Two Interesting Articles...

...on subjects we occasionally discuss.

A female Marine with combat experience argues against the admission of female Marines into the Infantry officer program.  In doing so, she makes a number of points Cassandra has often made, but one that I think may be new to the discussion.  The author's own experience with medical attrition as a combat engineer includes a harrowing list of symptoms including infertility:  and that is from a successful tour, without injury from enemy action.
This said, we need only to review the statistics from our entry-level schools to realize that there is a significant difference in the physical longevity between male and female Marines. At OCS the attrition rate for female candidates in 2011 was historically low at 40 percent, while the male candidates attrite at a much lower rate of 16 percent. Of candidates who were dropped from training because they were injured or not physically qualified, females were breaking at a much higher rate than males, 14 percent versus 4 percent. The same trends were seen at TBS in 2011; the attrition rate for females was 13 percent versus 5 percent for males, and 5 percent of females were found not physically qualified compared with 1 percent of males. Further, both of these training venues have physical fitness standards that are easier for females; at IOC there is one standard regardless of gender. The attrition rate for males attending IOC in 2011 was 17 percent. Should female Marines ultimately attend IOC, we can expect significantly higher attrition rates and long-term injuries for women....
Opening combat arms MOSs, particularly the infantry, such observers argue, allows women to gain the necessary exposure of leading Marines in combat, which will then arguably increase the chances for female Marines serving in strategic leadership assignments.... Even if a female can meet the short-term physical, mental, and moral leadership requirements of an infantry officer, by the time that she is eligible to serve in a strategic leadership position, at the 20-year mark or beyond, there is a miniscule probability that she’ll be physically capable of serving at all. Again, it becomes a question of longevity.
When we were talking about Ranger school, some of us noted that the odds were that there would be a loss to the force of excellent officers by putting them in such a physically demanding situation.  However, the issue of longevity is new:  even the ones who do survive the training may not be able to survive twenty years of active service to attain admission to the general officer ranks.  If we are doing a cost/benefit analysis in terms of the good of the force, then, the costs are even higher than I had thought; and the expected benefit begins to vanish entirely.

The second article is over at National Review, a writer named David French does something that I know Elise and Cassandra both wish we did more often:  he attacks the problem set that conservatives often attack as arising from "feminism," but without attributing it to (or even mentioning) feminism or feminist groups.  Rather, he attributes the problem set to "the sexual revolution."

This strikes me as kind of a good point.  What's really objectionable is the destruction of the family, the prevalence of abortion, the translation of 'pursuit of happiness' to mean 'chasing after desires by adults, regardless of the cost to their families and children.'  It seems natural to look to the foremost defenders of unfettered abortion when you go to complain about abortion; but it may be that the underlying issue he identifies is the real source of the problem.


Elise said...

Interesting summation of the French article, Grim - thanks for linking this. I think this takes us back to earlier discussions at VC about women and honor: What happens when behavior (unconsidered sex) is constrained primarily due to material consequences (pregnancy, poverty) and those material consequences disappear? It's bad news when the behavior was desirable for society but no moral or ethical basis is persuasive absent the material consequences.

Grim said...

The material consequences issue is certainly a large part of the problem. Society obtains a substantial benefit from families that stay together, and produce children, and rear those children successfully. We all benefit from their work, but they pay for it out of pocket. That makes society, in economic terms, a free rider on successful families.

However, the costs of broken families are largely absorbed by society.

Thus we end up subsidizing the behavior we don't want to see, while free riding on those who display the behavior we do want to see. That's a recipe for more bad behavior and less good, usually.

Grim said...

That said, I'm not sure exactly what the role of material consequences is in moral or ethical arguments about, say, abortion. The moral arguments about abortion aren't persuasive (or not) in the absence of material consequences; rather, they tend to be about the material consequences.

For example, as you know, the major force of the argument in favor of abortion has to do with the improvement of the adult woman's material circumstances. She finds herself better able to control her access to education, wealth, social position, and many other things if she is able to abort children who appear at times when they would be troublesome to her designs.

The argument is that women deserve lives like that. The argument against the practice has to do with what the child deserves -- materially, not to be killed.

So there remain material consequences either way. The question is who should bear the weight of paying them -- and the adult votes, while the child does not.

