pageok
pageok
pageok
[Kingsley Browne, guest-blogging, December 5, 2007 at 5:10pm] Trackbacks
Co-ed Combat -- Some Responses to Comments:

Many of the issues raised in the comments were thoroughly explored in the give-and-take there, so I will respond only to a few comments.

Several comments dealt with the issue of endurance, and it is an important one. One commenter cited a study purporting to show a female advantage at ultra-long distances. I do not have a copy of the article cited (my university's electronic subscription to that journal begins in 1998), but the abstract indicates that men and women were matched for "56 km race time, age and training." But matching for speed and training (presumably meaning aerobic capacity) means that the most fit women would be compared against less fit men. That is, if you take the top woman in terms of speed and aerobic capacity, you would compare her not to the top man but rather to a man who had the same speed and aerobic capacity as the top woman, who would generally be quite a distance from the top man.

The difference between being able to perform a task and being able to perform it over and over again (someone mentioned repeated combat sorties) can be very important in combat. That is the reason that women in the Israeli Defense Force are not eligible for combat assignments in the Armored Corps even though they do serve as tank instructors. Experience showed that the women could not load shells over sustained periods of time, which they do not have to do as instructors but may have to do in combat.

Several commenters remarked on the story about strength and the EP-3E pilot's experience over the South China Sea. The point of that story was not that all military planes present equivalent strength demands but that strength demands can crop up when things go wrong, even if a job does not require strength when things go right (which is the same point made about the USS Samuel B. Roberts). Moreover, no matter how high-tech the aircraft, once you are shot down, you are essentially an under-armed infantryman whose obligations are to survive (and assist fellow crew members in doing so, perhaps by dragging them from the wreckage), evade pursuers, resist potential captors, and escape from captivity. The harrowing stories of many shot-down pilots suggest that physical fitness and strength can make the difference between freedom and captivity and between life and death.

The post concerning psychological sex differences drew very animated responses. Let me just say a little bit to clarify the point that I was making. When talking about physical sex differences, my point was that they are relatively easy to measure but there is not much overlap between the sexes. If that were the only issue raised by sexual integration, the sensible thing would be simply to provide sex-neutral tests of physical capacity and let the chips fall where they may -- which would result in only a small number of women being deemed eligible for combat (and probably pressure for "gender-norming," as well).

When talking about psychological sex differences related to combat, there is more overlap but these differences are also more difficult to measure. There are various psychological tests to measure such things as physical aggressiveness and risk-taking, and these tests routinely show substantial differences between men and women. Most authorities on combat behavior would agree that physical aggressiveness and willingness to take physical risks (not suicidal recklessness as some commenters suggested) are associated with combat effectiveness. If you look at settings in which differences in aggressiveness and risk-taking have real-life consequences -- that is, when people are actually risking their lives, whether for heroic or criminal purposes -- you see a much greater sex difference in actual behavior than is revealed by psychological testing.

Ideally, again, one would select just those individuals who have the mix of psychological traits that allows them to overcome fear in the face of mortal danger, to be willing to take the fight to the enemy if the mission demands it -- risking their lives in the process -- and to inflict lethal violence on the enemy when the situation calls for it. I'd be surprised to hear that anyone -- even the most ardent supporter of sexual integration -- believes that this description fits men and women equally.

That's where the lack of predictability comes in. It is a staple of the combat-behavior literature that it is often a surprise who turns out to be an effective fighter (and who doesn't). Because some people do very well in training but bomb out in actual combat, you can't count on training to weed out those who won't do well. If you believe that there is a substantially higher proportion of Xs in Group 1 than Group 2, but you cannot identify which ones are the Xs, it is rational to attempt to maximize the number of Xs by selecting from Group 1 rather than from Group 2.

One or more of the commenters made the valid point that women who want to serve in the combat arms are not going to be the "average woman." That is true, but the men who serve in the combat arms are also not "average men." There will be a selection bias operating in both groups, although no doubt the female combat volunteer would deviate more from the female average than the male combat volunteer would from the male average.

One of the problems with spreading my blog entries out over the course of a week is that it is tempting to conclude that each posting is claimed to present a sufficient reason -- standing alone -- to exclude women from combat. What I tried to do in my book, and what I hope to do with the posts on this blog taken as a whole, is to identify a number of difficulties presented by integration of women into combat roles. The ultimate question is whether the combined effect of these difficulties would predictably lead to a less-effective military.

Birch Barlow:


1) A combat position requires certain characteristics, abilities, etc.
2) Gender affects these variables, but is not the sole determinant of said variables.
3) Gender, in an of itself, is not a relevant variable. Knowing the gender of a person is not relevant when evaluating their combat capability.
4) Thus, a particular person, who happens to be a woman, may or may not be better suited for combat than another person, who happens to be a male.
5) People aren't randomly selected for combat. Even though evaluations aren't perfect, that's no excuse to just throw your arms in the air and say that no woman could possibly be strong enough to serve in combat.
12.5.2007 5:27pm
Tim Fowler (www):

If any of the people running the site read this - Could you move all of this guest blogger's post (and maybe Eugene Volokh's introductory post, and the post by the next guest blogger who is scheduled to argue the other side) in to one chain/group of posts that can be displayed on one page together. That feature is fairly commonly used on this blog and it would make sense for this debate.
12.5.2007 5:42pm
Brennan:
What counts as a "combat role"?

Are the psychological traits you identify as desirable uniformly desirable in all combat roles?

Are there any psychological traits in which women have an advantage useful in any combat roles?

Are there any combat roles where the physical advantages of males are of only marginal utility?
12.5.2007 5:44pm
Jam:
"that's no excuse to just throw your arms in the air and say that no woman could possibly be strong enough to serve in combat"

On a strictly utilitarian basis, a lot of the discussion on the above, then becomes: At what point are there enough women that can pass muster, that it ceases to be a degradation of the military?

