A Philosopher's Blog

Women in Combat

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on January 30, 2013


Photograph of two female american soldiers.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In January 2013 it was decided that women could serve in combat roles in the United States military. Obviously enough, American women in the military have been involved in combat—being wounded, earning combat medals and being killed. As such, the change simply makes policy match the reality of the situation on the ground (and in the air). Of course, there is a rather important change because of the policy: women can now serve in the positions that provide the best opportunities for career advancement and promotion—positions that had previously been the exclusive domain of men.

On the face of it, this policy change seems perfectly reasonable. As was noted, women have already served in combat situations and have performed at a level comparable to that of their male colleagues. Other nations have long employed female soldiers effectively in combat roles. While people can, of course, find cases in which individual women performed poorly in combat, this no more disqualifies women in general than the poor performance of individual men.

Despite the fact that this change seems sensible, there has been some very loud opposition, primarily from certain conservatives. Other conservatives, such as John McCain, have publicly supported this policy.

Not surprisingly, the old arguments against allowing women in combat have been trotted out in response to this change. Some of these arguments are refurbished versions of those used to argue against allowing women into the military at all and some are sexist retreads of old racist arguments. That is, there is really nothing new being presented as arguments against women serving in combat roles. However, it does seem worthwhile to consider some of these arguments and give them a fair assessment.

One stock argument, which was used to argue against racially integrated units, is based on the claim that the presence of women would destroy unit cohesion. This is a point of concern since unit cohesion is rather important in combat. In the case of women, a variety of reasons are presented as to why they would damage unit cohesion. The first is that men and women would be sexually attracted to each other and this would undermine cohesion. While it is true that men and women generally find each other sexually attractive, the empirical evidence shows that professionals are capable of functioning as professionals—even in combat (as shown in Afghanistan and Iraq). Naturally, some individuals are not capable of acting professionally, but the failures of specific individuals should no more preclude women from serving in combat than it should preclude men.

The second is that male soldiers will be distracted by trying to protect the women soldiers and this would impair the effectiveness of the unit. Since men do often try to protect women (and this is often regarded as heroic), this is a point of reasonable concern. However, the evidence seems to be that trained men and women can function together without this becoming a special problem. Also, the fact that soldiers look out for each other is generally presented as a positive factor—a male soldier who risks his life to save his male buddies is seen as heroic, so why should a willingness to protect female soldiers be regarded as a problem? If a soldier is incapable of acting professionally, then that would be his (or her) individual defect, not grounds for denying women the opportunity to serve in combat roles.

A second stock argument is based on the claim that women soldiers will be subject to sexual assault (either by enemy forces or by fellow Americans). Given the amount of sexual assault that occurs within the American military, this is a matter of concern. However, allowing women in combat roles would not seem to increase the chances of their being assaulted by American soldiers. There is still, however, the concern that sexual assault will be inflicted by enemy forces—after all, rape has often been employed as a tool of war against civilian women, so it makes sense that it could also be employed against female soldiers.

Women enlisting - England (LOC)

(Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

In reply, it must be noted that we have long been willing to send young men into battle where they can be mutilated and killed. They can also be taken prisoner and subject to terrible tortures (as happened to McCain). If the concern that women soldiers might be sexually assaulted is grounds for keeping them out of combat roles, then it would seem that the concern that men might be wounded, killed or tortured should suffice as grounds to keep men out of combat as well. That is, if we are really worried about terrible things happening, then we should not have wars at all. But, if are going to have wars, then we need to recognize that horrible things are going to happen to people regardless of their sex.

A third stock argument is based on the claim that there will be quotas set for women in combat roles, thus displacing men. There is, of course, usually the assumption that the women will be unqualified and will be displacing qualified men—thus wronging the men and also making the military weaker. Arguments of this sort were given in the context of race rather than sex.

There are some reasonable grounds for concern here—after all, if it were true that unqualified women were displacing qualified men just to meet some sort of diversity metric, then that would be both unjust and harmful. Naturally, it would need to be shown that this would occur.

There are, however, compelling reasons for initially having some quotas. After all, the existing system excludes women and without some compulsion to admit women into these circles, the tendency would be to simply find all women unqualified and thus keep the boy’s club intact. This would, of course, unjustly deny qualified women the opportunities they deserve. There is also the obvious analogy to the civilian world: women were long excluded from traditional male professions but, once they had the opportunity to do so, they proved as capable as men. There seems to be no reason to think that the same would not apply here as well.