Grim said...

Or maybe the real problem you're pointing to is that relatively few people are persuaded by moral or ethical arguments except materialist ones?

That's a problem with roots in the 19th century, though: although I suppose the sexual revolution is too, really. It was during the 19th century that the contemporary version of hedonistic philosophy, utilitarianism, began to become prominent. Likewise, when we talk about the sexual revolution we always talk about the Pill and so forth, but The Awakening dates to 1899.

Cass said...

The Gazette article is excellent, Grim.

I have no doubt that there are some women who can fight and keep pace with men. But they have to work far harder to get to that point and then to maintain a condition that is unnatural for them.

It stands to reason, then, that under adverse conditions fewer women will be able to maintain a comparable level of physical readiness. When you add in the stress fractures and other issues unique to women, that problem becomes even more clear.

What I though particularly compelling was her observation that she doesn't see female Marines agitating to be admitted to the IOC.

E Hines said...

The Captain's argument is important. If her data truly are representative and not simply an outlier in those 5% or 10% of sampling that tends to refute an hypothesis, I may have to rethink my attitude that anyone who can work the equipment and send accurate fire downrange ought to be assignable to the task.

Long-run cost-effectiveness is as important as short-term. I anticipate, though, that the small man will exhibit many--not all--of the same long-run costs.

Eric Hines

Elise said...


I was thinking about material consequences on the individual level. That is, for an individual woman the material consequences of unconsidered sex used to be pregnancy and, depending on how the pregnancy was handled and whether there was more than one of them, ostracism and (often resultant) poverty. Now, for an individual woman, unconsidered sex does not have to result in pregnancy (contraception); if it does, it does not have ot result in a child (abortion); and if it does result in a child, that does not have to result in poverty, or at least poverty so severe it is life-threatening (welfare and related services). So for the individual woman, the serious material consequences of unconsidered sex have been removed.

I am not arguing that people aren’t persuaded by moral and ethical arguments in the absence of material ones. I’m arguing that the arguments against women having unconsidered (or unmarried in general) sex prior to the widespread use of the birth control pill and the legalization of abortion were usually couched in terms of the material consequences rather than in terms of any moral or ethical reason for not sleeping around. When the material consequences were ameliorated, there was no levee against the behavior.

I think this fits in with your comments about utilitarianism. If chastity is desirable for women but not for men (which I believe was largely the societal stance prior to the widespread use of the pill) it is much easier to justify that with utilitarian arguments than with moral and ethical ones.

As a side note, I have never understood why people are so puzzled by the vitriol directed at Tim Tebow. His crime is not that he is a devout and outspoken Christian. His crime is that his chastity refutes the claim that all of us (or at least all men) are helpless in the face of their own sexual drives and that chastity is not even an option. Tebow is the ultimate in masculinity in popular culture: attractive, virile (a given since he plays football), straight (also a given since he plays football), powerful, popular, and rich. If he abstains from a lot of random sex - or, worse, from sex at all - that is a continuous rebuke to those who insist such abstention is impossible or, at best, unnatural, unmanly, or reserved for fringe losers.

Elise said...

(Continued - I'm very wordy today)

As for abortion, prior to legalization the material consequence was that abortion was illegal and often dangerous. Now abortion is legal and safe. So we must fall back on moral and ethical arguments to prevent abortion. The moral argument against abortion is that we don’t kill innocent human beings (or our own children). This is countered by the argument that the unborn are not human beings and therefore abortion is not killing a human being. I do not believe that is a moral or ethical argument; rather it is a pseudo-moral/ethical argument designed to justify a desired outcome.

That is, I would argue that what you cite - that a woman has the right to “control her access to education, wealth, social position, and many other things” and that right would be trampled if she is forced to have children at times not of her own choosing - is the selfish motive that is driving the insistence that the unborn are not human beings. It is analogous to the slave-owner’s insistence that his slaves are not quite human and it arises from the same root: acknowledging humanity in either case would interfere with the desires of the person who has the power of life and death.