Do you propose that since a few females will qualify a given standard that the whole army be treated as unisex?

To which lengths are you willing to go to accomodate the seggregation according to sex?
12.5.2007 5:47pm
Ari (www):
I have not been following this issue, and do not know if this has been addressed elsewhere, but according to a 2002 study by the U.S. army, women comprise about %15 of people serving in the Armed Forces.

http://www.hqda.army.mil/ari/pdf/WomenInTheArmy-DrHarris.pdf

That number is not insignificant. Removing women from combat-only roles could possibly strain the effectiveness of our military, even given the fact that women are not as physically strong as men. In essence, it would probably be better to have 1,000,000 men and 150,000 women in the army than 1,000,000 men alone.

Additionally, the study notes that

"Beginning in the mid-70s, projects on the utilization of women in combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) military occupational specialties (MOS) were conducted in response to senior Army leader questions posed to ARI. The first project addressed the question, "What percentage of women will it take to degrade unit performance?" In 1976, ARI conducted research that tested 40 companies using the Army Training and Evaluation Program (ARTEP) to measure company performance over a 3-day test period. This project was entitled Women Content in Units Force Development Test (MAX WAC). The results indicated that unit performance was not degraded by the participation of women and that women did not perform significantly worse than men. Leadership, training, morale, and personnel turbulence affected unit performance to a much greater extent than the percentage of women in the unit.

ARI conducted a second project [Women Content in the Army (REF-WAC)] to examine the effects of having women in CS and CSS units during a longer training exercise, REFORGER 77 (Johnson, Cory, Day, &Oliver, 1978). As in the first project, the CS and CSS units included maintenance, medical, military police, signal, supply, and transportation. The findings replicated those from MAX WAC that the percentage of women in a unit had little, if any, negative effect on unit performance in the REFORGER 77 scenario."

It states later on that the morale of soldiers is not significantly reduced by the inclusion of women in formerly all-male units.

I would assume that all-male combat units are more effective than gender-integrated units, given some of the issues you've already addressed. However, I think that the sheer amount of manpower (or womanpower) added by women serving in the army outweighs this objection, especially as the presence of women does not decrease the performance of men (at least in these non-combat roles).
12.5.2007 5:49pm
Birch Barlow:
"Do you propose that since a few females will qualify a given standard that the whole army be treated as unisex?"

I don't see why a soldier should or would be treated differently on the basis of sex. What's your point?
12.5.2007 5:58pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Ari, they're already excluded from combat roles. This is not a new policy.

No one has suggested removing women from combat support roles.
12.5.2007 6:05pm
TyrantLimaBean:
As an aside:


When a Navy EP-3E reconnaissance plane collided with a Chinese fighter plane over the South China Sea in April 2001, the muscular pilot had to "wrestle" the plane down to a safe landing on Hainan Island.


That pilot, Shane Osborn, was elected State Treasurer of Nebraska in 2006. I imagine he'll be Governor or in Congress within a decade.
12.5.2007 6:18pm
Tom H. (mail):
E.B. Sledge, recently deceased U.S. Marine combat veteran of the Pacific, saw extensive action at Pelilieu and Okinawa during WWII. His book, "With the Old Breed at Pelilieu and Okinawa", contains an interesting passage about Sledge observing two marines fighting with each other in a nearby foxhole. They went at for quite some time before Sledge learned the reason for their fight. Some female munitions worker back in the U.S. had kissed the packing material inside the crate (leaving her lipstick impression) and I believe a quick note to the troops. Each marine believed that her message and kiss was for them and they were fighting over the noted material. If the imprint of a kiss from a woman 13,000 miles away could cause two buddies to bludgeon each other in the face of the enemy, what affect would that woman have caused if she was actually sharing that foxhole with the two of them.
12.5.2007 6:20pm
merevaudevillian:
Any chance someone could "chain" these posts? I'd like to pass them along to some friends, and a post chain is the most efficient way to do so. Thanks.
12.5.2007 6:21pm
Birch Barlow:
"E.B. Sledge, recently deceased U.S. Marine combat veteran of the Pacific, saw extensive action at Pelilieu and Okinawa during WWII. His book, "With the Old Breed at Pelilieu and Okinawa", contains an interesting passage about Sledge observing two marines fighting with each other in a nearby foxhole. They went at for quite some time before Sledge learned the reason for their fight. Some female munitions worker back in the U.S. had kissed the packing material inside the crate (leaving her lipstick impression) and I believe a quick note to the troops. Each marine believed that her message and kiss was for them and they were fighting over the noted material. If the imprint of a kiss from a woman 13,000 miles away could cause two buddies to bludgeon each other in the face of the enemy, what affect would that woman have caused if she was actually sharing that foxhole with the two of them."

If these marines are so unprofessional that they are fighting on the job, then they obviously have no business serving in the military.
12.5.2007 6:23pm
HBowmanMD:
Birch Barlow: The physical training standards are already normed differently for women vs. men - even women and men of equal size.

Your further statement about the availability of the 'combat minded' person in a gender group is already discussed by the author - in this post. Did you bother to read it?
12.5.2007 6:25pm
frankcross (mail):
I hold open the possibility of your correctness, but I see you making a lot of assertions, some fairly wild, without any supporting evidence. Even commenters are citing to research. Maybe it's in your book, but it would help if you could give some references in your posts. Since you clearly have a conclusion here, people may question your assertions without seeing the supporting evidence. Not every fact claim, as you have many, but at least the more important ones, or something.
12.5.2007 6:31pm
Ben P (mail):

If these marines are so unprofessional that they are fighting on the job, then they obviously have no business serving in the military.


It'd be kind of hard not to when you're "on the job" 24-7 for weeks at a time like many units in WWII were.