The final argument I will consider is the one that I believe has the most merit, namely the concern about the physical capabilities of women. Obviously enough, men are generally larger, stronger and faster than women. Men also seem more inclined towards traits that serve well in combat—although perhaps some of these are the result of socialization rather than nature. Because of this, it would seem that women would be a poor choice for combat roles since men would be better suited in such roles.

Critics of the idea that women should allowed in combat roles often point to the fact that the military has two sets of physical standards: one for men and one for women. Not surprisingly, the standards for women are considerably lower than those for men. While it could be argued that the lower standards are needed to allow women a chance to qualify, the obvious concern is that if women are held to lower standards then they will be thus less physically qualified than men. While this would not matter if one is filling out requisition forms, it certainly would matter in combat. There is also the obvious moral concern—a man who would meet the qualifications set for women but not those for men would be denied a job simply because he is a man. That seems to be clearly wrong.

It is well worth noting that the general differences between men and women as groups obviously need not hold true between individual men and women. Being a runner and a martial artist, I know many women who are considerably stronger and tougher than the average man. They would easily exceed the requirements set for men. Being an academic and gamer nerd, I also know plenty of men who could not meet the physical qualifications that women have to meet to be in the military.

Because of this, I contend that the military should either differentiate physical standards solely by role (rather than by sex) or that there should be just one general set of physical standards. This would allow women who are qualified to legitimately qualify without there being unjust double standards. It would also respond to the charge that the women in combat roles would not be qualified because they “qualified” by meeting watered down standards.

Because I believe in fairness, I believe that women who qualify for combat roles should have every right to serve in the roles that they earn. I also believe that the sex-based standards should be eliminated and replaced with either role-based standards or a bar that everyone must meet. That is, no more sexism.

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  1. WTP said, on January 30, 2013 at 7:57 am

    “stock arguments”, “trotted out”, etc. No bias there, just an objective analysis of the facts. Then there’s the straw men and other logical fallacies combined with an ignorance or down right lie as to the degree of change that has been made. What other countries may or may not do in regard to women in combat is in no way comparable to the unique position of the US armed forces.

    Here’s an idea, Mike, have you ever considered providing sources for statements that form the basis or your arguments, or is that considered rather gauche in the philosopher community? Just one of many but just for fun, women have already served in combat situations and have performed at a level comparable to that of their male colleagues. Sources, please, on this “performed at a level comparable”.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Although being sold as a win for women, this is actually a big win for men.

    • WTP said, on January 30, 2013 at 9:43 am

      Really? Can I refer you to this article? Any comment?


      • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 10:19 am

        Also women will soon have to register for the draft as there is no longer a legal justification for not having them register.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 30, 2013 at 4:00 pm

          True. I have consistently held that if men must register for selective service, then so too should women. To do otherwise would be sexist.

          • WTP said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:47 pm

            What a complete dumbfuck statement this is. And if a rose smells better than a cabbage it must make a better soup. Sexist? Try a little reality.

    • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 10:17 am

      Any time men are allowed to compete on a level playing field against women it is a “win” for them. As Mike points out:

      women can now serve in the positions that provide the best opportunities for career advancement and promotion

      Yes, now they will actually have to serve in those positions. Previously they were promoted just because they were women.

      • WTP said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:31 am

        Yes, now they will actually have to serve in those positions. Previously they were promoted just because they were women.
        Do you really think the fundamentals will change? Read Magus’s observations just in regard to drill instruction, etc. Now they will get promoted because they were “women in combat”, never mind that forward combat for women remains optional. Never mind the number of fools who think like Mike and equate one or two combat experiences with those of the typical male grunt on the front lines. Never mind that there’s a BIG difference between fighting defensively as opposed to offensively, something Mike glosses over but will now be more easily ignored when the various check-boxes are marked off when promotions are considered. Never mind how unfair this will be to the male soldiers who will continue to fight on a more offensive basis.

        This article is crap. Again, Mike has no idea what he is talking about. He believes that understanding things at a philosophical level equates to knowing what really happens in the real world. This is important. It is misunderstanding such as this that will get people killed, cause battles to be lost, etc. Read AJ’s post below. Aside from the religious/Satan crap, he understands battle. He understands what is at risk here.

        • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

          Do you really think the fundamentals will change?