Finally, the usual form of the argument you cite - about a woman’s life being harmed if she has a child when she does not want to - is one of the most dishonest of the arguments about abortion. It is usually couched in terms I encountered in an essay a few years ago and which I did not bookmark. The author ran through a long list of the ways in which an unwanted child could damage a woman’s life and they all had to do with the strain on money, time, energy, and emotional resources involved in raising a child. The list was convincing and heart-rending, with its purple prose about condemning a single woman and her child to poverty due to an interrupted education and its royal purple prose about how an extra child could destroy an entire family’s chance to better itself and was therefore cruel to existing children.

Why is this dishonest? Because it talks about the consequences of raising a child, not of carrying one to term. The balance to be struck is not between an abortion and a woman (and her existing family) being forced to bear the burden of eighteen years of another mouth to feed, clothe, and educate; it is between an abortion and nine months of pregnancy. Thus the honest argument for abortion has to do with the woman’s bodily integrity, not with material consequences.

Texan99 said...

A higher attrition rate for women is not a good argument for not letting a woman try. It's her risk and should be her decision. It's not for others to decide that the risk is unreasonably high in view of the alternative uses to which she might have put her body -- if that were so, we wouldn't let smart men be test pilots.

Also, I don't see that a woman's leaving the home breaks the family any more than a man's leaving the home. The question is whether the parents work out something reasonable in light of who can and will be staying. If they can't work out something in advance, they ought not to be producing children.

Grim said...


I can't think of any examples of official moral or ethical arguments in favor of men avoiding chastity (defined not as celibacy, but as sexual expression controlled by marriage, or at least by reason). It surely was true that there was a readier exception made for men by other men, as there still probably is today.

It may be that there is now also a readier exception for women by women; there seem to be a lot of quasi-autobiographical books about the pleasures of adultery by women for female audiences. The genre I am thinking of appears to treat adultery as part of a general quest for self-actualization and enlightenment. Since I know of them mostly from reading book reviews, I think it's right to say that they tend to be well-received. So: equality! Women are now as ready to excuse women on these grounds as men have traditionally been to excuse men.

Here again, we have again a kind of moral or ethical argument at work: and it is, again, a kind of hedonistic one. It's a little stronger than materialism, though, because it doesn't look just to the pleasures or avoidance of pain associated with (say) not having a child you aren't ready to have.

(You raise an excellent point, by the way, in your second comment. Adoption is put to the side, and for no very good reason; I gather it amounts to "How could you ask a woman to go through life without her baby?" To which I wonder if they really mean the baby she was willing to kill?)

Rather, there's an argument that this kind of sexual liberality is joined with a kind of emotional quest for one's true inner spirit. This ends up being a quest for pleasure, both sexual and meditative: hedonism, in other words, even if it is a more sophisticated sort of pleasure being sought.

Or, as Chesterton said, "That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones."

Texan99 said...

When I was young and couldn't see anything wrong with abortion, I once commented to a friend that I could imagine having an abortion but couldn't imagine giving up a baby to adoption. She found that inconsistent, but it seemed to me at the time that an abortion, or at least a very early one, didn't involve a child. It was much more like simply preventing a pregnancy in the first place. Once a woman had borne the child for nine months, though, and actually given birth, it would be a human being to whom she was already strongly attached.

Many aspects of abortion make no sense if we don't take into account whether people believe the small entity involved is a human being.

Grim said...


A higher attrition rate for women is not a good argument for not letting a woman try. It's her risk and should be her decision. It's not for others to decide that the risk is unreasonably high...

I normally agree with this perspective, but I reserve a single exception for the military's combat arms (not the police, even: just combat forces in the military). It is the military's strength that allows us to defend a space inside of which all of these liberties are both practical and culturally acceptable. The question of whose decision it should be, and on what grounds, then, is answered for me thus: it must be the military's decision, and the criterion must be the good of the force.

It isn't just the woman's risk, in any case. It costs a great deal of money to train a soldier, let alone an officer. If we're talking about a process that will reliably degrade some of the military's best female officers (I say 'the best' because these will be the ones who will be courageous and driven enough to volunteer for such a difficult assignment), it's an expensive proposition for the military.

Note the reason for considering it is precisely the long-term investment in female officers that the military wants to make. It wants female general officers. If that is coherent with the good of the force, then it makes sense to adopt a course of action that keeps the best female officers in good shape for the kind of lengthy career that is required.