It's stressful, people fight, shit happens. I don't think that would change, women or no.
12.5.2007 6:43pm
KenB (mail):
I haven't read all the comments to all the other posts, but one point occurs to me here. Is our goal to provide equal opportunity for women in the military or is it to, as efficiently as possible, have the most effective and lethal military possible? The second goal could well lead to a different answer from the first. When national survival and the lives of our troops are at stake, I prefer the second goal.
12.5.2007 6:49pm
Ben P (mail):
I would agree, but in my mind the relevant question is

Does that mean we impose the same physical and mental standards regardless of sex to ensure that high quality

or pre-emptively regulate based on sex because of statistical evidence regarding differences.
12.5.2007 7:12pm
Jared McLaughlin (mail):
Ari:

Interesting studies on previous integration. It pretty much squares up with what I've seen in CS and CSS. Integration seems to have been very effective. One thing to keep in mind, the numbers I've seen all indicate that in the average combat theater, 10% of personel are combat arms engaging in direct combat with the enemy. The rest is support. Integrating the 90% is a good idea, even if there is some cost, which I doubt and your studies seem to show. I think that CS and CSS are signifigantly different enough that it may be a different question. Combine that with the idea that cause x percent of reduced effectiveness in a small group may have a great impact.
12.5.2007 7:20pm
Jared McLaughlin (mail):
Birch Barlow:

You make some interesting comments. That two marines would find a reason to get into a fist fight is unsurprising. These are marines we're talking about. Fighting is a way of life, and a past time. :)
12.5.2007 7:24pm
Jared McLaughlin (mail):
Ben P:

The military does alot of things based on these sort of statistics. Consider the early discussion of the fact that generally whoever fires more rounds wins, hence we use a smaller rifle, with a smaller round, that more people are capable of shooting more rounds with greater accuracy. As I mentioned previously, alot of battlefield success is in the margins. The question seems to me to be, is the marginal benefit worth the marginal cost?
12.5.2007 7:30pm
Avatar (mail):
I'm not sure that the psychological factor is as persuasive as the physical factors.

For one thing, military volunteers are not a random distribution of the population. It's safe to assume that women who self-select into military service are going to be more aggressive and better psychologically-prepared for combat than the female average.

Additionally, all soldiers undergo a combat-indoctrination process in the form of boot camp. The purpose of basic training is not merely to condition recruits or to teach them some basic weapons skills - it's to prepare them for integration into the military command structure, to teach them to obey orders under stressful situations, and to do violence upon others. Generally speaking, we expect male soldiers to come out of basic with this indoctrination to some degree or other. Do we have evidence that women are less likely to pick up the required mental traits in basic than men are? (Or for that matter, how effective is said training for the men, too? That is to say, does going through military training have a similar effect on men's and women's suitability for combat? Does it benefit men more than women, or women more than men? These would be excellent, if somewhat difficult, questions to explore.)

Physical strength is a significant asset in a combat situation, however. Even if you're not in a position to handle the heavy machine guns, heavy ammunition, heavy rocket launchers, etc., one of the things you need to be able to do is pick up a wounded buddy and get him the heck out of the line of fire. This is significantly easier if you're a big strapping lad; it's significantly harder if the buddy is a big strapping lad and you weigh 120 pounds soaking wet.

As far as strength and physical conditioning goes, we really are faced with two possibilities - set a high physical standard, use that standard to exclude most female enlistees, and have very little gender integration of the military - or reduce the physical standards such that a significant percentage of female enlistees can serve, and live with the consequences. We've selected the latter, by and large. So far, it doesn't look like it's had a significant effect on our military's fighting readiness - though there are certainly attendant pains in the ass involved, the military is on top of most of 'em.
12.5.2007 7:33pm
lurker-999 (mail):
Just wondering: What could any country / society / civilization possibly have to fight for that would be more important than the health and safety of its young women?

On second thought, I guess it's not surprising that a society which sees nothing morally wrong with killing off unborn children would also see nothing wrong with killing off their mothers instead; it's more efficient that way.

IIRC, the late Oriana Fallacci once described War as "male infanticide, delayed by 20 years." I guess we will soon be able to drop the adjective 'male' from that phrase.
12.5.2007 7:56pm
LBG:
Let's ignore physicality. It is so obviously an issue that it need no discussion. To argue women can hump a ruck as far or as long or under the same conditions is a waste. I mean, the military has TWO sets of standards, male and female for the physical tests. If men and women were equal, we would not have male and female sports. They would compete against each other.

You can NOT discount sexuality. Men talk to each other and interact in a certain way. I coach men and women and I've found that you can push men differently than women. The author also points out in his book that men will work together towards a common goal even if they do not like each other, but women are less likely to do so. I have found that to be the case in coaching well. The social dynamics are quite different.

But there is a double standard enforced throughout the Navy. If a woman complains that her feelings are hurt, then it is taken as a serious incident. If a man complains, then he is basically branded a meow meow. So, now a female hears that and she raises a sexual harassment complaint for hearing that interaction. You think it doesn't happen? It does.

I can not speak to naval aviation but women on the ships and in the field present as we euphomisticly say, "a leadership problem." Pregnancy, sex, teasing, male fighting for the female attentions, prostitution of females on the ships, female to female sexual harassment (the navy ignores THAT one), etc. I have seen women cry under pressure. That, disgusts me. How can an officer lead her troops if she is crying because she got yelled at? They lose all respect. The fact that they say, "it is okay to cry" will force the men out that join the "manly" profession.

And the author's stance is that women do not belong in combat roles, not banished from the military. Do not confuse the arguments.