          Yes, I think this will finally do it. I think men need to start pushing harder for equality until the women themselves start saying “basta.” Let’s give them exactly what they say they want: total equality and no special treatment.

          • WTP said, on January 30, 2013 at 12:37 pm

            Yeah…”Things are gonna change I can feel it”. Sounds like a line from a song. Soy un perdador. The front lines of war are not the place to test a theory such as this out, especially as it is rather obvious to the experts in the field as to how this situation has played itself out as far back as basic training. You see it in the Pentagon and everywhere else in one of the world’s largest bureaucracies. There is already plenty of proof as to what the reality is. This is a bad idea, period.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm

        “Yes, now they will actually have to serve in those positions. Previously they were promoted just because they were women.”

        Really? That is all it took to move up the ranks?

        • T. J. Babson said, on January 31, 2013 at 6:20 am

          Sure. They argued that since they couldn’t serve in those tough positions they shouldn’t be penalized, and so they were promoted without serving. Now they will have to serve, just like the men.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      How so?

  3. T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Now that women can serve in combat, does this mean we can allow men and women to compete over the chessboard as equals?

    • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Maybe we can have size and weight classes in tennis rather than men’s and women’s tennis?

      • WTP said, on January 30, 2013 at 10:46 am

        Cool. Can we do that for boxing too? We already do as much in high school wrestling so what’s the diff?

        • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:22 am

          Exactly. Equality is supposed to mean equality, not just a code word for special rights for women.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 30, 2013 at 4:01 pm

        Not a bad idea.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm


      In physical sports, it does make sense to have men and women compete in sex segregated categories on analogous grounds to the age groups and weight groups. That is, to allow people to compete in their own relevant groups thus making for competition that is likely to be more balanced. After all, sports are for fun and amusement (well, in theory), so it is reasonable to have such categories.

      In other areas that are not about fun and amusement (like combat and business), then there should be a different approach.

      • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 7:57 pm

        What about chess? How are women at a disadvantage here?

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 1, 2013 at 9:29 am

          Dividing chess by sex seems rather odd, unless one is willing to claim that men have a mental advantage over women (in general) or that men someone use their larger size (in general) to coerce female players. Interestingly, debate is not gender segregated (at least when I was in school).

      • WTP said, on January 30, 2013 at 9:50 pm

        In other areas that are not about fun and amusement (like combat and business), then there should be a different approach. WTF does this even mean?

      • T. J. Babson said, on January 31, 2013 at 10:20 pm

        “After all, sports are for fun and amusement (well, in theory), so it is reasonable to have such categories.”

        Do you really think professional sports are “for fun and amusement”? There are millions of dollars at stake.

        • magus71 said, on January 31, 2013 at 11:00 pm

          Mike’s forgetting something, here: We only have so many billets in the military. Let us say that you are a platoon leader, in charge of 30 infantry men. You only have 30 positions. Will you prefer men or women?

          Mike is thinking as if we need to take as many people as possible. We can’t. Again, I’m for this Mike, if it means a true bearing of the burden. But it won’t because it already doesn’t work that way, even for the easy jobs. The PT test should work the exact same for both. It’s *massively* different now and has been for decades. Why?

          Women don’t want this, believe me. They deserve it, but they don’t want it. My wife used to be in the Army. She knows it’s a bad idea, too. It’s a tactic of the Left–make inroads into historically conservative organizations, make waves in those realms, even if there is no real desire to partake. Same thing with gays in the Boy Scouts. Once they gain access, general acceptance in society is more likely and eventually power and free stuff.

          Please, can I just have ONE organanization that isn’t about being gay, black or female?

          • T. J. Babson said, on January 31, 2013 at 11:50 pm

            Magus, the only way to fight them is to make them live by their own rules.

            So when Hollywood types want to take guns away from everybody else but have armed bodyguards themselves, they need to be called out.

            Let women fight and die in combat. Let them register for the draft. Let them know that is what they voted for. Rub their nose in it.

            Likewise, when millions of Mexicans are granted amnesty and become citizens, the low wage workers who are displaced should be reminded that that is what they voted for.

            Enjoy the Decline!

            • WTP said, on February 1, 2013 at 12:08 am

              So when Hollywood types want to take guns away from everybody else but have armed bodyguards themselves, they need to be called out.

              What Hollywood needs to be called out for, and by Hollywood I also refer to the music weasels in LA, is their glorification of violence. They whine about violence and guns but at the same time promote gangster rap and movies with more blood than you’re likely to see on a battle field.

