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[Kingsley Browne, guest-blogging, December 5, 2007 at 9:18pm] Trackbacks
Co-ed Combat -- Combat Motivation:

With Eugene's assistance, I have attempted to link all of these related posts together. We'll see if I have been successful.

My last post discussed some average psychological differences between the sexes. This post will discuss potential effects of these and other differences.

The "free rider" problem is potentially huge in combat. It is entirely rational from a selfish perspective for a soldier to keep his head down out of the belief that any minuscule effect that his battlefield actions might have on the outcome of the battle is far outweighed by the potential loss of his life. What really needs to be explained is not the fact that there are free riders but rather that there are so few of them. The explanation lies, in part, in the fears and motivations of soldiers.

Men going into combat for the first time face an array of fears. Among them, of course, are the fear of being killed or seriously injured. Some commentators have also identified a fear of killing, although it's not clear that "fear" is the proper word to describe the reluctance to kill often exhibited by western soldiers.

These fears -- fear of death, fear of injury, and fear (or at least reluctance) to kill -- are negatively motivating, and they are likely to affect men and women differently. Women's greater fear of death and injury and greater aversion to physical risks are likely to affect their combat performance negatively. Just being in a war zone is considerably more stressful to women than to men. A study of male and female support troops in the Gulf War, none of whom had seen combat, found that women reported significantly more psychological stress than men, especially stress in anticipation of combat.

Empathy also has negative effects, as it not only engenders a reluctance to kill but is also associated with greater guilt for having killed. Some reports coming back from Iraq suggest that women are suffering higher levels, and a more severe form, of PTSD than men are.

Perhaps surprisingly, fear of injury and of death are not the greatest fears that soldiers face going into battle (especially for the first time). A recurrent feature of military memoirs is that fear of cowardice dwarfed the fear of injury and death. As Samuel Stouffer's study of the American soldier in World War II found, showing cowardice in battle brought not just censure for cowardice itself; even more powerfully, "to fail to measure up as a soldier in courage and endurance was to risk the charge of not being a man." The fear of not measuring up as a man is highly motivating, but it is not one that motivates women.

In thinking about the relative suitability of the sexes for combat, one might think about real-life situations in which individuals have a choice whether to engage in activities that involve a combination of relevant traits -- such as fear, risk-taking, and physical aggressiveness. For example, who are the people who foil robberies, chase down purse snatchers and carjackers, and rescue others from criminal assaults? The answer is that these people are overwhelmingly men.

Combat Courage and "Defining Bravery Down"

If one of the primary motivators of men in combat is the need to prove their manhood and the need to maintain the respect of their comrades, one must ask what motivates women in combat? Surely, it is not the need to prove their manhood (or their womanhood, for that matter). As for respect of their comrades, women can maintain it at a much lower level of courage than men can, a fact that has substantial implications for the level of combat courage that one might expect to see from both women and men.

Aristotle wrote that "a man would be thought a coward if he had no more courage than a courageous woman." That may seem a gratuitously chauvinistic comment, but it captures an important truth. How often does one even hear of a woman referred to as a coward? The dictionary defines "cowardice" as "disgraceful fear or timidity." We do not decline to label women cowards because women do not display fear or timidity. Instead, we do so because we do not find women's fear or timidity disgraceful in settings in which we would see disgrace in men.

Because of the strong norms of equality in combat groups, if lesser courage is expected -- or at least accepted -- from women, that fact is likely to define bravery down for all. In his book "Hero or Coward," German military analyst Elmar Dinter observed:

We should never forget that the average soldier would really like to run away from the fighting. The group prevents him from doing this. If group morality allows for an "honourable" means of flight, it will be accepted gratefully.

Exactly this dynamic may have been in play in 2004 when a mixed-sex platoon of reservists refused a direct order to drive a fuel convoy, although the Army's reticence about the incident compels one to rely on (perhaps unfair) speculation. The reservists argued that it was a "suicide mission" because their trucks were not armored. News reports did not indicate who the ringleaders of the mutiny were, although it came to light when a female specialist left a message on her mother's voice mail asking her to "raise pure hell."

One could easily see how the sex composition of the group could have contributed to the incident. Expressions of unwillingness by female soldiers would give cover to the men to go along. By supporting the women who did not want to take on the mission (if that is what happened), the male soldiers could convert in their minds a cowardly refusal to take on a dangerous mission into a brave -- even honorable -- willingness to accept discipline to "protect" the women. The mission may be aborted, but honor within the group would be preserved.

Even if women actually were as courageous as men, they are not expected to be. That lower expectation of their courage -- irrespective of their actual levels of courage -- would almost inevitably result in reduced combat performance.

My next post will discuss the effect of sexual integration on cohesion and trust.

Muskrat (mail):
I'm not saying you're wrong, professsor, but you use "Exactly this dynamic may have been in play in 2004" -- followed by a paragraph that is explicitly a guess as to what happened ("One can easily see," what "could" have happened...). If that's your best example, that's not great.
12.5.2007 9:57pm
Bama 1L:
What really needs to be explained is not the fact that there are free riders but rather that there are so few of them.

How things change! When S.L.A. Marshall published Men against Fire, the mystery was how there could be so many free riders.

Why don't you tell us how many free riders you think there are? Marshall's conclusion was that about 90% of WWII riflemen were free riders.

And you really, really need more data on the 2004 truck incident to draw from it any conclusions at all.
12.5.2007 9:58pm
Linus (mail):

Marshall's conclusion was that about 90% of WWII riflemen were free riders.


As I'm sure you're aware, Marshall has been extensively criticized for these conclusions, not just because of their implications, but for their inaccuracy. Just off the top of my head, Dave Hackworth's About Face, Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers (I know, I know, Ambrose has his own problems), Doubler's Closing With the Enemy, etc. all believe that Marshall's claims were sensationalized
12.5.2007 10:10pm
Dave D. (mail):
....The world trade center attack killed 343 NYC firemen. Since only 27 out of roughly 11,000 FDNY are women, about 2/10 of 1%, that none were killed may be a factor of fate. But 17.4% of NYPD and an unknown but significant number of Port Authority Police are women, and 60 cops were killed on 9-11 and one, or two, were women. The professors' observations of womens hesitation to enter into danger parallel my observation of 32 years of police work. Frankly, I don't see this as a flaw.
12.5.2007 10:24pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It also happens that Marshall's notes for his book exist, except for that particular subject.
My father, who fought in the ETO as an Infantry platoon leader, disagrees strongly.

Some of the folks who point to Marshall take the position that this means the soldiers didn't want to kill. Not that they were free-riding as a matter of self-preservation.
Since we didn't have flashless powder at the time, even in daylight, firing would give away your position. (The Germans did have it.) So supporting fires were preferable until the last moment. My father's company had a terrible fight one night, covering a city block. The elements facing in one direction shot up a storm and the elements facing perpendicular in other buildings never had a target. Free riding?
However, even if true then, it's not true now and hasn't been for some time.
12.5.2007 10:26pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Muskrat. The point is speculative to begin with. The idea that one could never find a real-world version of a controlled experiment does, indeed, give scoffers room to insist it could never, ever be true.
But that doesn't mean it isn't true.
Just that it can't be proven. Only pointed at.
12.5.2007 10:30pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Marshall, as I recall of his writing, would have agreed with the conclusion here. If the 90% figure is correct, that bolsters the argument made here because that 90% is free-riding but still participating due to peer pressure. The point I got from this essay is that the presence of women would lessen the peer pressure to continue fighting. If indeed the 90% figure is correct, and I don't think it is because I never saw any free riders in my battalion in Iraq, then it's even more critical to not give these free riders an excuse to quit.
12.5.2007 10:43pm
Cory J (mail):
I'm really enjoying following this thread, but I'm afraid I don't have anything to add except opinion.

However, the "free riding" problem reminded me of this Onion article I thought I'd share. Since these posts have generally turned somewhat hostile, hope no one minds a little humor.
12.5.2007 11:31pm
Cory J (mail):
...and by "thread" I mean all the posts on this topic. So thanks to Prof. Browne. Sounds like an interesting book.
12.5.2007 11:32pm
Justin (mail):
Why oh why is there a next post?
12.5.2007 11:42pm
Lev:
I don't know if has been covered, if it has...never mind.