Oh yeah, back to pregnancy. I have watched women try to get pregnant to shirk their duties. Okay, I didn't actually WATCH, but you know what I mean. I had an officer tell me she was trying to get pregnant and time it such that she could leave the service early. I had one of my females tell me that many women on the ship leaving for deployment were desperately trying to get pregnant to avoid the trip. It happens, we gloss over it. This is a story the military does not want to hear or actually deal with. They have a tendency to change the questions if they do not like the answers.
12.5.2007 8:08pm
pete (mail) (www):
"prostitution of females on the ships,"

I was wondering when someone was going to bring this up. A friend of mine who was in the navy for several years said this was a big problem on one of his ships, but i had never heard anyone else mention it until now. In his case there was a female on his ship who was performing oral sex for $100 a go. She was found out when they discovered a very large amount of cash in her possession towards the end of the deployment. He claimed that was the natural result of putting horny teens and twentysomethings with spending money on a ship for months at a time with no other sexual opportunities.
12.5.2007 8:46pm
KeithK (mail):

As far as strength and physical conditioning goes, we really are faced with two possibilities - set a high physical standard, use that standard to exclude most female enlistees, and have very little gender integration of the military - or reduce the physical standards such that a significant percentage of female enlistees can serve, and live with the consequences.


Avatar, we've largely selected the second option for the military at large but the first for combat roles. We don't have evidence to show whether integration of combat roles would hut fighting readiness or not.
12.5.2007 9:01pm
LBG:
"We don't have evidence to show whether integration of combat roles would hut fighting readiness or not."

You're right. We don't. Ask how many guys want to be the test infantry unit w/ the women in it. And the "evidence" would be the body bags? This mentality kills me. In EVERY aspect of the military that we have let women in, we have changed training. NOT to make it harder and more war like and life like, but to make it easier to accomodate the women. OR, we waste valuable training time and resources going through touchy feely, training. There is evidence out there, and it is ignored. And let's talk damage control (DC) on a ship. Fire fighting in tight spaces with explosives and hazmat. Stamina and strength don't count? So this is all about making people feel good about themselves. NOT about fighting, and winning. Wrong focus people, wrong focus.
12.5.2007 9:13pm
HBowmanMD:
Another problem with (some) women in combat (especially in the Navy) is that women will deliberately become pregnant (with help, of course) and then AS SOON AS THEIR STATUS IS KNOWN, have to be transferred ashore.

This puts an unfair and inappropriate burden on male service members and is bad for unit morale and discipline. It is necessary for the health of the mother and more importantly, the fetus, since naval ships (especially anything but a carrier) have more than one physician aboard ... if they have even that. That physician is certainly not an OB/GYN
12.5.2007 9:37pm
LBG:
OBGYN. Reminds me of the USS Obrien. We called it the USS OBGYN due to all the pregnancies
12.5.2007 9:51pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
One of the things men do, and women don't, so much, is work together.
It is positively scary how fast a dozen guys put together from all over the country become a unit. And it doesn't require much effort on the part of the instructors. It's likely hard-wired from the hunting band.
At one point, in Basic, it looked as if I were in a bit of trouble with some guys from another company (I have to say it was their luck they backed off!) But a bunch of guys I had never met, from another platoon of my company came tearing out to give me a hand. They knew nothing except a guy with a green tag--long story--as they had, was in trouble.

My son played football, basketball and tennis during junior high and high school. The first two were sports for which there were cheerleaders and the post-season banquet always included both the boys' team and the cheerleaders.
So that amounted to, say, eight banquets at which I heard the cheerleading coach say, with gratification and some surprise--point being it seemed to be an exception to the expected--that the team that year had had no cliques.
And when my son's team won the conference, the banquet was particularly cheerful and I began to wonder what it would take to turn these guys into grunts. I figured about six weeks technique training. They already had the conditioning, the unit cohesion, the formal and informal lines of authority, and the knowledge of how to learn yet another thing both individually and corporately.
Additionally, there were a couple of guys who "were in it for the jersey" and had no business on the team, who avoided contact, and had no respect from the other guys. But...biggie here...when presented to the outside, the team was a unit and nobody let on there were a couple of loads. Internally was one thing, in public presentation, it was all one.
I tell you, whether you think war is normal or not, young guys are hardwired to be prepared to fight, and to do so as a small unit.
Women.... Not so much.
12.5.2007 10:10pm
Birch Barlow:
Some of you people are stuck in the 1920s.

So, according to you people, men and women can work together just fine in a law firm or a hospital, but if you put them on a ship, the women will start turning tricks. I am shocked, shocked, to see such outright snobbery and elitism from the readers of a law blog. And don't give me that crap about how fighting is different. Apparently you people have never been to a jiu-jitsu academy where men and women spar and wrestle without acting like Beavis or Butthead.

I do not doubt that men are much better suited for combat than women, on average. However, there are also some women out there that are better suited for combat than some men. If your goal is to select the BEST soldiers, then automatically disqualifying 50% of the population clearly impedes this goal. Obviously, this means that evaluation of potential soldiers should be conducted without regards to gender.
12.5.2007 10:39pm
frankcross (mail):
One of the things men do, and women don't, so much, is work together.

This is embarrasing and stereotypes the defenders as misogynists. The professor supporting the arguments needs to disclaim this sort of position, because it results in the demeaning of his arugment about women in combat. Women work together just fine in small groups. In my MBA class experiences, women contribute to small groups exactly as well as men, and the group members so attest.
12.5.2007 10:49pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Birch Barlow,

I don't know about law firms' women turning tricks. Are you sure that they don't? :)

The differences would be that not only is the supply/demand ratio aboard ship or in Bahrain (where a very large prostitution ring was operating in the barracks in the first Gulf War), or other military environments pretty low, but a person working in a law firm has a private life that is treated as though it's no one's business. They can go home and do as they please.

In the military, and most emphatically in a combat unit, there is no such thing as privacy. You poop side by side in the same hole you just dug often while everyone is watching. If you don't think there would be problems with 18 year olds isolated in an austere environment far from home in mixed gender units, you really do not understand 18 year olds or people at all.

Whereas the nation has for better or for worse decided that the disruption this causes in combat support units is worth taking, we have also forbid this integration where it matters most to maintain discipline and maintain high individual standards of physical capability.