There's also a risk to her unit: if she is at special risk to be medically unable to complete a deployment, the unit could be left short while in combat, to the detriment of everyone else. Again, it's not just about her: the good of the force has to be the criterion.

(I'm guessing the military would probably also want to argue that their $150 million Raptors are best entrusted to smart operators, too! But that's a side point.)

Grim said... seemed to me at the time that an abortion, or at least a very early one, didn't involve a child.... Once a woman had borne the child for nine months, though, and actually given birth, it would be a human being to whom she was already strongly attached.

That kind of argument makes a kind of emotional sense, although it is very weak. The parallel is this:

"Which is more praiseworthy: to destroy a life in a way that is relatively easy emotionally, or to save one in a way that entails a personal emotional sacrifice?"

Phrased in those terms, without people knowing you were talking about abortion, even someone who reasons purely from their feelings can see the value of the sacrifice. Yet as soon as you expand the context to make clear that it's abortion under discussion, the agreement will be lost. That suggests to me that Elise is right: the people are rationalizing to the answer they want for material reasons.

(Although, it isn't necessary that everyone who argues this way is doing so for bad reasons. I know someone like this: she tells me that her moral code amounts to "I do what feels right to me." I can attest that absolutely no amount of reasoning sways her opinion of what is right to the slightest degree on any question: if she can't defend a point, she'll just remind me that she feels differently, and that internal feeling is sufficient to know that she is right on the point. It's very frustrating to try to discuss differences with her, since she neither has nor is interested in reasons beyond how she feels; but she isn't a bad person, in spite of that. Her feelings are generally generous and kind, and if she errs it is usually out of thoughtlessness than self-interest).

Grim said...

And it occurs to me that this is a kind of hedonism too: to do what your conscience tells you is pleasant, and to live in accord with your conscience alone is highly pleasant. Since that is the sole criterion for decision-making, you'd have to say that this particular pleasure is the basis of the moral code: and since the pursuit of pleasure is the sole basis of the moral code, it is a kind of hedonism.

But it's a highly functional one, as such things go. It avoids the usual problem of utilitarianism, which is that you have to know what will cause the most pleasure or avoid the most pain in order to know what it is right to do; and you can't really know that in advance. Whereas you can really know what your feelings say is the right thing to do right now, so you can just do that.

As long as your feelings are as kind and generous as hers, it could work out most of the time: up until you come to a point at which the right thing to do is something unpleasant even to the conscience, as sadly sometimes does occur, especially in cases of war. It could be disabling in those cases.

E Hines said...

A higher attrition rate for women is not a good argument for not letting a woman try. It's her risk and should be her decision. It's not for others to decide that the risk is unreasonably high...

Pretty much what Grim said, since he beat me to it. If the (female) soldier isn't on a solo mission--for her entire career--the risk isn't only hers: her teammates have a valid concern, too--that good of the military bit, brought home to her immediate unit.

I'll broaden Grim's exception, though, to family. I no longer take the risks I took when I was young and stupid. Now that I'm not young anymore, and have a family, that family's welfare must inform the risks I take. And so it must my wife's risk-taking decisions.

It's not for others to decide that the risk is unreasonably high...if that were so, we wouldn't let smart men be test pilots.

I disagree with this, too: if we didn't stick smart men in the cockpits of test aircraft, the tests generally would fail. It takes a very smart man to see--and recognize and understand--what's happening as his aircraft is put through its test protocols, especially if the aircraft decides to fail those protocols. I was assigned to a Test squadron for a time in the USAF. I had a number of incidents where, in a time-critical emergency, the pilot diagnosed the problem and worked out a solution that would let him recover the aircraft.

But that recognition factor is important in its own right. I had another incident where we were not going to diagnose and solve the problem--all we could do was get him to a spot from which he could land the aircraft. It took someone in the cockpit that could understand what he was seeing and how the aircraft was responding to be able to collect the data for the post-incident debriefings that led to an understanding of the root cause and enabled procedures to be worked out to solve it in real time, next time.