But didn't the Israeli Army have coed combat units for a while?
12.5.2007 11:53pm
StephenC (mail):
One of the problems briefly mentioned in this last article which went unnoticed is the PTSD differences in men and women. Anyone with a speck of observation and a child of both sexes knows that girls (and the women they become) are psychologically invested in relationships more than boys (and the men they become). My daughter chooses to obey my rule (don't do such-and-such)based on the benefit weighed against the damage to our relationship, while my son chooses to obey based on the benefit/fun for him weighed against the risk of getting caught and the associated punishment.
This is why, I propose, that the PTSD results are so markedly different. Women empathize more and men generally have a greater ability to compartmentalize away these emotions. Men and women, on the high, high average, possess different strengths and we should exploit these differences to our enemies detriment, not ignore them to our detriment. As one earlier poster put, they won't be sending in an all female platoon, because they will want to win.
More importantly, I think much of the vitriol (sp?) comes from a false equation assumed by many people that "function=value". They then conclude that the more popular assignments are more valuable. Nothing could be more false. Taking an analogy from football, most of the time the QB gets the MVP award, even when everyone is doing the best as a team. Each person contributed; the offensive line protected that QB the entire time enabling those 5 TD passes but will rarely (read: never) get recognition with an MVP award. However, choosing a female QB just to be politically correct might result in a loss for the whole team just to suit a political agenda. Then no one wins.
12.6.2007 12:08am
Evelyn Blaine (mail):
The fear of not measuring up as a man is highly motivating, but it is not one that motivates women.
What is the evidence for this claim? As stated, it seems just to be a bad pun on a colloquial English idiom. Of course few women are motivated to do anything to "measure up as a man" in the sense of measuring up as a male, but then few men are either. "Measure up as a man" here means simply "meet expectations of one's peer group with respect to a certain kind of behaviour, on penalty of censure and ostracism": what's the evidence that women are less responsive to this sort of social conditioning than men?

In any case, Professor Browne's overall claim seems to be that women are in general less courageous than men, where courage (in the relevant sense) is taken to be a willingness to engage in behaviour that increases one's individual risk of death in order to bring about a collective good. Leaving aside the adequacy of that analysis, the question of the utility of courage (in this sense) in war and elsewhere, and all sorts of other methodological questions, let me just offer one empirical data point to suggest that this should be far from obvious. Before the twentieth century, the death rate of women in childbirth was about 1 in 100 — considerably higher, I believe, than the death rate per soldier per nine months in Iraq. If this isn't an example of risking death for a collective good, what is?
12.6.2007 3:03am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
I have seen references to moral or intellectual cowardice in women, but rarely to physical cowardice. The nearest I can think of is in fiction - the weak-spirited woman who breaks down under stress, usually a spoiled upper-class woan.

Women are not expected to display physical courage. We applaud them if they do, but we don't expect it. Part of it is the obvious fact that women are, in general, smaller and weaker. Small, weak men don't get especially hammered for lack of bravery - perhaps for the same reason; and again, are especially applauded when they display it.
12.6.2007 3:21am
Cro (mail):
Wow. This is really gutsy stuff to say in public.

I do think that women can form effective teams. Team sports have a lot of the elements of combat, without the same risk of death or severe injury. Women are able to field effective teams, despite whatever behavoral differences they may have. So I'm still not sure this is an unavoidable problem, as long as the armed forces are consistent with their expectations. If they are not, then the problems listed in this post are more likely to happen.

Any low expectations can be destructive. Perhaps we should just expect more from women in the armed forces than we do, and not accept lower standards.

I still don't think this argument is as strong as the physical strength argument, since I'm not convinced that behavior is so innate that it can't be changed, at least in individuals. A lot of men are unsuitable for military service, and even if there is a larger proportion of women who are similarly unsuitable, some should still be able to do the job. If the same standards are applied, and the same expectations enforced, then the problem could be solved.

If the same standards can't be enforced, then we should not integrate as the low expectation problem is bad for effectiveness. Or if the number of women who can meet the requirements is so low as not to be significant, it may not be worth trying.
12.6.2007 3:48am
Evelyn Blaine (mail):
We do not decline to label women cowards because women do not display fear or timidity. Instead, we do so because we do not find women’s fear or timidity disgraceful in settings in which we would see disgrace in men.
I don't think this is an accurate description of how most people ascribe cowardice; more importantly, if it is, it's an incoherent position.

In any virtue ethics worth the name, if it's virtuous or ignominious for some one to do something under a given set of circumstances, it's virtuous or ignominious, respectively, for some one else, equivalently situated, to do the same thing. If an action is cowardly in A, then it's cowardly in B in the equivalent circumstances. Differing dispositions to behave with courage, or with any other given virtue, don't affect the normative questions. (Of course, differing physical capacities might mean that an action which would likely be successful for A would not be for B -- but then A and B are not equivalently situated, any more than they would be if they were carrying different tools. That doesn't change the fact that, if they were equivalently situated, what is virtuous in one would be virtuous in the other.)
12.6.2007 3:57am
tvk:
While understanding these posts are meant to be provocative, like a moth to flame I am still compelled to respond.

First, you make some fairly big and unacknowledged assumptions, the most important being that risk-taking and reckless bravado are always desirable qualities in soldiers. That is far from necessarily the case. Sure, in historical, army-to-army combat, where the main objective is to kill anyone you see, beserkers may have had their use. But modern warfare is rarely about free-fire zones. Prudence, caution, judgment, independent thinking and rationality are not necessarily undesirable traits in the modern soldier. Your stereotype of the ideal solider is, I think, highly questionable.

Second, the evidence you present is rather thin, so I think it fair to say that most of what you are theorizing is speculation and conjecture at this point. Sure, the evidence on the other side--that men and women are equally effective--might be thin as well. But you are the one making the affirmative claim here.

Third, it is highly troubling that much of your argument relies on a vicious cycle. That is, because society defines women as less aggressive, they are expected to be less aggressive, and society is then justified in defining women as less aggressive. That logic would never work for, say, race disparities. By your logic, if we had some evidence that Asian men had--on average and in general--greater empathy for the enemy (especially if we were, say, fighting against the Japanese) and lower social expectations of their courage; that would justify a wholesale exclusion of all Asian men from the army. I think it fair to say that no one would find that convincing.
12.6.2007 5:48am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
tvk.
No war requring the new model soldier you posit can get off the ground without the old model soldier either preparing the ground or being prepared to kill and kill, and, if necessary, die.
We have had years of pictures of fighting going on around, among, through, between and over civilians. The problem is that, for the enemy, among civilians is the last place they can hide from Americans.
Eventually, we'll solve that one, too. So the negatives of working among civilians (maintaining at least passive support takes effort and the next street sweeper you see might be an undercover agent) will apply and the positives won't.
Then all bets are off.
Then, of course, we may be facing China in the future.

While it is a good idea, in theory, that virtue and its expectations apply equally, the facts don't fit the theory. So, as we see, the facts are being adjusted. If we expect women to be more courageous, they will have to be socialized differently. Like boys, that is. You ready for the backlash from making that point?
That would get you as much grief as refusing to gender norm standards.
Good luck with either.
12.6.2007 7:36am
Porkchop:

Then, of course, we may be facing China in the future.

Considering the population disparity between China and the US, both in sheer numbers and in the proportion of males to females due to selective abortion practices favoring males, I suggest we will need every single body capable of carrying a rifle, regardless of gender, if it ever comes to all-out war with China.
12.6.2007 7:53am
marghlar:
Right, Evelyn. Note that we don't generally find it "disgraceful" when male paraplegics don't stop carjackings. Nor do we find it disgraceful when even healthy young men fail to stop a robbery when the perps are armed with shotguns. It is all situational, related to capacity.

So if a female bodybuilding champion watched calmly while a 120-pound guy was beating up a child, I think "disgraceful" and "coward" are exactly the sort of words that would spring to mind.
12.6.2007 8:02am
Swede:
I've been in combat. In 2005, in Iraq, in several different towns, as well as in Ramadi and Baghdad. I served as a medic with the Airborne Infantry.

Some of you are arguing for women to be allowed to fight in the infantry? Allow me to put this as simply as I can: you don't know what you're fucking talking about. You don't understand WHAT our nation asks of these men, you don't have a REAL understanding of what happens to these men, and you don't understand the group dynamic under conditions you will never experience.

So, by all means, continue on with your academic discussion on what you think is right or fair or whatever. The fact that anybody would want a woman to experience that shit just shows me how far from the reality of it you really are.
12.6.2007 8:24am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Some folks have reported being motivated by racial pride. (It's not polite to talk about white pride, but there are various stories about black soldiers being aware they had to prove themselves, or Japanese soldiers recruited out of the internment camps, and so forth. [My closest Jewish relatives possibly did live down to the stereotype, support roles as a clerk-typist, or even in the USMC being quartermaster-general corp (of course, they were never tested in combat so they neither passed nor failed); not counting the 3rd cousin who was Merchant Marine and talked about how the professional seamen didn't bother ducking any more when fired upon during the Murmansk run, unlike the fresher uniformed men; also not counting the cousin who never came back from Anzio]) (end digression.)

You do have a burden when an argument could work just as well if gender were replaced by race.