We're not stuck in the 1920's. You're living in a fantasy world.
12.5.2007 11:07pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
I have enjoyed this topic all week and had nothing to add to any specifics, so i refrained from commenting.

Let me add to the discussion that I understand both sides of the issue. I understand that we do not want our Moms are future Moms fighting and risking their lives. But, I also understand that women want to serve our country. In the end, I would allow women to volunteer for any duty they are physically capable of doing. Israeli wone have shown us all how effective women can be in the fight, and I have no doubt American women would too if given the chance.
12.5.2007 11:19pm
HBowmanMD:
Birch Barlow: I know of at least a few (female) partners who walked their way to the top on their knees. The distinction is perhaps the recompense, not the act.

But be that as it may, there is a bit of difference between (say) a US Naval ship thats at sea for 30 plus days at a time (between port calls), with the crew standing 1 in 3 watches, and working (even as junior associate) in a law firm.

On a ship, there is no place to go for lunch with the girls (there is only the ship, and the crew). There is no 'home', there is only the berthing spaces. There is no day off, except perhaps in port or steel beach.

Clearly you've never served. Why do you think that you're qualified to comment?
12.5.2007 11:23pm
HBowmanMD:
FrankCross:

Funny, in my MBA group the women couldn't give, or take, direction without 'discussing' it to death. No matter how trivial or how important, every single issue had to be argued over, for no good reason.

Women in the military learn to take orders, and even give them, but its not natural for them.

In the military (BTW, I was a line officer, I had command authority) that can't happen, EVER. When an order is given, it must be obeyed instantly (unless the order itself is unlawful).
12.5.2007 11:27pm
Birch Barlow:

Clearly you've never served. Why do you think that you're qualified to comment?


Because unlike you, I understand rudimentary statistics. (Hint: read up on over-lapping bell curves) Also, unlike you, I am not so arrogant as to assert that there is not or ever will be a single woman in this country that is qualified to serve in combat. Good day.
12.5.2007 11:55pm
Birch Barlow:
HBowmanMD: My last comment crossed the line and I apologize. I agree that men are better suited than combat for women. I merely assert that there may be some women who are qualified to serve in combat. I want the best PEOPLE to serve our military. Arbitrary excluding all women from combat artificially limits the applicant pool. I trust our military commanders' ability to select the best PEOPLE for the job.
12.6.2007 12:17am
Skyler (mail) (www):
I think the issue that is being looked past is this: We don't want the best individuals. We want the best teams.
12.6.2007 12:42am
Avatar (mail):
Good points. There are also other factors to consider - there's certainly a benefit in enlarging the potential recruiting pool, though there's also the question of just how "enlarged" it is. (Additionally, there's the difficult political question of the draft, should one have to occur. If women can be accepted into military units, then for what reason should they not be compelled into them, just as men are? But we don't see anyone pushing for a universal draft, even though there's the potential to free millions of fighting men for the front - even if you keep women out of combat roles, there's a lot of REMF slots to fill!)

Actually, since we're here on a law blog, there's a question - couldn't a potential draftee (in a draft situation, doubtless standing issues would prevent a charge from being brought out of the blue) sue the government, on the grounds that the draft unfairly discriminates against men? Using the argument that women cannot be excluded from military service on the grounds of their gender?

There's another difficult question that hasn't been brought up. This may not have been a big deal against the Russians, but to put it bluntly, a significant fraction of the people a US soldier is expected to fight are, well... not very nice young men in their teens and twenties, most of which don't have a romantic partner. The issue of atrocities against captured soldiers gains an entirely new dimension when we are talking about women.
12.6.2007 12:48am
Dave D. (mail):
...You dance with who ya brung, Mr. Barlow. Our military commanders don't get to pick and choose, they get sent whats available. They make do.
..That women use sex on the job to advance and gain advantage isn't a secret, many brag about it. They curry favor of men, especially men in power. Priveleges thereby gained constitute the unseen awards recognized by others but often, not by the management. If you worked in a small coed unit you would see that. Or maybe not, but you be affected by it whether you saw it or not. And this is not a flaw, or an abberation, it's baked in the cake. Your fantasy bell curve relies upon extraordinary efforts and attributes by the few females capable of doing a mediocre mans work. And that is rare as woodpecker lips. Hardly the kind of thing to stake your life on.
12.6.2007 1:06am
holdfast (mail):

"Because unlike you, I understand rudimentary statistics. (Hint: read up on over-lapping bell curves) Also, unlike you, I am not so arrogant as to assert that there is not or ever will be a single woman in this country that is qualified to serve in combat. Good day."


Clearly you do not understand efficiency - let's assume that there are 250,000 pure infanteers (Mech, Light, Airborne, Ranger and Marine) in the US military. Let's assume that there a 1000 women who are qualified to be good infanteers (ie better than 49% of the current male infantiers - why would you want to add to the low end of the curve - that's not a net gain). Is it really worth all the time, disruption and expense involved in integrating the infantry to accomadate those 1,000 kick-ass females? How much are hurt feelings worth? Maybe if the military's resources were unlimited it would (but clearly they are not). The military's job is to provide the best, most efficient defence that money and lives can buy. Given that, doesn't it make sense to assign these extraordinary women to the MPs or some other MOS where they will likely excel?

Couple of other thoughts - CS or CSS troops may have to fight to defend themselves or their convoys, bases etc, especially in places like Iraq where there is no "front". Many women in Iraq have done so sucessfully (some have failed miserably), and the rate of success can likely be improved with better training, ie ambush drills, realistic weapons training (engaging targets from on top of a moving vehicle etc). The upshot is that these troops need to fight if attacked - and should be trained to do so.

