointless, unneccessary war like Vietnam or Iraq. But the idea of sacrificing my daughter to some politician's whims is orders of magnitude worse. Civilized men lay down their lives if necessary to protect women and children. Never the reverse. That's the most fundamental moral principle that there is.
12.4.2007 11:56am
A.C.:
john w.'s comment gets at a lot of what this is about. Adult women don't like being classified with the children! This is fundamental to any argument about gender roles.

Adult women have certainly been known to sacrifice themselves for children, including male children. And they will also do it for other adult women, and even adult men that they care about. Not for men AS men, so much, but for specific men and for the continued existence of a community. Women do want to contribute to society in a wide range of ways, not only by bearing and raising children.

For this reason, the way I put this question to myself (as a woman) is whether participation in ground combat is the best way for female soldiers to contribute to any war effort. The answer seems to come out as "probably not," at least not with current technologies and in scenarios this country is likely to face. It doesn't mean that women can't go into harm's way to serve a larger social goal, but it does suggest that their roles there should be different.
12.4.2007 12:24pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
A.C. et al.

We do have different gender expectations.
Picture a news report of a car swept away in a flood. On the bank are women and men. Do we ask ourselves why the men are still on the bank? Sometimes. Do we ask ourselves why the women are still on the bank? Nope.
Whether that means women are different from men, or it's solely a cultural thing is one question. That it exists is a second issue, and what it means is a third. It cannot be ignored.
12.4.2007 12:31pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Personally, I don't like the concept of "laying down" lives. I'm a lot more in favor of taking the enemy's lives. It's a subtle point perhaps, but I don't know any of my comrades in 3/25 who died willingly. They didn't give their lives, their lives were taken. I don't know where the common sentiment of "laying down" one's life came from, but I guarantee you that I'll never do it except in the most extreme and rare situations.
12.4.2007 12:40pm
john w. (mail):
A.C.: I can't argue with your position in the reasonable way that you just expressed it. If the society is really being threatened with annilation, if the enemy were literally at the gates, I would most definitely urge my daughter to pick up her gun (which, by the way, she has known how to use since she was 8 years old) and to defend herself, her children, her neighbors, etc. ... Actually, in that scenario, I wouldn't be there to urge her because I'd already be dead or captured. ... I have no problem at all with female guerrilla fighters defending hearth &home.

But that's not the most likely scenario. In its entire history, since 1812 the USA has never been invaded nor its existence seriously threatened. Even WW2 is kind of arguable. (I suppose if you are a diehard Southerner, you might argue that your country was invaded in 1861, but let's not go there.)

Speaking from my own family experience: In WW2, my mother workled in a munitions factory. I'm sure she contributed to the killing of a lot more Axis soldiers by assembling naval ordnance that she would have by slogging around in the mud somewhere.
12.4.2007 12:54pm
A.C.:
For Richard Aubrey - If water rescue is called for and remotely feasible, and if the only person trained in doing it is female, then I would certainly expect that woman to go in first and probably to direct everyone else on how to help out. No question there -- it's a matter of skill and training rather than just brute force. Having a bunch of unskilled swimmers jump in would most likely make things worse.

Now, if it's a matter of lifting a heavy beam off a disaster victim, then it makes sense to have the strongest men pitch in first and involve others (women, older men) only if needed. Or perhaps have the men try to lift the beam off while one of the women goes to get a truck with a winch and another calls an ambulance.

Now, we all know there are women who would never take the trouble to get trained in water rescue, and who probably couldn't even drive the truck with the winch. Such women often -- how to put this delicately? -- over-rely on men for things that women really can do. And I also know men who jump in to do very ordinary things (moving furniture and changing the bottle in the office water cooler come to mind) that women do routinely when no man is around. (Hint: the men in question will never see this happening.) But that sort of thing is very different from real, physiological differences between men and women operating at the limits of what their bodies will do.
12.4.2007 1:12pm
theobromophile (www):

The problem with your concept is that there is no such thing as the static situtation you describe. Numbers of people constantly change, people come and go on a regular basis. Such a plan as you propose inevitably will lead to quotas and putting people where they are not yet prepared, and potentially endangering the crew.

Um... that would happen anyway, as men come and go, and you would need to replace them with men who aren't as well-trained, which inevitably leads to quotas.

I find it truly amazing that, when affirmative action is specifically disallowed, you insist that it is there. There is a huge difference between equal opportunity and equal results - and you insist that the former leads inextricably to the latter. Not so.


We do have different gender expectations.
Picture a news report of a car swept away in a flood. On the bank are women and men. Do we ask ourselves why the men are still on the bank? Sometimes. Do we ask ourselves why the women are still on the bank? Nope.