As for the truck incident, mutiny is a different kind of risk. My second-hand stories are from WWII and Korea, when they didn't want risk taking, they wanted order following. Apparently your ideal combat soldier thinks for himself, as long as he agrees with the chain of command. Maybe in Iraq (and Vietnam the way we were doing it) speaking up to say the Emperor had no clothes, to say "This is stupid", is a good thing.
12.6.2007 8:25am
HBowmanMD:
Lev: The operative term is 'used to'. Israel discovered that male soldiers were less effective in combat because they wouldn't take the same risks if women were on their teams...that they would take greater risks to protect or evacuate a wounded woman than a man...that women lacked the physical endurance to perform combat over the same time periods.
12.6.2007 8:42am
HBowmanMD:
Lev: The operative term is 'used to'. Israel discovered that male soldiers were less effective in combat because they wouldn't take the same risks if women were on their teams...that they would take greater risks to protect or evacuate a wounded woman than a man...that women lacked the physical endurance to perform combat over the same time periods.
12.6.2007 8:42am
Happyshooter:
I was a law enforcement MP on active duty working in a fairly quiet base region of Germany. We had a problem with women MPs refusing physical fights, one would do her duty, the rest would refuse and leave the males hanging in wrestling or fights.

It ended up that men would respond at slow speed if women were present in their patrol areas to let other men respond from nearby areas.
12.6.2007 9:44am
A.C.:
I think the overwhelming majority of people here agree that women should not be integrated into ground combat units on a routine basis. Most also agree that any women sent into a war zone should be able to perform at least some combat-like duties in the event of an emergency. A few people are arguing that women shouldn't serve in dangerous places at all, but that doesn't seem to be the majority view.

That being the case, why do so many people need to argue for such extreme gender differences? We all agree that there are some gender differences, and that these may become vital in the most extreme circumstances and among people otherwise matched in age and opportunities for training. Your biggest, strongest 20-year-old men will be stronger than your biggest, strongest 20-year-old women. That's a given, and that's the group we are talking about for infantry.

But how about your biggest, strongest 20-year-old women and a bunch of 40-year-old men who have let their training lapse? That's the trade-off people are most likely to discuss in the real world, especially in the event of a war big enough to require a draft. Only so many people fall into the group of "biggest, strongest 20-year-old men," and what if that doesn't turn out to be enough?

On the psychological side, are MEN currently being brought up to be the way people here are describing men of previous generations? I haven't seen any signs of it among 20-something men from middle and upper middle class families. Psychological gaps may be closing for reasons unrelated to any changes in women, so the sexes may be starting out more equal than in the past.
12.6.2007 9:57am
jsavard (mail):
Kingsley Browne (2007) asserted,

The fact that the two most important attributes of soldiers judged to be effective fighters
by their peers are ‘leadership’ and ‘masculinity’ suggests – as does common sense –
that those attributes are also important ones engendering a soldier’s feelings of trust (Co-Ed Combat, p. 171).

It is my contention that this is particularly relevant in a front-line ground combat environment and is not a avowal of anti-feminine dogma, but rather, an evaluation of diminished/heightened risk in a survival milieu. We as a civilization must realize that, on a whole, there are things that women can accomplish in a much better manner than men, and there are things that men can accomplish in a much better manner than women. When it comes to front-line combat situations, it is intuitively obvious – not from a sociological, philosophical, or legalistic perspective, but rather a risk management discernment - that a military mission requires leadership and masculinity. My contention is that when there are no “lack of physical strength issues” women can lead and can kill; however, by definition front-line combat (and that includes pilots who are shot down or have to ditch) REQUIRES and exacerbates the physical strength issues.

The negation of an anti-feminine dogma referred to is an attempt to elucidate the fact that this IS NOT about gender – it is about accomplishing a mission! Because of a physiological lack of strength, women do not belong in front-line combat / survival environments. Those who attempt to defend a front-line combat environment by proffering the issue that we now use technology and not brute force are either naïve or are assiduously attempting to obfuscate the issue and care more about political correctness than they do about accomplishing a combat mission. There are SO MANY things that my wife and daughter do much better than I will ever hope to do; however, leading and fighting in a front-line ground combat scenario is NOT one of them.

Warm regards,
Jim Savard
12.6.2007 9:57am
Brent Michael Krupp (mail):
Comparing this issue to the issue of racially integrating the armed forces is silly. We already had combat units full of black men. There have always been black men fighting wars (just as there have always been men of every other color fighting wars). We've never had female combat units. There are few, if any, female combat units ever in history (myth and legend doesn't count).

So letting black and white do what they are already doing, but together, is TOTALLY different than letting women do something they've never done alongside men who already do it. Just plain different!

You can still argue for letting women fight, but don't make the comparison to integrating our armed forces. It doesn't work.
12.6.2007 10:04am
rarango (mail):
I have enjoyed Professor Browne's posts and the ensuing discussion threads. The all-volunteer military which is now a generation plus old, has eliminated a very large pool of Americans who have been exposed to military training. My basic training company in 1961 had more draftees than it did RAs. One result, IMO, that we have lost a pool of men who never wanted to be soldiers, but nonetheless gained some experience and could at least empathize with those that were regular army soldiers. Thats a shame, and that issue continues to show up in some of the, quite frankly, totally uninformed comments by those who, by putting fingers to keyboards, make absolutely preposterous statements with no actual experience at all. At least thats how it seems to me.

Then there is the whole issue of actual combat experience: I can only provide my experience as a cavalry troop commander in Viet Nam: NO ONE know how they will respond when the fire fight starts. NO ONE. The army did its best to train its regular officers by sending all regular officers to Ranger School. Ranger School was excellent preparation in terms of learning how soldiers respond under great stress--and as such was probably the best preparation for combat other than actual combat. The fact remains that no training environment completely prepares you for combat. You won't know until you are actually shot at how you will respond. And there isnt a trooper in the army that doesnt think about that. The fact that our military does so well in combat, and my personal observations about how the soldiers really do when under fire, small as it might be, tells me that whatever we are doing, we are doing it right.

Ultimately, one's reaction to combat is highly personal and depends on a set of unique factors. In reflecting on my personal combat experience, I do find that Erich Maria Remarque, Morris Janowitz, Stephen Crane, SLA Marshall and other scholars and writers are really pretty good sources for understanding the experience if you have not had the misfortune to actually close with and destroy the enemy by close combat, fire and maneuver.

As to the topic of women in combat? Nothing I have read has changed my mind that putting women in ground combat justifies the potential downsides of that policy. Its a lousy idea based, in my opinion, on its potential problems for military effectiveness. It has nothing to do with phsycial attributes which can be controlled for. It is simply the problems introduced by the basic sexual dynamic exacerbated by the stress of combat. Do I think that women can't do the job? Absolutely not; I have no doubts that the majority of women, just like the majority of men, can do the job. It is for me, the transaction costs incurred that militate against such a policy. The current system isnt broken and doesnt need fixing. Just my .02 and apologies for an excessively long post.
12.6.2007 10:12am
LTDan (mail):
While I think each of these issues of why women may or may not be as effective combat soldiers as men or if integrating women would decrease the effectiveness of male fighting forces, the overall point is being missed.

I've read all the posts and most of the comments in this discussion so far. All of the reasons discussed are, in my estimation, generally accurate and more importantly, when taken together as a whole explain the reasons that women should not be in combat.

Let me provide some background on my perspective. I am a serving infantry officer in the US Army who previously spent enlisted time in non-combat arms jobs (specifically, I was a medic). My wife is also an active-duty vet who served in the intel field.

It is unlikely that opening combat arms would significantly change the composition of the female population enlisting in the military and would change the composition of the female officer corps only slightly in attracting motivated young women otherwise deterred by the current glass ceiling.

Anyone who has served can tell you that while there are many fantastic young women in the service, many of whom can exceed their male peers in most aspects of their jobs.

But anyone who has served in combat arms can also tell you that for reasons of first and foremost strength &endurance, aggression (which is desirable in a joe, controlling that is my job), ability to overcome fear; only an extremely small number of women bring enough to the table to even be considered for combat duty and when you factor how a female presence will affect cohesion and camraderie, it isn't worth the trouble.

For those who believe that a female affecting the cohesion of the unit is a matter of it being an "old boy's club", you're wrong. It's a matter of trusting the person next to you with your life. If an infantry fire team takes one casualty, it is combat ineffective because it takes 2-3 individuals to carry that person and their equipment to safety.

I carry 60+ pounds of equipment into combat. Call me sexist, but I know many men have problems keeping up and I don't know any women. Don't throw the "female bodybuilder" scenario at me either because bodybuilders male and female generally lack the endurance to be infantrymen. Go to a military bodybuilding show and most of the competitors are POGs. It's not brute strength, its strength, endurance and pain tolerance.
12.6.2007 10:14am
LTDan (mail):
Oh yeah, don't throw the "childbirth proves women can take more pain than men" argument at me either. Physiologically, it isn't true.

Pregnancy preps the body for the pain of childbirth with hormones, endorphins, etc. to suppress the pain caused (not totally, I'll give you). The average women's pain tolerance non-pregnant and during childbirth are very different.

