[Rosemary Mariner, guest-blogging, December 20, 2007 at 5:54pm] Trackbacks
The Americanization of the Armed Forces-Response to Comments:

As always, a lively discussion. I appreciate the courtesy and will clarify a few points.

First, Soviet women in the Red Army went all the way to Berlin. While women fought in other occupied nations, notably Poland and Yugoslavia, only the Soviets sent military women outside the country.

As to why the Soviets "de-integrated" after the war, there are several theories. Some attribute it to sexism; it was O.K. for women to fight when the chips were down. Under peacetime conditions, they should return to traditional roles, like building roads for the state.

I think the greatest factor was the overwhelming desire of men and women to go back to a normal life and raise families. The vast majority of combatants in the Great Patriotic War were citizen-soldiers, not professionals. In the aftermath of a horrific German occupation, with an estimated 20 million dead, few veterans wanted anything more to do with warfare.

Both men and women were tremendously proud of their wartime service. It was common for civilians to wear their medals for public events.

This gets to the issue of motivation, especially the distinction between "cause" (why people join up to fight) and "comrade" (what motivates people under fire).

Second, the issue of recruiting standards. While the basic standard is gender neutral (everyone takes the same test and is categorized the same) under combat exclusion policies, who is actually enlisted is a different story. With separate assignment policies for men and women, recruiting goals are often driven by gender because women aren't universally assignable. This leads to all kinds of differences in the way people are accessed and assigned.

For example, if there is a "pink" quota for female truck drivers, but few takers, then a man with a higher AFQT might well be passed over in favor of a woman with lower scores. Conversely, if a woman in the 99 percentile wants to drive tanks but is prohibited by gender, then a man in a lower category might fill the slot. This is just one example why I think these policies are as unfair to men as they are to women.

Hence my fundamental conclusion that service should be predicated on individual merit, not group identity. Segregation practices that create separate forces and assignment criteria (based on race, gender, or whatever) are antithetical to cohesion.

Third, the issue of strength and fitness standards. Again, I recognize that there are positions, especially in ground combat, that require significant strength and fitness. Then define the standard and apply it equally. If few women qualify, then fine.

However, there are reasons why the services are hesitant to do this, and they have nothing to do with women.

There have been numerous studies over the years that attempted to quantify strength and skill requirements for various military tasks. It is not an easy process. Among the most difficult things to get a lock-on is the "heart" factor; sometimes the little guy can do the job better than anyone else. Also, technology is constantly altering the equation.

Perhaps the major reason senior leadership is uncomfortable with establishing strength standards is because service chiefs must also plan for mobilization. In unpopular wars, especially under conscription, strong men (and women) could deliberately fail tests to avoid service. When the services need to expand the force rapidly, standards of all sorts become elastic.

Fourth, the use of psychometrics to screen character traits. Prof. Browne turns the work of psychometrics on its head. The field is all about individual differences and rejects group membership as a substitute for estimating psychological attributes.

Five, the Roman Republic and her citizen army. Throughout most of the Roman Republic's history, citizenship had a property requirement, which was a condition for military service. The backbone of Rome's citizen army was the independent yeoman farmer who provided his own equipment.

Marius's enrollment of the Head Count --a landless mob in Rome that received a grain dole-- into the legions constituted a major departure from the citizen army that conquered the Mediterranean world. This created an effective but highly politicized professional force that gave allegiance to individual generals, --not the Republic. They played a central role in the Roman Revolution, which eventually led to the destruction of the Republic, loss of political liberty, military dictatorship of Caesar Augustus, and the imperial Roman Empire.

Finally, the larger issue of who serves and how, must be viewed from the strategic level as well as the tactical. In peacetime, the services can afford to be exclusive. In wartime, especially when the "cause" is not motivating enough people to enlist, the size of the pool is critical.

Today's forces, including the infantry, are the finest the world has seen. It is an affirmation of the All Volunteer Force that we can debate restricting women because the quality of the force is still high. How long that is the case remains to be seen.