Richard Aubrey,

Yeah... but some of us don't like it that way! Even if we have inclination in that direction, men get all huffy when we have the audacity to do things for ourselves. Yes, without men around, we'll lift big, heavy things on our own. Eventually, though, you get tired of fighting people (i.e. men) who insist that you NOT do things yourself.
12.4.2007 1:21pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The point about the news report is that we don't know who's the trained rescuer.
We expect men to jump in, anyway, and not women. We don't expect women to stay on the bank. We just don't question that they do. We question men who do.
You want to jump, go ahead. Nobody's going to complain.
Be careful, theobromo. If you come out of a show and it's raining and you've spent the last six months pitching this anything you can do I can do at least as well at your date, and he gives you the keys and says, "I don't want to get wet and cold. Fetch the car.", you don't want to swallow more than a little bit of crow.
12.4.2007 1:56pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
TheoB, you're missing that with the decidedly smaller pool of available choices, the odds are much greater that less qualified people will need to be selected. Much more qualified men would not get command while the lesser qualified woman would get command.

It's certainly possible to go the other way too. Either way, you're using an inappropriate selection criteria determine who gets the job.
12.4.2007 2:00pm
john w. (mail):
A.C.: I'm on my lunch break now, and I have a little more time to ponder your (very understandable) objection that "Adult women don't like being classified with the children!"

I understand that under some conditions, the phrase "women &children" can sound patronizing. But the thing is that children and young (i.e. fertile) women are quite literally the future of society -- in the literal, biological sense, as well as metaphorically. And as such, you'all are simply more valuable than us men. That's all there is to it!

In principle, a society could lose 90 percent of its young men, and yet still go on and recover within a generation or so. But if it loses a sizeable percentage of its young women and/or its children, it is doomed forever.

As a historical example, look at the history of the indigenous people in Central America vs. North America after 1492. In Mexico, the Spanish adventurers came in and basically killed off all the native men and then married the women (or 'raped' the women, if you prefer.) But the point is that the women survived, and along with them, the native genes survived, and a big chunk of the native culture, and even some of the language. Mexico today, 500 years later, is basically 50:50. In North America, on the other hand, the English colonists came in and pretty much killed off *all* of the Natives, male and female alike. And hence today, North America is basically 99% Europeanized.

The point is, that even in this kind of worst-case scenario, where a society is faced with total destruction by a technologically superior adversary, if the women &children survive, the society will at least partially survive.

And I think this is especially relevant in light of the fact that, if the USA is ever seriously threatened in the forseeable future, the enemy is most likely to be the Muslim fundamentalists who are already out-breeding us like rabbits with a crack habit. Remember: When the Moors invaded Spain, the reconquista took SEVEN HUNDRED years!! Those guys are in it for the long haul.
12.4.2007 2:43pm
Toby:
A friend of mine recounts taking strong constipating agents before disapearing into the jungle in Viet Nam - you didn't want to get caught "with your pants down". Actually, he talks about returning to base, and the explosive effects of the antidote pill when taken. Specifically about urging firt timers to tak ethe pill right away rather than heading to the latrines first, and laughing at them as they sprin faser than ther knew they could.

How would some of the women in combat folks feel about stopping menstruation on war zones? Would it be a resanable requirement? It would equalize their ability to screw around, which seems so important to some. It would eliminate the ability to get "accidentally" pregnant. It would limit the tendency for a group of women to cycle together (I fear for the all female attack submarine underwater with recycled erro for several months...)
12.4.2007 3:29pm
Bill R:
To reduce the problems arising from pregnancy (induced intentionally as a "ticket out", accidentally resulting from consensual sex, or resulting from rape by either "friendlies" or "foes"), would it be reasonable to require all fertile active duty servicewomen to use oral contraceptives or a "Norplant-like" implant? This would not be dissimilar to requiring vaccinations in order to insure that members of the military remain able to perform their duties and not become a burden on their units. I'll leave it to the legal scholars here to opine about if the courts would allow this rule to be applied when it was in conflict with a member's bona fide religious beliefs.
12.4.2007 3:45pm
Bill R:
Sigh... never compose a comment, eat lunch, and then hit 'Post' without looking at recent posts :(

(Oh, and never waste people's time posting apologies for having done such... oops...)
12.4.2007 3:49pm
TOW Gunner (mail):
My major gripe about women in combat units (and ships) is that men want to bang them, and they get pregnant. That's not combat-effective. All the other issues are secondary.
12.4.2007 4:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Check out the War of The Triple Alliance.
One of the contestants, I believe it was Paraguay, lost 90% of its men between the ages of fifteen and something insane, like maybe sixty.
The numbers are so horrid that you will literally question your memory a week after looking it up.
They're still here.