I'm a modern sensitive, pretty liberal guy. I went to lamaze and even was Mr. Mom for while when my wife was aeay fro military duties. But when it comes to women in combat, call me old-school. Not due to tradition, but because I have taken a reasoned look at the debate and the facts.
12.6.2007 10:20am
PJens:
Thanks for the comment Swede, wish more vets would speak up!

As I recall, one of the arguements to allow women in combat, especially into fighter aircraft, was that combat experience was necessary for top tier promotion. During the 70's and 80's most of the generals had Vietnam experience. Women, rightly so, wanted to be generals. In part, the push for women in combat was for promotion reasons.

Women, without question, belong in the military. Mr. Browne is providing some good reasons to have the basic plan of training only men for combat.
12.6.2007 10:21am
LTDan (mail):
Lastly, because I'm headed to the field for a week.

In the combat arms, your 40 year old men serving are generally as fit, or fitter than the 20 year olds. If they become broken or get out of shape, they are go mech or get out of the line and become remfs. The age argument is a non-issue.

I know of only a very few joes the average infantry First Sergeant or Platoon Sergeant couldn't snap in half.
12.6.2007 10:23am
Cornellian (mail):

Exactly this dynamic may have been in play in 2004 when a mixed-sex platoon of reservists refused a direct order to drive a fuel convoy, although the Army’s reticence about the incident compels one to rely on (perhaps unfair) speculation. The reservists argued that it was a “suicide mission” because their trucks were not armored. News reports did not indicate who the ringleaders of the mutiny were, although it came to light when a female specialist left a message on her mother’s voice mail asking her to “raise pure hell.”


Maybe it really was a suicide mission. That would explain the Army's reticence to talk about it.
12.6.2007 10:26am
pst314 (mail):
tvk: You have some deeply mistaken ideas about the soldiering:

"First, you make some fairly big and unacknowledged assumptions, the most important being that risk-taking and reckless bravado are always desirable qualities in soldiers. That is far from necessarily the case. Sure, in historical, army-to-army combat, where the main objective is to kill anyone you see, beserkers may have had their use. But modern warfare is rarely about free-fire zones. Prudence, caution, judgment, independent thinking and rationality are not necessarily undesirable traits in the modern soldier. Your stereotype of the ideal solider is, I think, highly questionable."

"risk-taking": war-fighting is all about taking risks. It always has been and always will be. Everyone takes risks, from the infantrymen in combat to the generals crafting a strategy that they hope will win. The key is to match the risk to the situation, to minimize risk given the situation at hand.

"reckless bravado": I think you meant "courage", not "bravado". (But if you did mean "bravado" then your meaning is incoherent. We're talking about fighting, not posturing.) A reckless warrior is likely to soon be a dead warrior, and may well get his comrades killed in the process. Soldiers don't like that. (In fact, I was just reading an essay by a Korean War vet who, in commenting on popular ignorance of what war is like, touched on that point: Read Gene Wolfe's introduction to volume 1 of The Complete Hammer's Slammers by Vietnam veteran David Drake.) Being an effective warrior is not and was not about being reckless. The Army wants effective warriors, not comic-book characters. As someone once said, "There are old soldiers, and there are bold soldiers, but there are few old, bold soldiers."

"beserkers may have had their use": Again, what's with this comic-book view of soldiering? Sometimes very cautious behavior is appropriate, and sometimes extreme boldness which the ignorant may see as reckless, but I'm afraid that talking about "berserkers" doesn't have much to do with the real American military.

"But modern warfare is rarely about free-fire zones."

What do "free-fire zones" have to do with boldness vs. caution? Sounds like you're stuck in a false view of the American soldier as a crazed killer of Vietnamese babies. Again, you are getting incoherent.

"caution, judgment, independent thinking and rationality are not necessarily undesirable traits in the modern soldier."

I hate to break it to you, but the American military has known this for a long time.

"Your stereotype of the ideal soldier is, I think, highly questionable."

I'm sorry to break it to you, but you are the one mislead by stereotypes. It's clear that you know little or nothing of war and soldiers. That's not a crime, and it's hardly surprising given that you live in a culture which is pervaded by popular misconceptions about these things. Most "intellectuals" (especially public intellectuals) are not much help, but there are good sources of information out there. Start reading milblogs and look for references to books by and about soldiers. When you find those books on Amazon, see what additional titles Amazon suggests. Just for starters I could suggest "House to House" and "With the Old Breed", but I only thought of them because I just finished one and am about to start the other. It might also help if you got to know a few veterans, but bear in mind that not everyone who has fought wants to talk about it, even in the most general terms. Many veterans only talk about such things with fellow soldiers and a very few very close friends.
12.6.2007 10:26am
Skyler (mail) (www):
A.C.,

I would like to quibble on one point. The infantry is not made of the biggest and strongest men. It is made of average (albeit, healthy) men. They come in all sizes and shapes. The infantry has as its goal to make everything they do capable of being done by an average man. That's what it's all about. The result is that these average men accomplish a lot more than you or even they would have thought possible were it not for their training.

I haven't met any women that can do that. An extremely rare few might, but I haven't met them and I've known a lot of women Marines.
12.6.2007 10:27am
rarango (mail):
Cornellian: driving a vehicle containing flammable substances in combat is always dangerous; but it is most definitely not a "suicide mission." I suppose that as the relative degree of danger increases, it is possible to conceive of a combat mission as a "suicide mission"; but, I bet there were a whole lot of grunts out there who routinely go on suicide (read combat routine) missions every day who were really POed.
12.6.2007 10:43am
Greg (www):
Lyudmila Pavlichenko - killed 309 German soldiers.

800,000 women served in Russia during World War II. I guess that explains why they lost, right?

So, instead of arguing from psychological or physiological studies in the laboratory, or even the half-hearted attempts to create roles for women in the military in the States in the face of stout opposition, shouldn't any discourse into women in the military look to whether it worked in Russia during World War II, where Stalin committed to women in the military as part of his fantasy that all differences in society would melt away.

As just one example, the author cites ONE GUY who wrestled a plane down during extremis to show (1) strength can be required to fly planes and, indirectly, (2) women shouldn't be allowed to fly. Shouldn't that ONE GUY be weighed against the three regiments of women combat pilots who flew 24,000 sorties against the Germans in World War II? Also, we're told women can't be brave, and ONE example is given of some tanker trucks that weren't driven into a suicide mission (an example based on speculation). Weigh that against 100,000 decorated Russian women in World War II. Or, the 2,000 women who volunteered for the "Battalion of Death" in World War I.

Of his women pilots, the Commanding Officer of the 586th (a mixed-gender wing), Aleksandr Gridnev, said that "[o]ur experiences showed that women fighter pilots in the majority of circumstances, much better than men, endured g-loads to the body which arose during abrupt and sharp changes of aircraft attitude.... Also the women pilots had greater endurance than men during high altitude flights without oxygen."

Maybe all the 800,000 women who served in the Russian military in WWII were incompetent, cowardly weaklings, but at the very least, it provides a sample-size dwarfing the ones and twos that the author has cited.
12.6.2007 11:00am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Cornelian,

1. It wasn't a suicide mission. It was a regularly scheduled run and after the mutineers were dealt with, the run was made without incident. I vaguely recall that the cowards were pushed aside and some others were so embarrassed by the affair they did the job for them.

2. Even if it were a suicide mission, they were ordered to go. There's no picking and choosing of missions in combat. There's is not to reason why, to quote the old poem. Blind obedience is not good. You can always discuss options to an order while it is being given, to a certain extent. But once the order is given, that's it. If it means you have to die, then you die.

That some people can't grasp this elemental concept astounds me.

LtDan, as one of those 40 year old officers in an infantry battalion in Iraq, I can vouch for the fact that our old fart officers and SNCO's had no problems keeping up with the young guys.

We had a woman work with our battalion as an interpreter. She did not go on combat missions, but she did go on cordon and knock missions with our guys. She was an American born in Iraq who was patriotic enough, and liked the pay, too, to serve as an interpreter. She came in quite handy in many ways because the women would talk to her and tell her all the family secrets about who was an enemy, etc. She worked very hard, but she didn't carry weapons or ammo, and at the end of each day she had no energy left at all. She was quite a lady. She contributed quite a lot, as did the female Marine search teams. But none of these women could have kept up in our combat missions where a couple companies marched across 50 miles of rough terrain in the heat of summer without any shade or buildings for shelter. That was grueling, and I'm glad I didn't have to go on that one. But this is what the infantry does. They don't do it everyday, but they must be able to do it any day.
12.6.2007 11:01am
ALS:
Greg,

And maybe someone who actually understood military history, rather than taking one speck of knowledge out of context, would know that Stalin was giving a rifle to anything that moved, then threatening to shoot it if it didn't fight the Germans. The Eastern Front was known as a meat grinder for a reason. But that wouldn't fit into your neat little epic.