As for that $15 million F-22, speaking as someone who built and tested the USAF's simulators for that aircraft (and the company for which I worked builds the world's best--no brag, just fact), and who has a few hundred hours in those simulators, I consider the F-22 a pig that's badly overpriced and built for a threat that didn't exist, and still doesn't today.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I'm not sure that "family" as such is analogous, Mr. Hines. If "the family" decides whether I may X, at least a substantial part of the decision-making is mine; and if the family does not consider my interests as well as other interests, it is doing me a disservice.

If "the military" decides whether I may X, aside from having volunteered, I have no say in the question; and if the military does not consider my interests as well as the good of the force, it is doing only what it ought to do.

So it seems to me, at least.

E Hines said...

That the family ought to give me more consideration for my wish to do X than does the military is true enough--although it seems to me that if my family depends on me for their welfare, and my reason for doing X is purely for the risk involved, they ought to have a pretty strong say in the matter. My point was simply that my inability to do X unilaterally also extends to family.

And I should have said $150 million F-22. But I'm USAF--we don't do decimals.

Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

I agree that people who are considering taking risks ought to consider the impact on people who depend on them. It doesn't follow that they should delegate the decision to those people, or that those people have the right to force them to one decision or another. It only seems to make sense in this case because it's a woman taking the risk. If it were a man, there would be a stronger aversion to undermining his autonomy by taking the choice away from him whether to risk himself. If he makes the wrong choice, it's on him. It should be the same for women.

Grim said...

With all due respect, Tex, that's just not how the military works -- or ought to work.

I've been on the receiving end of it myself. When I was 18 years old, I enlisted in the Marines. I was medical'd out. After 9/11, I tried to get back in, and although the Officer Selection Officer (OSO) wanted me, the medical officers wouldn't agree to it.

Now, as it happened I found my way to Iraq twice in other fashions. I think my experience there shows that my judgment about my capacities was right. I did quite well in Iraq, and I think the experience proves that I would have been an excellent officer of Marines if I had been given the chance.

But all the same, it was the Marine Corps' right to make its decision as it did. I don't hold it against them one bit. They made the call they did out of their sense of what the force needed most, at a time of war. I went on to find other ways to serve. They did what they ought to have done, and I did what I had to do.

When we're talking about war, that's how it has to be.

Texan99 said...

Did they make their medical call on the basis of your individual medical test results, or did they use a rule of thumb based on your membership in a broad category of human beings comprising half the population?

Grim said...

A rule of thumb isn't the issue; it is an issue of specific medical conditions. You can test each individual for them if you like; but the military needs to be able to exclude from the infantry those who have ACLs that are especially prone to damage, or weak ligaments, or other similar conditions.

In this case it's the worse because we're talking about the officer school. In an entire company of Marine infantry, there are only three officers. In a platoon, there's only one. If they begin to degrade and be unable to keep up with the mission cycle into a deployment -- as this captain did -- it's a serious issue for the whole unit. Even if she's not forced to leave the deployment, the whole unit's capacity is degraded.

Texan99 said...

I've never had any problem excluding people from activities on the basis of their own measurements, assuming the measurements were genuinely relevant to the activity. It's the collectivization of the judgment that bothers me. It's like the difference between cutting off a college's entrance requirements at the 99% level on the SAT vs. deciding that it's just not worth it, overall, to devote the time and resources of the college experience to anyone but Asians.

MikeD said...

My objections had been solely limited to the fact that there are two standards for physical capabilities in the military. The male standard and the female standard. We're told that women can compete for infantry slots on par with men, but they are not required to hold to the same standards for physical fitness, nor BMI. These are two contradicting positions. I will freely admit I don't think I could have hacked it in the infantry, even when I was at my peak condition in the Army. I managed (barely) to complete a 12 mile ruck march with 25 lb pack and boots in three hours as required by my last Battalion commander (LTC Slaven, freshly arrived from the 101st ABN). A requirement he subsequently dropped when most women in my unit were unable to complete the task. Now, mind you, some did. But most could not. But we were an MI unit, and a non-deployable one at that. So the requirement wasn't particularly sensible (it's the same requirement Air Assault soldiers are required to complete), but he wanted to have a high-speed, low-drag non-deployable MI unit.