Although, it does make you wonder about the ten percent who were left.
After WW I and WW II, the Brit guys, instead of looking like Arrow Shirt ads, now look like Mick Jagger and Ringo Starr.
The new frontier, there in Paraguay. Wouldn't even need money or a good tailor to have an active social life. What a nightmare.
12.4.2007 4:15pm
holdfast (mail):
TOW Gunner is pretty much right - and I'm not sure any amount of training can change the first point (or if it does, I don't think we'd like the results ("A man who won't f**k won't fight"). Also, let's not forget that in many cases the women are into a little banging themselves. At the risk of being crude(r), because the male/female ration in the military tends to be so skewed, women are able to trade up quite handily - in terms of rank, looks, etc. This of course produces its own set of resentments and jealousies

The second might be addressed by an implant of some kind, but even that will not last long enough for a long spell in a prison camp. Also, expect lawsuits and protests about "invasion of women's bodies", and some women sabotaging theirs to get preggers.
12.4.2007 6:09pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Holdfast, good point. The media doesn't generally cover the scandals involved in the huge prostitution rings that were uncovered by women soldiers/airmen/etc, in Bahrain in the first Gulf War. I'm sure the news didn't cover it because they're concerned that these women might be shamed in public or something. I'm sure there was no agenda involved in the lack of reporting on it.
12.4.2007 7:12pm
holdfast (mail):
There was a contest between two female "soldiers" at CFB Gagetown back in the late nineities. IIRC, both had to have their stomachs pumped. Yes, for the reason you are thinking - apparently there can be too much of a good thing.

It's not that guys can't get into dumb sh*t without women around, but the degree and kind seems to ramp up exponentionally.
12.4.2007 7:39pm
Smokey:
Alex650:

When you stated:
The question is whether including women in certain military roles is so disruptive as to offset the gain,
I assumed that you meant the 'gain' would be in favor of the unit's combat effectiveness.

My apologies if I misunderstood your point.
12.4.2007 7:43pm
LBG:
The race to gender analogy does not stand up. Race has no inherent strength differences. Gender does. But if you don't buy this. Before we were enlightened, we took a lot of blacks and made them their own segregated units. They fought well, admirably and gained the respect of the other units and it was easier to integrate. So, here is my proposal. Let's make some all female units. I mean, hey, we are all about social experimentation, right? So, rather than put men's lives at risk to placate the females, we can let them prove their equal ability. They can close with enemy and kill them. That is what we are talking about. So if women are equal and take not additional training or considerations then they are not going to adversely affect our readiness or capabilities. Then let's let them in. What the heck? Rainbows and ponies for everybody. I'm CERTAIN there will be no drop in efficacy and killing power. And I'm certain the men won't mind hiding behind the skirts of a female infantry platoon. Certainly on the street, men look to women and receive physical security from robbers, thugs and the like. I realize it is not PC to state the obvious, but men are so very typically, stronger and more aggressive than women. But, we can put an all female unit out and solve this argument very quickly. Don't let the body bags discourage this exciting experiment. I mean if we can experiment with men's lives, why not women? All you men that argue women are equal fighters, I wonder if you get mugged do you hide behind your wife/SO and expect her to protect you? You people are not being honest. It sounds good in the PC land but when the rubber meets the road, it is total, unmitigated crap.
12.5.2007 11:20pm
FOS:
If you get mugged do you hide behind your wife/SO and expect her to protect you?



No, but if my wife/SO were to get mugged, I wouldn't want her to HAVE TO hide behind me (or wish I was there for her to do so). I'd prefer she have the skill, nerve, and combat readiness to flay that mugger herself. The problem seems less that women can't handle themselves in situations like this, more that we indoctrinate women (and men) to believe that women can't and consequently don't bother training women to do so.

And I'm no more appalled by dying women than dying men. The argument always seems to go that ALL human life is sacred, but only until we factor in age (child or adult?), gender (woman or man?), religious or national affiliation (Non-christian or One Of Us; Not-an-American or One of Us), whether that human life is on death row or not (if you're on death row, your human life ain't so sacred no more...), etc.

Guess all life is sacred but at different rates (a child is worth 10 adults, an American is worth 1000 foreigners, ad nauseam).
12.7.2007 4:02pm
Howard257 (mail):
I don't have time to read all the comments to see if this issue has already been addressed, so forgive me if this is the case.

If not, however, may I ask why no one ever raises the most obvious question about women in combat, that is, a society that places large numbers of its most fertile females of child-bearing age is placing its biological survival in jeopardy. Simply stated, men are expendable and women are not.
12.7.2007 5:59pm