As for the discussion of suicide missions, one of our greatest naval victories - Midway - was achieved in part due to an entire squadron undertaking a suicide mission, a mission which, btw, made absolutely no sense at the time.
12.6.2007 11:22am
A.C.:
For all you very fit 40-year-olds, I wasn't directing my comment at you! I was thinking more of new intake into the military in the event of emergency... 40-year-olds who have been in offices for twenty years, vs. any young person in fantastic shape.

Skyler -- thanks for clarification. It makes sense that first-rate training would get people to entirely new levels in ANY area. I'm not arguing for women in the infantry, mind you, but I really don't think we know what women as a group are capable of at this time, or what the best way is to get them there. It's not a priority for this mostly sedentary society, so only a few women are really pushing at the limits over a large portion of their lives. (And many of them are pushing in activities like ballet, which doesn't favor the women with bodies most similar to men's.) I'd be interested to see what would happen if more women chose to do so.
12.6.2007 11:26am
M.E. Lopez (mail):
Cro wrote:


I do think that women can form effective teams. Team sports have a lot of the elements of combat, without the same risk of death or severe injury.



Well, yeah. Except for that.
12.6.2007 11:28am
Greg (www):
would know that Stalin was giving a rifle to anything that moved, then threatening to shoot it if it didn't fight the Germans.

Regardless of the REASONS, there were women fighting in the front, right? That actually gives a pool of people to COMPARE to the pool of male warriors.

Are you insisting that one group of mixed troops that refused to drive a convoy into danger is a BETTER sample than the 800,000 women who fought in World War II for Russia?

At the very least, the latter group is bigger, isn't it?
12.6.2007 11:33am
Evelyn Blaine (mail):
It does seem that, if one actually wanted to advance the debate on this issue rather than just continue the shouting match, undertaking a systematic study of the combat experiences and records of Soviet women in World War II relative to Soviet male troops would be a good start. I know of no one who's done that kind of work, but I'd certainly be interested to find out.
12.6.2007 11:36am
Evelyn Blaine (mail):
Does Professor Browne discuss the Soviet data in his book?
12.6.2007 11:38am
holdfast (mail):

But how about your biggest, strongest 20-year-old women and a bunch of 40-year-old men who have let their training lapse? That's the trade-off people are most likely to discuss in the real world, especially in the event of a war big enough to require a draft. Only so many people fall into the group of "biggest, strongest 20-year-old men," and what if that doesn't turn out to be enough?


Give me 90 days with them, and the vast bulk of the 40 year old men will be running rings around the 20 year old women, at least in combat gear if not in PT kit. And besides, outside of college sports teams, where do you get all these fit 20 year olds? Most of the girls in my college dorm at that age kept their weight down by limited eating, but were not terribly fit.


On the psychological side, are MEN currently being brought up to be the way people here are describing men of previous generations? I haven't seen any signs of it among 20-something men from middle and upper middle class families. Psychological gaps may be closing for reasons unrelated to any changes in women, so the sexes may be starting out more equal than in the past.


This is a fair point, but I'd argue that the testosterone is still there - you just need to go in and find it. I do think that today's males will require quite a bit of reprogramming, but maybe not as much as you think. Remember, most male teens today think that headshots and teabagging (in HALO) are great fun.
12.6.2007 11:49am
ALS:
Greg: Are you insisting that one group of mixed troops that refused to drive a convoy into danger is a BETTER sample than the 800,000 women who fought in World War II for Russia?

Actually, yes, I would. My understanding is that the latter were often only marginally engaged in organized warfare, i.e. training and organization into fighting units was nominal at best. There is a huge distinction between "here is a rifle and 10 rounds, Svetlana; point this way, pull trigger" and "military action" as conventionally understood. In many of the Eastern Front battles, the situation may be more closely analogized to anarchy than military action. My critique stands.
12.6.2007 11:54am
rarango (mail):
I am not sure if using Soviet WWII data advances the debate. If I am reading these threads correctly, it appears that there is at least one body of thought that, irrespective if women can "do combat" as well as men, putting women in combat is still not a good idea for other reasons--and especially so in an all volunteer and not universal conscription context. The Soviet WWII experience confirms what many of us might stipulate: women CAN perform well in combat. But that doesnt make it a good idea in the current context.
12.6.2007 11:58am
john w. (mail):
I think that Browne has made an excellent point about "defining bravery down." But I see an even more fundamental, long-term morale problem:

What *REALLY* motivates a young man to fight to the death in a real, long drawn-out war like WW2 (I'm not talking about a Mickey Mouse War like Iraq, which is more of a police action.)

Isn't he ultimately motivated by the belief (subconscious, perhaps) that he is fighting to protect Mom and Sis and his Sweetheart back home, and the girl next door, etc., etc.? And how can he possibly maintain that illusion if he knows that Sis and his Sweetheart and the Girl Next Door are in trenches on the next island being shot and raped and possibly already dead?

Other than protecting one's women, what else is worth fighting for that could maintain a young guy's motivation for years on end? Abstractions like 'democracy'or 'freedom'? (freedom for whom to do what?) ... Patriotism? (a.k.a. the last refuge of scoundrels.) ... Der Vaterland? ... Some politician's ego? ... The stockholders of a petroleum company?
12.6.2007 11:59am
Greg (www):

My understanding is that the latter were often only marginally engaged in organized warfare, i.e. training and organization into fighting units was nominal at best.


Hey, if we're just going with understanding, then why look at any evidence at all? Although, I'd point out that if the random, untrained Russian woman can exhibit bravery, as exhibited by the 100,000 decorated women in the Russian army during World War II, doesn't that suggest that with training they might exhibit MORE bravery?

In other words, how does the fact that the women in this Iraqi convoy were highly trained make them LESS brave?
12.6.2007 12:02pm
merevaudevillian:
Thanks for linking the posts!
12.6.2007 12:03pm
john w. (mail):
" ...I am not sure if using Soviet WWII data advances the debate...."

Keep in mind also that the USSR at that point was fighting for its very existence; the enemy was literally at the gates. Also, those women probably had a pretty good idea of the fate that awaited them if Hitler had won: Forced prostitution for the pretty ones and death camps for the rest. They had absolutely nothing to lose by going into combat and )(as others have pointed out) Stalin would have shot them if they hadn't.

The United States has never been anywhere near that state of desperation at any time in our history -- and we aren't likely to be there in the forseeable future.
12.6.2007 12:09pm
Greg (www):

If I am reading these threads correctly, it appears that there is at least one body of thought that, irrespective if women can "do combat" as well as men, putting women in combat is still not a good idea for other reasons--and especially so in an all volunteer and not universal conscription context.


I think Professor Browne's thesis is that women are physically less capable of combat (less strong, less able to withstand pain), mentally less capable of combat (less brave, less likely to kill), AND integrating them with men would hurt morale.

So, at the very least, the fact that Russian women served effectively in the Russian army, if, in fact, they did, would put the first two premises under serious strain. (And if Russian mixed-gender units didn't exhibit morale problems, the third as well.)


Does Professor Browne discuss the Soviet data in his book?


Here's his 2001 article on the same topic, I haven't read the whole thing, I've only read through the first 120 pages, and I might have missed it in one of the 600 footnotes (to that point), but so far, no.

Actually, the Russian data could also be put to a use to help Prof. Browne's argument. One of the arguments of his opponents is that having women in the army might reduce the numbers of atrocities. However, as he notes on page 98 (144 internal page number), the Russians engaged in systematic rape. (see footnotes 479-480) He doesn't note that the presence of women in the Russian army did nothing to mitigate against this.
12.6.2007 12:17pm
ALS:
Greg,

I didn't proffer the evidence; as in court, the proponent has the burden of proving relevance. As far as "my understanding," I didn't study the Eastern Front very much; it never figured prominently in naval training or professional reading. I do, however, know the big picture. If someone more knowledgeable of conditions on the Eastern Front would care to correct me, I'm all ears. As for the distinction between the Iraq convoy being discussed, there is a HUGE difference between giving someone a rifle, saying good luck, then threatening to shoot them if they don't move forward, and the way that human beings work in an organized combat unit. I would expect that most people would understand that distinction without requiring an explanation.
12.6.2007 12:17pm
rarango (mail):
What motivates men in combat? Read Professor Janowitz and SLA MArshall for some insights: it is the approbation and support of their peers in their small unit (squad, platoon and troop). And I suspect that even a Roman Centurion could have told you that about his cohort.
12.6.2007 12:19pm
Greg (www):

Keep in mind also that the USSR at that point was fighting for its very existence; the enemy was literally at the gates.