I am ALL for having different standards when they make sense for the mission. Infantry, especially the specialist infantry such as Airborne, Rangers, and Special Forces must have the most strenuous standards, because they will be the most physically tasked members of the Army. There's no reason to have supply clerks held to those same standards. True, every soldier, in extremis, is expected to be able to grab a rifle and close with the enemy and destroy them in close combat. The Marine Corps' philosophy is a bit different in that they hold that every Marine is a rifleman who holds additional duties. It's a matter of priorities.

You find me a woman able to perform at infantry level physical standards (not a female version, but the single standard) and I will remove my major objection to allowing women in the infantry. There are still others, of course (and Cass has covered several of these), but that's been my major issue.

Finally, one thought. The ultimate purpose of the military is to defend the nation and it's interests by being ready to destroy its foes in combat, not to provide a sense of fulfillment or to provide a career to any individual citizen. I feel we've lost track of that goal as a society.

Texan99 said...

I agree with you, but I would add one point: the goal of the military is national defense, not the upholding of social standards or the preservation of traditions for reasons that are not strictly related to defense. There was a time when people thought it was obvious that blacks should not serve, for instance, and they had no trouble explaining why this was crucial to morale, effectiveness, etc.

But I agree that, for the most part, having different standards for men and women is asking for trouble and a pure pandering to political correctness. I'd rather see the standards set at whatever makes sense for the job, and then if 80% of men but only 20% of women can hack it, then fine. But our choices usually seem to be between (1) excluding all members of a particular group or (2) applying different standards to different groups. What in the heck is so hard about setting the standards at some sensible level and then applying them equally to individuals?

Cass said...

I'd rather see the standards set at whatever makes sense for the job, and then if 80% of men but only 20% of women can hack it, then fine.

Here's the problem with that line of thinking: you've raised the unit cost of basic training AND the costs associated with lifetime or career long medical care.

All getting through basic does is establish that at the peak of your youthful strength, you can do certain things.

But if an overall population of people are prone (at far higher rates) to things like stress fractures, for instance, you are weakening the force. You have to consider not just whether they can successfully complete basic, but also the effect of - for instance - pregnancy or lactation hormones loosening your joints and ligaments.

We already have a problem with women getting pregnant on deployments. The cost of this happening is huge - you have to send the woman home or move her to somewhere she can get prenatal care and find another person to fill her job.

When DoD completely stops tracking and reporting something like that, this should be a huge red flag.

Carry your logic to the logical extreme - where's the cutoff where we say, "Hey, it's just not cost effective to admit women?"

20%? 10% 5% 2% success rates? Add in attrition down the line. That's exactly the cost calculation that was performed in Grim's case - it wasn't certain he'd reinjure himself, but the odds were good that he would.

Or take overweight people, many of whom can pass the PFT. Why the exception for women?

Grim said...

You find me a woman able to perform at infantry level physical standards (not a female version, but the single standard) and I will remove my major objection to allowing women in the infantry. There are still others, of course (and Cass has covered several of these), but that's been my major issue.

The issue that the female captain is raising is that the woman needs not only to be able to perform at those levels today, but that she needs to be able to continue to do so daily for a 10 or 15 month deployment.

If that's the standard, it's not going to be 80% of men and 20% of women. It's may be more like 40% of men and 0% of women. It's only about 1% of women who can sustain the initial standard, if we take the Canadian experience as telling. When Canada admitted women to its infantry school under the original, unmodified standards, 103 women attempted it and 1 passed the course. But again, that's passing the initial course: it's not standing up to continued rigors of duty.

Canada is a good example, because it went on to admit women to the infantry anyway: it just lowered the standards for them until they could complete the training and sustain the service. Even with these lowered standards, the dropout rate for women was 42%, even among non-combat units; and 3/4s of women who were selected for position in combat units simply failed to appear for training. Half of those who did appear under the new, lowered standards managed to pass the initial training and obtain assignment to combat units.

You can read about the Canadian experience in this book, which deals also with American efforts to reform the military to make it more amenable to women. It's a little out of date, though, because those "combat units" weren't actually in combat at the time it was written. For example, I have been unable to locate information on how well female soldiers in infantry units in Afghanistan performed; but the Princess Pat's light infantry stood some hard fighting in Kandahar at times. Those statistics must exist, even if they aren't public.