Now the job of the combat arms is a whole 'nother ball of wax - they are charged with seeking out the enemy and putting a bullet in his eye and a bayonet up his ass. They don't avoid or deter trouble, they seek it - they are trouble made manifest. Whereas in convoy defence, the enemy will generally come to you, on the attack, you have to take yourself and all your gear to the enemy, who will be sitting, well rested, in his nice little revetment behind his nice little machine gun, while the attacker (the poor bloody infantry) will be tired, dirty and hot just from getting there. And THEN he has to attack a prepared defence.
12.6.2007 1:13am
Skyler (mail) (www):
"Infanteers?"

I hope that was a typo.
12.6.2007 1:20am
LBG:
A lot of the loudest proponents of women in combat will never be shot at. Will not have their lives dependent upon their fellow sailors, soldiers, airmen or marines. This is an academic argument for them for which their little hearts beat and their chest swells in response to fighting the good fight against those evil conservative men. I have seen women do well, and I have seen them fail miserably. But the women that served well, still had special considerations that the men did not have. My men could load our gear, deploy and do more work than my women. My women cried when given orders they didn't like, my men did not and oh, BTW, a couple of my men would then go do the women's work if they were crying just to get it done. And still, this whole argument is about individuals, not teams. Teamwork wins battles. And before women came in, we did not have to take so much sensitivity training. If they had to adjust to men, testosterone, type A aggression, warrior mentalities which we like and try to foster in the military instead of trying to smooth out the warrior into a gentle huggly snuggly civilian type it would be relatively easier to handle. But women have dropped the sexual harassment/assault claim to get out of their duty or out of trouble. I've seen 4, FOUR false rape/assault claims in 10 years, but seen ZERO real assaults. I'm not saying it doesn't happen but we gear up to protect all these helpless women with tons of rules and double standards, etc and then we are asked to take seriously the thought of women in combat?! Go back to your civilian world, elect people to Congress that understand killing people is hard work that requires a toughness and togetherness not seen at your cocktail parties or law firms and only send us to do the job when you really are prepared to see people die. It is not a push button Nintendo job. Gulf War 1 was a blip on the radar, it was not real. OEF and OIF are more what happens. Jessica Lynch was raped anally and beaten until all of her limbs were broken. And, oh, yeah, she didn't fire her weapon once. She sat there and cried. Statistics and best individual mean nothing until we can train women as men w/o fear of a freaking lawsuit because their wittle ears were hurt and their feelings were bruised. But Birch, I feel your passion. Let's get a whole platoon of women, and YOU get to go out with them too. You can place your life in the hands of these oh so outstanding women. Have fun dude. I guarantee you will see stuff you never thought would happen. I bet you the platoon will have women servicing the other platoons too. Everywhere I go, I see the same damned things and we ignore it for political expediency. Cowardice is another name for it. Fear of the truth because it does not align itself with civilian norms, but then again, neither does running towards gun fire.
12.6.2007 7:33am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
frankcross. "Misogyny". That's the default position of those who have no argument left. If not that, then "racist", "homophobe", or the all-purpose "hate".
Based on experience, dude.
BTW, what's the difference between a stereotype and reality? When they both refer to reality, calling it a steretype is kind of dumb, don't you think?
12.6.2007 7:42am
Birch Barlow:
So to sum up:

1) No one has refuted my argument that a subset of the female population is capable of serving in combat, without any special privileges or treatement.

2) I argue that male and female soldiers are professional enough to work together cohesively as do males and females in any other profession. Others argue that male and females soldiers working together would lead to widespread prostitution, false rape claims, etc.
12.6.2007 8:30am
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
Selection bias? When I was a draftee in the military, the leftovers became the riflemen. Anyone who had a choice (or, we smugly thought, the brains) opted for an MOS that was safer, or more interesting, or had more opportunity in the real world. There were few who actually chose to be 11B's.

The volunteer army may have changed that, but I suspect 11B is still the default. And it probably would remain so for men. (Remember Catch-22--anyone who volunteers for combat is crazy.) Of course, while the discussion seems to focus on the 11Bs, you also have the officers to remember. Certainly the demands and qualities on them are different than on EM's.
12.6.2007 8:44am
Lugo:
No one has refuted my argument that a subset of the female population is capable of serving in combat, without any special privileges or treatement.

Several people in this thread have decisively refuted this argument!

But have fun with your abstract theories, since you'll never be in the mud with the reality.
12.6.2007 8:53am
HBowmanMD:
Birch Barlow: I dare say I have a better understanding of statistics than you. Further, nobody is saying that some woman somewhere, is more physically and psychologically qualified for combat than some men. That isn't the issue.

The issue is simply this: There is no way to discern, short of actual combat, to tell who will be good or bad. However, statistically speaking, there are more men in the cohort of potential 'good for combat' pool than there are women. So, when it's necessary to expend resources to locate and train soldiers, it's more efficient to train from the cohort that is more likely to produce good soldiers.

Further, the absolute number of females who are qualified to even begin. Google "ModernWarriorsCombatLoadReport.pdf CAAT report" (I can't seem to get a link to work) and read this report that the Army commissioned to determine exactly what the typical infantryman carries into combat:

You can see on page 23 that the average rifleman carries a minimum of 63# of gear with him consisting of just uniform, basic weapon and ammo, and body armor, for 36% of body weight, and up to 127# of ammo and gear for 71% of body weight.

While there are a few women, who after basic training, could carry those loads, there are many men (at least all the riflemen in the US Army, and presumably the US Marines) who can.

It would be nice to reduce the load that the grunts carry, but what has happened consistently since at least the end of the Spanish-American war is that while certain items may reduce the load carried, the troops wind up carrying more or other gear, and the total load goes up, not down.

And considering the environments that soldiers have to operate in, there is little hope that technology will provide a method to assist troops in moving this gear into contact with the enemy (unless anti-gravity is developed).