Women-only units started in World War I in Russia. Aviation Group 122 (all female) was formed in 1941, only a few months after the invasion of Russia by Germany. So, you're saying they were fighting for their very existence from day one?
12.6.2007 12:21pm
Evelyn Blaine (mail):
ALS,

A few minutes of research reveals that Soviet women in combat were (1) in general volunteers, (2) had received training, and (3) were in organized units. (Partisans merit a separate treatment.) See here and linked references. As for the claim that "[i]n many of the Eastern Front battles, the situation may be more closely analogized to anarchy than military action", these were some of the largest, bloodiest, and most important battles in human history. Any definition of "military action" too restrictive to include them is not a useful one.

I don't know enough about Soviet women in combat in the Second World War to evaluate the impact of the data fully on the contemporary policy argument. Prima facie, it seems to offer considerable support for the women-in-combat position, but maybe on closer examination that wouldn't hold up. As I said, it would be very good if someone went about studying it in a systematic way: we could probably learn a lot from that.

But just dismissing the entire subject -- the largest data set of women in combat we have -- out of hand and saying it's irrelevant is absurd.
12.6.2007 12:29pm
ALS:
Evelyn,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. My criticism of referencing the Eastern Front as "military action" emphasizes organized unit actions; wearing a patch on one's sleeve saying X Division, or even reporting to a commander, does not make for a fighting unit. Although my thoughts are somewhat fuzzy around the edges, I don't think that many would consider the numerous wars in Africa to be organized "military action," despite the large numbers of people and weapons involved. To illustrate, I would even consider WWI to be somewhat arguable: troops were administratively assigned to units, but infantry combat was not really organized unit combat, i.e. a multi-thousand man bum-rush of the opposing trench is not unit combat. The current incarnation of fighting units was a direct response to the problems inherent in attacking entrenched defenders with automatic weapons. Cf. Napoleonic formations. This particular thread is focusing on use of women in organized units, for organized combat. There are VERY significant difference between being one of thousands of people fighting on a side, and conducting organized warfare by unit. The effectiveness of the modern American military is entirely dependent on the latter, from the fire team on up.
12.6.2007 12:47pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Greg said:


Women-only units started in World War I in Russia. Aviation Group 122 (all female) was formed in 1941, only a few months after the invasion of Russia by Germany. So, you're saying they were fighting for their very existence from day one?


Yes.

That said, the fact that the Russians were fighting for their very existence supports the idea that the Russians must have thought that the benefit of arming and sening women into combat had more positive results than negative. We ought to look at the data about how they performed.

Of course, Russia's survival depended on sending huge numbers of people into combat. I think Stalin's quote was along the lines of "quantity has a quality all to itself."
Since America isn't fighting wars with manpower, perhaps the positive and negative calculations would be different.

But we ought to look at the evidence. Did Soviet women peform comparably to Soviet men? Even if the women were poorly trained (and I have no doubt that they were by modern U.S. army standards), the men would have had the same training. The information should reveal if there were real differences (I alluded to this on a previous thread: "It's too bad there isn't any empircal evidence from a nation fighting for its life who used women combatants..."

As for PTSD, I'm not sure the data on incidence reveals the frequency of PTSD versus the willingness to report it. Our levels today are much higher than they were in WW II - and WW II combat was more intense and continuous than any other conflict we have fought since. But a "man" didn't admit having a problem dealing with his experiences. Today, the rate is much higher, perhaps because we now accept the value of psychological care. I'm sorry that I can't provide a link, but I recall being amazed that American soldiers in Gulf War One suffered much greater rates of PTSD than our British allies, and the study's auhtors attributed that to the fact that British male culture was more wary of mental health care. Perhaps the higher rates of female PTSD (if that is the case) can be attirbuted to the cultural difference of women being more accepting of menral health treatment.
12.6.2007 1:11pm
Lugo:
ALS, it should be obvious that the Soviet Army, which was the single force most responsible for destroying the Wehrmacht, could not have beaten the Wehrmacht if the Soviet Army consisted of an armed rabble rather than "organized combat units" as you define them. The Soviets weren't just an anarchic horde with Commissars at their backs - they formed combat units, and they knew how to use them.

All that aside, what nobody has noted yet is that the Soviet Army, once the war was over, instantly removed its women from the combat roles that were open to them during the war, and relegated them primarily to supporting / rear echelon / administrative roles. This suggests that the Soviets did not find that women were well suited for combat roles when there was not the direst threat of national survival at stake.

So, you're saying they were fighting for their very existence from day one?

Yes, absolutely, and they knew it very well.
12.6.2007 1:18pm
happylee:
StephenC's point deserves closer attention...exploit differences, don't deny them. David Ricardo lives!

CoryJ's link to Onion made my day.
12.6.2007 1:29pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):
I think most of you who comment about Soviet Russia's experience with women in combat in WWII are missing an important point.

The Soviet Army was in a defensive battle on their own soil. Every see a mother bear protect her cubs? The psychological pressure of fighting to protect your home and family is different than that experienced by an infantry soldier asked to capture another nameless hill in a country far far from home.

Of the 800,000 women who served in the Soviet Military, how many were in direct combat assignments and how many were filling logistic type billets to free up male soldiers.

There were some women in direct combat assignments in the Soviet Army, and we know them because they were exceptional. To the best of my knowledge, they performed as all female units though. They weren't integrated into all-male units.

I don't think anyone disagrees with the notion that some hand-picked women would do fine in front-line combat units. The question should be, is it worthwhile to make that effort?

The answer has to be no. It's not. What would be the point to that other than to say we are so advanced and civilized as a culture that we no longer protect our women from war. And we are supposed to be proud of that somehow?
12.6.2007 1:37pm
Vivictius (mail):
The other reason one might not want to use the Soviet Army in comparison is the fact that their casualty rates have always been orders of magnitude greater then ours. They had greatly different views of combat effectiveness then us.
12.6.2007 2:00pm
john w. (mail):
" ... Every see a mother bear protect her cubs? The psychological pressure of fighting to protect your home and family is different than that experienced by an infantry soldier asked to capture another nameless hill in a country far far from home. ..."

Absolutely!!!!
And the moral calculus is totally different also. It is one thing to ask a 19 year old girl to pick up a rifle and defend herself, her younger siblings, children, nieces, etc. from brutal invaders where the price for doing nothing will most likely be rape and death for everybody. It is a totally different thing to ask the same girl to pick up the same rifle and go marching off to fight in some foreign country just so that a 15 year old boy -- or worse yet, a 50 year old man -- can sleep comfortably in his warm bed.
12.6.2007 2:01pm
Anony:
This might have been answered in another thread but what about the Israeli army? Didn't they use women in combat positions in the beginning?
12.6.2007 2:20pm
HBowmanMD:
Greg, the Russian sniper was never deployed outside of Russia. All bets are off if it comes down to people Americans defending their homeland.

Further, being an effective sniper has little at all to do with soldiering, or even being able to shoot well (although thats required). The primary skill a sniper has is in being able to 'hide' themselves and get into position to take that shot - which is normally at some considerable range.

Even today sniper training is very little about shooting (the shooters already shoot pretty damned well). It's fieldcraft. For more information about snipers read John Plaster's book "Ultimate Sniper".
12.6.2007 2:36pm
HBowmanMD:
Anony: Yes they did, and found that there were problems. They don't do it any more.
12.6.2007 2:37pm
HBowmanMD:
Don Miller: In the battle of Stalingrad, there were over 1.1 MILLION soviet soldiers. The Germans had 1.01 million.

Between the two of them, there were over 1.5 million casualties.

So your point is even more important: Out of the 1.1 million soviets involved, how many legendary women fighters were there?

While the Soviets used lots of women, they were mostly in support roles. Just like today.
12.6.2007 2:40pm
Tim Fowler (www):

Porkchop - Re: "Considering the population disparity between China and the US, both in sheer numbers and in the proportion of males to females due to selective abortion practices favoring males, I suggest we will need every single body capable of carrying a rifle, regardless of gender, if it ever comes to all-out war with China."

If we fight China in a conventional ground war (say in Korea again) we won't try to beat them with sheer numbers of riflemen, but with firepower (often from the air, or from artillery, rather than from 1 million M-16s), mobility. Which is not to say that a large number of trigger pullers would not be needed, but its not about how many people you can hand a rifle to. We wouldn't want to send a vast number of minimally trained draftees (men or women), but would prefer to rely on the more highly trained people we already have in the military. If we get to the point that its all about how many people we can hand a rifle to and throw to the front than the war would have already been a disaster (beyond the normal amount that any large war would automatically be a disaster)

Cro - "I do think that women can form effective teams. Team sports have a lot of the elements of combat, without the same risk of death or severe injury. Women are able to field effective teams, despite whatever behavioral differences they may have."

The absence of severe risk of death or major injury is a BIG difference.

Also while those teams are effective against other women's teams, they (mostly for purely physical reasons of size, strength, power, explosiveness etc.) don't stand a chance against men's teams. Maybe pro or national level womans teams would play against high school men's teams, and that's in sports that limit physical contact. How many points would a Superbowl champion beat the best possible women's team by if they where trying to run up the score? How many injuries would there be on the woman's team, if the men's team didn't hold back?
12.6.2007 2:57pm
Hey Skipper (www):
Speaking as someone who has seen combat as a pilot, everything Professor Browne says is true in spades. (Regarding expectations of women v. men, examine the Titanic survival rates.)