Texan99 said...

Sounds like we could use some research into how to exclude 60% of the men up front, too. They cost a lot to train.

Grim said...

Most of them self-exclude by not joining the Marine Corps, or not passing basic training, or not volunteering for the infantry: but yeah, even then there are a certain number who get to the IOC in spite of being at risk for injury or mentally unfit for the work. So, we use the IOC in part to find them.

The first section of the IOC is the combat endurance course. Of 96 officers who started the last course, only 76 passed. Seven were injured; the rest quit or failed to meet the standards. Experience shows that women in the military suffer training injuries at between four and eight times the rate of men (the low figure is British; the higher rates are observed in Canada and the US), so if you can round up 96 women officers to try, we ought to expect between 28 and 56 of them to be injured out of the course.

That's a very high price to pay. But the Marines are going to do it regardless; and I guess we'll see how it goes. .

Grim said...

As you say, though, it would be nice if we had a better way to avoid injuring the officers than to test them and see how many get injured. By the time you go to IOC, the Marine Corps has invested in you quite heavily for more than a year -- indeed, if you're an Academy grad, for many years.

It's very expensive to lose an officer to a training injury. But, the training has to be rigorous if they are to survive the field. It would be good if we had a better way of knowing up front who was likely to survive.

Cass said...

The test is not whether you're "unfairly" excluding an entire class of people, but whether the class of people you're excluding is cost effective to train.

We exclude all sorts of classes of people from military service: people with poor eyesight, people with asthma (like my son, who played all star soccer as a midfielder, which demands that you be in excellent shape and run for hours at a time at top speed. My son was in better shape in HS than 98% of kids who show up at boot camp, but he was ineligible for military service because on average, people with asthma can't fulfill the physical requirements. That was demonstrably untrue of my son but it's generally true.

Why is being female any different?

This isn't about gender equity. It's about readiness.

Cass said...

Here's another group we routinely exclude - people over a certain age.

We all know marathoners who are in their 60s, or 50s, or 40s, or 30s. None of them qualify for military service, though, absent some waiver.

Could some percentage of them qualify? Absolutely, but does it make sense for the military (and taxpayers) to pay for them to have the opportunity?

Why is it any more (or less) unfair for one group of humans who share measurable physical similarities to be excluded from service in the combat arms than another?

Grim said...

Another group that we exclude is currently-serving military officers who don't get promoted as quickly as others.

If any group has an argument for being included, this is the one! They've already got the necessary training. It costs the military much less to continue to employ them than to force them out and train a replacement. They've got years of prior service for which we as a nation might feel some gratitude.

Furthermore, often the reason they weren't promoted as quickly is because they were engaged in some cross-training or other activity outside their specialty, which makes them unusually flexible as officers. The best way to keep on the promotion path is never to look outside of the usual path for your specialty -- but that's not necessarily the best way to become the most combat-effective officer.

Why do we exclude them from continued service? To make room for the lower ranks to get promoted, so that younger officers with promotion potential have a reason to stay in the service.

Most of these officers are men, and most of them would prefer to stay in the service -- otherwise, they would have left on their own. They're capable of doing the work: they've been doing it for years! But somebody has to go, so the force will remain young. They are the ones who got the nod to step aside, and so they must.

As Cassandra says, it's just about the readiness of the force.

Texan99 said...

If a national goal is important enough, it may be necessary to let all kinds of other considerations fall by the wayside.

I remain disquieted by the precedent. The argument that whole groups must be foreclosed from even an opportunity to compete and show their abilities is very easily abused in any situation where we can demonstrate a danger of misallocation of resources resulting from a broad statistical inferiority. Husbands to get custody of children? Sure, maybe some husbands are capable, but it's too risky to take a chance on them, and childrearing is vital to the national interest.

I realize that I'm appealing to the "slippery slope" argument, which should always be applied with caution. I don't actually disagree with what you both say about the costs of training women and the disproportionate results. -- I do think that, if a large percentage of women undergo expensive training, qualify for dangerous or highly inconvenient military postings, and then simply don't report for duty, then not only dishonorable discharges but possible criminal prosecutions are in order. We oughtn't to be treating them as delicate little flowers.