Also, please note that these troops were in Afghanistan, with some of the worst terrain in the world to fight on, and the loads are already stripped to the absolute minimums possible.

I submit that if we measured a typical cohort of (say) 18 year old high school seniors, out of 1000 males I could find 400 males who could be physically trained to these levels, and I doubt that you could find even 100 females who could be able to. Further, I doubt that you could find 50 women who would be willing to even TRY to do it.

As far as women working professionally, I submit that it's already been shown via the Navy's experience with female sailors who deliberately become pregnant so they can avoid sea duty demonstrate that it's not possible. They don't like sea duty, so they get themselves pregnant (and prostitution and rape are not part of it), and are immediately reassigned to shore duty - which requires their replacement with (most likely) a man, whos life is disrupted: They have less chance for shore duty than women, they have less chance for service schools or career-broadening experience that the women get, simply because they're ashore.

A woman can work pregnant in a law office, but even in that benign environment considerable accommodations are made - extra understanding for the biological changes that pregnancy induces, changes that are difficult or impossible to accommodate in combat. A woman that needs to urinate frequently due to bladder pressure, for example, cannot be accommodated in combat.
12.6.2007 9:15am
Jam:
"No one has refuted my argument that a subset of the female population is capable of serving in combat, without any special privileges or treatement."

That has been thoroughly discussed.

There are some but their numbers are so low (the capable females attempting to join the military) that the question became/becomes: how much affort/resources to spend in accomodating the females? An unisex military?

"I don't see why a soldier should or would be treated differently on the basis of sex. What's your point?"

Bathroom, sleeping quarters, medicine (female issues), uniforms/body armor (male/female have different body shapes).

My experience in a team environment has been, primarily, sailboat racing. During the periods of long tacks, with nothing else to do, we would joke around. It would, very often, turn into a very intense, ruthless, teasing of different people. My oldest brother quit racing because he finally could not take it any more. Why? If the bantering got under your skin it was like shark smelling blood. And yet, when there was action, we all, in a blink, become cogs in a machine, doing what was required. If you needed help because something happened, you would get the help. But you had better pull your weight. You had a job to do, which included picking up other's slack if necessary.

With girls in the mix ... no, it would not have worked.
12.6.2007 9:50am
Greg (www):
Google "ModernWarriorsCombatLoadReport.pdf CAAT report" (I can't seem to get a link to work) and read this report that the Army commissioned to determine exactly what the typical infantryman carries into combat

From the report, page 2:


The dismounted Infantryman continues to be over-burdened while conducting modern combat operations. The excessive weights that U.S. Army light Infantry forces are carrying on their backs in Afghanistan are neither the fault of poor unit discipline nor Soldiers taking too much gear into operations. The fault lies in the fact that these Soldiers are carrying mission essential equipment that simply weighs too much. The excessive weights on the backs of these fit Soldiers, coupled with the harsh environments found in Afghanistan, prove detrimental to maximizing Soldier performance. Despite units going to great lengths to minimize the loads that their Soldiers are carrying while still ensuring that they could accomplish their assigned combat missions, the weight of the Infantryman's combat load is far too great and considerably exceeds the upper envelopes established by Army doctrine.


It would be nice to reduce the load that the grunts carry

Actually, what the report says is that:


If an aggressive Soldier equipment weight loss program is not undertaken by the Army as a whole, the Soldier's combat load will continue to increase and his physical performance will continue to be even more severely degraded by the loads that he carries in the world's harshest environments.


Not, nice, but essential.
12.6.2007 10:15am
HBowmanMD:
Greg, the fact is that the Army has been trying to reduce the load the infantryman carries for more than 100 years.

In that 100 years, the load has increased.

It would be nice to reduce the load carried. It certainly doesn't seem it can go up much. But the smart money is that it will go up, not down. There are always more weapons that need to be carried than there are offsetting gains via reducing the weight of the stuff already carried.

The average total load carried by an infantryman in WWII in combat is less than the basic load (weapon, ammo, water, armor) carried today.
12.6.2007 10:34am
Greg (www):
But the smart money is that it will go up, not down.

Well, the author of the study YOU cited says:


If an aggressive Soldier equipment weight loss program is not undertaken by the Army as a whole, the Soldier's combat load will continue to increase and his physical performance will continue to be even more severely degraded by the loads that he carries in the world's harshest environments.


According to the author YOU cited, it wouldn't be "nice" for the weight to go down, but it is ESSENTIAL. Here's the report so you can read the whole thing again. Here's an interesting quote that starts off the report:


"On the field of battle man is not only a thinking animal, he is a beast of burden. He is given great weights to carry. But unlike the mule, the jeep, or any other carrier, his chief function in war does not begin until the time he delivers that burden to the appointed ground…In fact we have always done better by a mule than by a man. We were careful not to load the mule with more than a third of his weight."
S.L.A. Marshall, The Soldier's Load and the Mobility of a Nation, 1950


You can read their recommendations for reducing the weight, again, on pages 87-95.
12.6.2007 11:13am
Waldensian (mail):

Moreover, no matter how high-tech the aircraft, once you are shot down, you are essentially an under-armed infantryman whose obligations are to survive (and assist fellow crew members in doing so, perhaps by dragging them from the wreckage), evade pursuers, resist potential captors, and escape from captivity. The harrowing stories of many shot-down pilots suggest that physical fitness and strength can make the difference between freedom and captivity and between life and death.

Your arguments regarding women in combat aviation continue to be extremely weak.

Having totally, utterly struck out with the "you need manly strength to wrestle the controls of the plane" argument, you now move to the "what about when they get shot down" argument.

First of all, it's at least a slightly better argument, although that's not saying much. And it still fails to convince.

You say that "physical fitness and strength can make the difference."

First, women can have plenty of "physical fitness." Their excellent long-distance running capability would seem to be relevant here, no?