And I will be the first to admit that pilots do not experience combat to anywhere near the degree those on the ground do.

Allowing women as combat pilots, given the nature of our competitors, won't detract from unit effectiveness (so long as the numbers are sufficiently small to make manning shortfalls due to pregnancies tolerable).

But ground combat? Ridiculous.
12.6.2007 3:06pm
Waldensian (mail):

As for the discussion of suicide missions, one of our greatest naval victories - Midway - was achieved in part due to an entire squadron undertaking a suicide mission, a mission which, btw, made absolutely no sense at the time.

You're referring to carrier-based torpedo planes at Midway (e.g. VT-8), I'm assuming, and I think you're largely wrong. It is certainly true that they understood their mission would be extremely dangerous. The mimeographed order distributed to VT-8 reflects the CO (Waldron's) frank understanding of that. On the other hand, the torpedo squadrons operating the obsolete Devastator had performed relatively effectively at Coral Sea.

It was understood by all involved that the risks were extreme, but particularly in the wake of Coral Sea, it made perfect "sense" to launch a torpedo plane attack at Midway.

Had the attack by the Devastators at Midway gone as planned, and been coordinated with a simultaneous dive bomber attack, it's quite possible that it would have proceeded much like Coral Sea, and without the wholesale slaughter of the torpedo plane crews.
12.6.2007 3:33pm
Bama 1L:
Richard Aubrey and others: I agree that S.L.A. Marshall almost certainly did not have any real data to back his assertions. But his ideas about infantry combat and particularly nonparticipation (free riding), its causes and how to reduce it, were tremendously influential. The U.S. Army, in particular, made significant changes to how it trained and equipped infantrymen in order to encourage greater participation: more realistic small arms training, automatic weapons for everyone, more emphasis on cooperation among small groups to keep everyone moving and shooting.

If Marshall was simply wrong and participation rates in WWII were as high as they are today, then there is nothing much to say.

But it's possible Marshall reached the right conclusions even though he didn't actually get the data. (In effect, he guessed right based on his combat experience and interviews but fudged the numbers.) I think there is reliable data on participation rates not collected by Marshall showing an increase from Korea to Vietnam. I think the Vietnam participation rate was found to be more on the order of 75-80%, and I don't at all doubt that Skyler encountered no free-riders at all in his bn. in Iraq.

When pointing out Marshall's flaws, keep in mind though that plenty of people with WWI and WWII experience accepted Marshall's assertions. They had seen plenty of men free ride in combat.

If the Army actually caused an improvement, maybe the right training program can make anyone--including women--more likely to participate in combat. Now whether it is desirable to do so is another question entirely.
12.6.2007 4:05pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Waldensian.

You miss the point. The Navy had preached the combined attack, preached and preached and preached. The reasons were many. One was that a ship's best course to avoid dive bombers (tight turns) would bring it across the torpedo tracks (straight lines), while trying to dodge torps--straight lines--made them good targets for dive bombers. The flak's attention would be split, ditto the defending fighters, while the US fighters were putting the Jap fighters on the defensive and keeping them from going after the dive bombers and torpedo bombers.

When Torpedo Eight showed up, they were alone. Given the usual interest in not dying, and not dying for nothing, the guys could have been strongly motivated to rationalize turning around and going back so as to get a real attack, one which would work, started.
Consider that a ship running away from a torpedo bomber is going, say, 30 knots. Behind it is a huge knuckle of violently disturbed water. The torpedo plane, needing to be slow in order the fish not break up, is probably going 110knots. So it's catching up at about 80 knots, from maybe three miles out. How long in a straight line going low and slow?
The fish has a small target--the stern of the ship, and must be dead on to avoid being redirected by the ship's propeller wash. So the launch has to be from close in.
Now, just for fun, let's have this whole thing going into a twenty-knot wind.
I am not in a place to get the figures on the attack parameters, so I may be off by a bit.
But the point is, a torp run without support is suicide.

Nobody said, let's go back, get this sorted out and put together something that will really work (as a rationalization against this being the last moments of his life).

The fact is, they didn't have to do this, but they did. And while the Japanese were cautiously celebrating the likely victory, for a few moments, the first American dive bomber turned over. Blood sacrifice to get the Japs' attention on the sea, looking for more torpedo planes. Antiaircraft gunners were looking out rather than up, and the fighters were on the deck looking for more torpedo bombers

Nope. It was suicide. Willing self-immolation.

God Bless Them.
12.6.2007 4:05pm
Bama 1L:
The fact is, they didn't have to do this, but they did.

The VT-8 crews certainly felt that attacking the enemy once they had located him was their duty and that they had to do it. (Let's not forget that the other two TBD squadrons, VT-3 and VT-6, as well as the assortment of aircraft from Midway, had carried out similar attacks with extremely heavy losses and no results.)

VT-8's sole survivor Ens. George Gay, interviewed later in the war about Midway:

"[VT-8 crewmen] followed [Lt.] Comdr. Waldron [VT-8 CO] without batting an eye and I don't feel like a lot of people have felt that we made mistakes and that Comdr. Waldron got us into trouble. I don't feel that way at all. I know that if I had it all to do over again, even knowing that the odds were going to be like they were, knowing him like I did know him, I'd follow him again through exactly the same thing because I trusted him very well. We did things that he wanted us to do not because he was our boss, but because we felt that if we did the things he wanted us to do then it was the right thing to do.

"The Zeros that day just caught us off balance. We were at a disadvantage all the way around."
12.6.2007 4:49pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
Wm. Empson on timidity and courage : QUOTE

The trumpet's loud clangour
Invites us to arms
With shrill notes of anger
And mortal alarms. The double double double beat
Of the thundering drum
Cries, heark the Foes come;
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat.


(Dryden, Ode for St. Cecilia's Day)

It is curious on the face of it that one should represent, in a mood of such heroic simplicity, a reckless excitement, a feverish and exalted eagerness for battle, by saying (in the most prominent part of the stanza from the point of view of final effect) that we can't get out of the battle now and must go through with it as best we can. Yet that is what happened, and it is not a cynical by-blow on the part of Dryden; the last line is entirely rousing and single-hearted. Evidently the thought that it is no good running away is am important ingredient of military enthusiasm; at any rate in the form of consciousness of unity with comrades, who ought to be encouraged not to retreat (even if they are not going to, they cannot have not thought of it, so that this encouragement is a sort of recognition of their merits), and of consciousness of the terror one should be exciting in the foe; so that all elements of the affair, including terror, must be part of the judgment of the most normally heroic mind, and that, since it is too late for him to retreat, the Lord has delivered him into your hands. Horses, in a way very like this, display mettle by a continual expression of timidity.

-- UNQUOTE --

(Empson, _Seven Types of Ambiguity_, p.198)
12.6.2007 4:54pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

We did things that he wanted us to do not because he was our boss, but because we felt that if we did the things he wanted us to do then it was the right thing to do.

Oh, I love that quote.

My experience in Iraq was that I never saw a single time where a Marine balked at going out. Even though we had 48 killed and over a 100 wounded badly enough to be evacuated, every time a patrol was sent out, everytime there was a response to shooting, after every death, IED attack, I never once saw anyone say they wouldn't go out.

As for free riders in WWII. I think a different factor might be at play here. It's my experience that if you have too many people for the job, you get less done than if you had slightly too few. The reason is that if one person is idle, everyone else sees no reason they shouldn't also be idle. I suspect that the units Marshall was seeing were ones that were not sufficiently tasked.

With my battalion, where everyone pitched in at all times, we were in a bad area covering 100 miles of the Euphrates with an understrength battalion. If we had had 20 battalions in that area (which as a back of my hand estimate is not too far off the number for that same area in WWII), there'd be a lot more loafing and a lot of "free riders" in some of those battalions.
12.6.2007 5:12pm
HBowmanMD:
Skyler, to be fair, you had available resources that allowed an understrength Bn to cover what a division would have been stretched to cover during WWII. Commo, air, intel, log support, etc.

But I agree. The military has always found that busy troops are happy troops (or at least not in trouble troops). A colloquialism: Idle hands are the devils playthings".
12.6.2007 5:19pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Since it is a numbers game, what would be the marginal loss if no pilots could do combat? Or if they didn't have ejection seats and parachutes?

What I'm getting at is the marginal cost in some kinds of combat positions of the servicemember being unable to do other kinds of combat may be a lot smaller than is being implied.

Skyler writes:
... The result is that these average men accomplish a lot more than you or even they would have thought possible were it not for their training.

I haven't met any women that can do that. An extremely rare few might, but I haven't met them and I've known a lot of women Marines.


Nobody arguing here for gender neutrality has suggested that women who can't should. (And I've agreed that the downside risk raised, that there are those who would insist on it, insist on equality of outcome, and opening positions to any women lets a camel's nose under the tent.)

Brent Michael Krupp said:
Comparing this issue to the issue of racially integrating the armed forces is silly. We already had combat units full of black men.

Did we always have equal opportunities? Wasn't Tuskegee noteworthy for something? I've never been a Navy diver -- is "Men of Honor" a complete work of fiction?

So letting black and white do what they are already doing, but together, is TOTALLY different than letting women do something they've never done alongside men who already do it. Just plain different!

You can still argue for letting women fight, but don't make the comparison to integrating our armed forces. It doesn't work.


My point is that the arguments are similar. "The presence of {blank} will prevent unit cohesion because {blank} are different from non-{blank}." A priori that was a concern, but it's proven not to be the case with racial integration, and it's at best questionable for orientation. It could be the case for gender, but it is not necessarily true. Be wary of stopped clocks, which are right twice a day, because they are not reliable timekeepers.

Cold Warrior raises a similar point in the comments to "Psychological Differences" at 11am on 12/5.

Prof. Browne quotes:
As Samuel Stouffer’s study of the American soldier in World War II found, showing cowardice in battle brought not just censure for cowardice itself; even more powerfully, “to fail to measure up as a soldier in courage and endurance was to risk the charge of not being a man.” The fear of not measuring up as a man is highly motivating, but it is not one that motivates women.

Of course not. A White airman isn't motivated by fear that his failure will show that Blacks can't be as good airmen as Whites. But this is getting to the silliness level of "How can a woman be a policeman?" (I see Evelyn Blaine made the same point at 3am)

tvk said at 5:48am:
Third, it is highly troubling that much of your argument relies on a vicious cycle. That is, because society defines women as less aggressive, they are expected to be less aggressive, and society is then justified in defining women as less aggressive. That logic would never work for, say, race disparities. By your logic, if we had some evidence that Asian men had--on average and in general--greater empathy for the enemy (especially if we were, say, fighting against the Japanese) and lower social expectations of their courage; that would justify a wholesale exclusion of all Asian men from the army. I think it fair to say that no one would find that convincing.

I agree with what he said. (I had some even better things to say when I started answering this this morning, but my boss wanted me to do the work for which he's paying me.)
12.6.2007 5:25pm
Bama 1L:
Skyler: Yes, too many infantrymen with not enough to do (except become casualties) might have been the problem. If you look at how the WWII Germans thought of their rifle squads, you have a machinegunner (who has a really awesome gun that represents about 90% of the squad's combat power), his assistants (who carry ammunition, spare barrels, etc.), the squad leader of course (whose job it is to site the machinegun and sight targets), and about half a dozen guys with crappy bolt-action rifles (whose job is . . . ?).

A modern rifle squad does not, I gather, have such a differential between those effectively equipped and those ineffectively equipped.

I am hoping, by the way, that some law &econ scholar will pop up and explain why the most efficient rate of combat participation is something less than 100%, and that the market will sort this out.
12.6.2007 6:23pm
Waldensian (mail):

When Torpedo Eight showed up, they were alone. Given the usual interest in not dying, and not dying for nothing, the guys could have been strongly motivated to rationalize turning around and going back so as to get a real attack, one which would work, started.

This is silly armchair flying.

When Torpedo 8 saw the Japanese fleet, all they really knew was that their coordinated attack was not materializing -- yet. They saw Japanese fighters all over the place. They had to assume that the Japanese had seen them, and were moving to intercept them at that very moment. If so, the Japanese would catch them if they loitered, and likely would catch them if they tried to retreat. The TBD was very, very slow, and actually made torpedo runs well under the 110 knots you mention. (An old chief who flew one told me that you really didn't dare drop a torpedo above 90 knots, and of course most of those didn't work anyway.)

Their only choice, sadly, was to attack. They were in a tough spot, to be sure, but it didn't start out as a suicide mission, and their subsequent attack was the best from a collection of very bad options.

Plus, for all they knew, friendly fighters and SDBs might appear out of the blue at any moment.

Also, their own carriers were in continuing danger. They simply didn't have the luxury of going back to the carrier to regroup. (In fact, at that point they probably had only enough fuel to make it to Midway). If they didn't knock out the Japanese carriers, the aviators of Torpedo 8 knew they might well not have the Hornet to go home to.

Better to take your shot, and possibly save your own ship, than to get cut to ribbons flying away with an unused torpedo, toward a ship that might be sunk. Their bravery was incredible, but the fact that they almost all died doesn't remotely mean it was suicidal.

Here's how George Gay once told his story. How suicidal was this man?

"He watched the Japanese deck crews run, duck, and leap for safety as he flew over them. George told me that a little voice in his head told him that if he just pushed his stick forward and crashed into the carrier deck filled with aircraft and munitions he would take out this carrier himself. He said he listened but ignored the idea. As George flew off the end of the carrier he turned his head to look back and said out loud, "I'll be back!"

Incidentally, my nomination for greatest American of all time is Harry Corl, a TBD gunner with VT-3 who fired at attacking Japanese planes with his pistol after his machine guns jammed.
12.6.2007 6:29pm
Waldensian (mail):

and about half a dozen guys with crappy bolt-action rifles (whose job is . . . ?).

Their job, basically, was to keep the enemy away from the machine gun. At least that's what I gathered from reading "The Forgotten Soldier."

And how dare you call the K98 Mauser "crappy." How dare you sir. :) In all seriousness, it's actually a fine battle rifle. If you're ever in central Virginia, send me an e-mail and I'll let you shoot mine.
12.6.2007 6:35pm
Waldensian (mail):

Incidentally, my nomination for greatest American of all time is Harry Corl, a TBD gunner with VT-3 who fired at attacking Japanese planes with his pistol after his machine guns jammed.

Whoops. Corl was actually the pilot, the gunner was greatest American of all time Lloyd Childers.
12.6.2007 6:48pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Waldensian.
I don't fly airplanes, although I have jumped out of some.
The point about Torpedo Eight stemmed from a reference earlier about suicide missions.
And whether women and men were equally likely to do it, if they thought it necessary.
Women, not having been in those positions very often, haven't shown a propensity either way, so the question is open.
Yes, Waldron's guys would have followed him anywhere, and did. Part of the issue is whether an integrated unit, or women in particular, would see this happen. Would a woman commander elicit the same following responses as a man? Sheldon's somatotyping implies that following responses are somewhat hardwired and they are most powerfully elicited by mesomorphs, who are rarely women.
As I say, the question is open.

The torpedo bombers may have thought the rest of the guys would arrive, but there was no commo to that effect. So, as far as they KNEW, they were alone and that was not The Way. The motivation to turn around would have been strong, that being what fear is. The fighters might have followed them, but the Japs knew about combined attacks and would have been waiting for the rest of the formations to arrive. The Japanese carriers were their only homes. The Americans could land on Midway, if necessary. Or at least fly in that direction and ditch, with some hope of rescue. So the Japanese would probably not have followed very far. Which the Americans could presume, this being sort of like a giant chess game.
Again, this is woulda-shoulda. My point is that the rationalization about going back likely happened, it would be normal, and was dismissed. That's courage.
12.6.2007 7:34pm
Enoch:
Some points about the Soviet experience in WW2:

1. Although a large number of women served in the Red Army, they were still a very small proportion (3%) of the Red Army as a whole. The Red Army was predominantly male.

2. Female casualties were extremely low, indicating that the vast majority of Soviet female soldiers did not in fact fight.

3. Many of the "heroic" female soldiers (pilots and snipers) were given lots of publicity for propaganda reasons, which leads many to overrate the actual significance of Soviet women combatants, which was low (see point 1). Most Soviet women soldiers worked in administration, health care, and food preparation, as they did in other armies.

4. The physical stress of front-line service left many Soviet women permanently crippled, and they were largely withdrawn from combat duty after the defensive emergency was over and the USSR went on the offensive.
12.6.2007 10:15pm
Waldensian (mail):

My point is that the rationalization about going back likely happened, it would be normal, and was dismissed.

I don't think they ever thought about it. George Gay's account doesn't indicate they were busy rationalizing anything, or agonizing over what they should do. They just bored in, because there was quite simply nothing else sensible to do. As Waldron had feared, when they found the fleet, they were (unfortunately) in a bad tactical situation. But that doesn't mean they were suicidal. It meant they were knowledgeable and realistic, and extremely brave.

To drag myself slightly back on topic, I don't see any potential gender distinction in how Naval aviators might have acted that day. Of the female Naval aviators I've met, I can't imagine they would do anything different.


So the Japanese would probably not have followed very far.

Bill Esders, Harry Corl, and Lloyd Childers might disagree with you on that bit of speculation. Based on what actually happened to them.
12.7.2007 11:36am