Second, tell me some of these "many" stories demonstrating that a shot-down man was able to save himself or another only because he had strength that a physically fit woman would obviously have lacked. Hint: the Scott O'Grady "no Rambo ... scared little bunny rabbit" experience won't be to your liking.

With all due respect, when it comes to women in combat aviation, I think you just have no clue what you are talking about. First you display a total ignorance of how modern combat aircraft work, which is actually kind of important to know if you plan to go around implying that women can't fly damaged airplanes as well as men. Now you argue about how they will perform worse when shot down, all based on anecdotal evidence, and you don't actually provide.... any anecdotes.

What's so interesting about all this is that for the Navy (and I suspect, but don't know, for the Air Force too) this entire debate appears to be ancient history. Women have been flying combat aircraft off of carriers for some time now. They appear to be functioning very well in that role, even assuming leadership positions. The Navy seems to think having women in combat aircraft is a good idea, and if the Navy is wrong then by now, there ought to be some evidence that women are performing poorly in that role.

I'm not aware of any such evidence. Are you?

I don't think I would be blogging about how women shouldn't be combat pilots if I didn't have any evidence whatsoever to support that claim, but that's just me.
12.6.2007 11:42am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
lurker-999 wrote:
Just wondering: What could any country / society / civilization possibly have to fight for that would be more important than the health and safety of its young women?

Start with the list of things to fight for that are more important than the health and safety of its young men.

Sure, if it's necessary to repopulate fast you can do it better with an imbalance of more women. How many of the countries that lost a lot of a generation of young men in WWII turned to polygamy to repopulate? (I've heard many anecdotes that men who didn't go off to WWII -- too young, medically unqualified -- had social advantages, as did the young men in the Army of Occupation in Japan before and during Korea, but that's not necessarily a net gain to society compared to the years or lives of the other young men who were no longer competing for the same affections.)

Yes, pregnancy is an issue, and more so even than men marrying and having children to dodge the draft. I'm sure it can be dealt with. We've long held that servicemembers don't own their bodies, that can be extended to contraception; at a minimum pregnancy can be severely disincentivized. (I don't have a problem making not getting a pregnant a requirement for combat eligibility.)

Marines getting into a fistfight isn't necessarily a bad thing, as discussed. Is ship-board prostitution necessarily bad? (Some say this is a libertarian blawg.) If a sailor would rather have a blowjob than $100, hasn't he increased his utility if he can make that exchange?
12.6.2007 12:09pm
holdfast (mail):
(link)Birch Barlow:
So to sum up:


1) No one has refuted my argument that a subset of the female population is capable of serving in combat, without any special privileges or treatement.


But we have astablished that that subset is so vanishingly small as to make its employment inefficient and disruptive in the extreme, for very little gain besides making you and the femminists feel good.

2

) I argue that male and female soldiers are professional enough to work together cohesively as do males and females in any other profession. Others argue that male and females soldiers working together would lead to widespread prostitution, false rape claims, etc.


And I would argue that most 18 year olds are, at least at times, a bunch of horny morons. And as someone who has instructed mixed-gender basic traning, I mean this in the nicest way possible. Members of the opposite sex are intriguing, distracting, annoying, enticing etc - it is supposed to be that way, but those are not things you want in a combat unit. And since there will ALWAYS be more males than females, the dynamic is much worse than at a law firm where the sex ratio is pretty even, at least among the associates.
12.6.2007 12:09pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Chesler, no one cares if someone gets sexual activity or someone else gets money. What matters is the effect on discipline.

Even if there is no favoritism for sexual favors, the suspicion will always be there. This disrupts the cohesion of the unit.
12.6.2007 12:27pm
anonthu:
"No one has refuted my argument that a subset of the female population is capable of serving in combat, without any special privileges or treatement."

There's no doubt that some small percentage of women could make good combat soldiers. But that's not the issue. The real question is, how would their inclusion affect the overall strength/effectiveness/lethality of the combat force?
12.6.2007 1:02pm
Dave D. (mail):
....It would seem Mr. Barlows arguments have traction in any situation where you can say " I quit ", or " I'm taking a break ", or where you can call in sick today.
..That woman are weaker and less fit for combat will never be proved to his satisfaction, his satisfaction being the future indefinite and not the past proven.
12.6.2007 1:14pm
HBowmanMD:
Greg, you seem to keep missing the point. That recommendation is ALWAYS being made.

It is NEVER being achieved. Equipment is made lighter or superfluous (mess kits, for example) and the soldier is either directed to load up with more different gear, or chooses to because one of the things that it's difficult to have too much of in battle is ammunition.

The track record over the last 100 years of everyone's military is that the weight of the gear goes up. Current load carrying equipment, for example, collectively weighs less than the gear carried in WWII. The M16 rifle with basic ammo load weighs less than the M1 Garand of WWII also. However, these days the troops not only have to carry that less heavy M16, they have to carry it with a variety of optics that make the weight about even to the M1, but they ALSO have to wear their 40+ lbs of body armor, that really didn't exist in WWII (except for some poor examples used by aircrews).

The average combat load carried today by a soldier is about equal to the 'emergency' load carried by the airborne troops during the D-Day jump. Those troops carried around 90-100 lbs of gear plus their parachutes, a rifleman carries 95 and an assistant M240B (7.62mm medium machinegun) gunner carries more than 120 lbs, or more than the WWII jumpers had including their parachutes. Other infantry company soldiers carry more than that.

The report can 'suggest' or 'recommend' or 'strongly demand' that the weight be lessened but it won't magically make it happen. The historical evidence is that the weight will continue to increase. How far it can continue is an interesting question - but only further increases the difference between men and women
12.6.2007 2:21pm
LBG:
HBowmanMD:
I just want to go do leg presses and leg extensions after reading that post. It can not go much higher, the human body does have it's limits. According to Birch, though, women can hump these loads no problem. I just have to shake my head on that one.
12.9.2007 11:37am