          • WTP said, on January 31, 2013 at 11:54 pm

            Mike is thinking as if we need to take as many people as possible.
            Mike believes that society has an obligation to provide for people, be that via jobs or a “safety net” ( or as some perceive it, a hammock). To the mike-o-masses, the military is the last fall-back line before the hammock.

            While I disagree with you on the gays, outside of possibly submarine or other exceptionally close-quartered duty, I think you are spot on in regard to It’s a tactics of the left, etc. The left wants to usurp the positions of the right and water them down. Mike does it with language, but the broader effort is through culture.

            • T. J. Babson said, on February 1, 2013 at 12:04 am

              Just make them live by their own rules, WTP. It will destroy them.

            • WTP said, on February 1, 2013 at 12:12 am

              I’ll tell you what, TJ, if you can get just one lefty, namely Mike, to live by his own standards in regard to logical fallacies, I’ll consider the possibility. As I said before, this post has more of them than I can shake a stick at.

    • magus71 said, on January 30, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Billiards, chess…There’s lots of things that are not physical in which men and women are not equals.

  4. ajmacdonaldjr said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Combat is no place for a woman, or for a man either, but especially not for a woman. It’s bad enough we send men into combat.

    Sending women is inexcusable and another sign of our civilization is dying, or dead.

    Why would you want to send women of to fight and die in the hell of combat?

    Fairness you say?

    Don’t you believe men should protect women from danger?

    Combat is a far worse hell than anyone imagines, and is not a place for America’s daughters and wives.

    So you’re okay with drafting 18 year-old women and sending them of to hell? Because this is what’s next.

    How would you like your 18 year-old daughter to have been drafted to fight during World War II, hich was a real war?

    You see nothing wrong with this?

    Are men and women the same? No differences at all?

    Androgyny is purposed by the satanists who run America professor, and you’re swallowing their propaganda and embracing their satanic ideology.

    Satan, you’ll remember, promotes the opposite of all the is just, true, and beautiful, which is what women in combat it: the opposite of what is just, true, and beautiful.

    Like Foucault, you’re turning the love of wisdom into the love of foolishness.

    See: http://ajmacdonaldjr.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/satans-washington/

    • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Women are grownups, and the majority say they want equality, so let’s give it to them. What I can’t abide is the “I want to be treated as an equal and as a princess” attitude.

      • WTP said, on January 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm

        While I think you’re being a bit facetious here, I’m not sure I’m right. While equal treatment under the law is an ideal, it is absurd to be drafting women into combat roles equal to men. I’m quite sure the majority of women are opposed to this idea. You previously alluded to having been in the Navy? Were you ever in a situation where you came under heavy fire? Judging from your approximate age, I’d find that highly unlikely. Do you really understand the hell that combat is? While one can find a few women who can handle such situations, they are very few and very far between, and I seriously doubt any woman’s ability to hold up under high stress combat for extended periods of time, and then go out and face such situations again and again. Or to be able to redeploy into such an environment, say after returning home for a couple years and having a child. This is a very bad idea. You have to be an over-educated idiot to not see it thus.

        • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:22 pm

          WTP. Don’t you see that the only path forward is to get women to admit it is a bad idea for them to serve in combat?

          Give them as much equality as they can stand. Treat them exactly like men. At some point women will decide that is not what they want, and then there can be progress.

          • WTP said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:38 pm

            Yes, I see the point. But I’m saying it doesn’t justify the expense. Nor do I believe it will turn out that way. Women, or really the extreme feministas, and their Mike-like-lackies will simply politic reality away just as they have been doing all along. See Magus comment below, re lowering of standards, etc.

            The only path forward is to speak truth to bullshit, not endanger our male and female soldiers and quite possibly our home front safety and security so that we can say “I told you so” after the fact. We have to have the backbone to stop this bs now.

          • Douglas Moore said, on January 31, 2013 at 3:22 am

            On the other hand, I think most women know this is not good for them. They will likely avoid 11B (infantry) slots like the plague.

        • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:40 pm

          “Were you ever in a situation where you came under heavy fire?”

          No. Reagan kept us out of war for the most part, and I don’t think the USN has seen “heavy fire” since WWII.

          • WTP said, on January 31, 2013 at 12:05 am

            Well that’s what I thought, but there was the outside chance of some littoral engagements in Granada or elsewhere. Also, I have a cousin who was on the uss Iowa when it blew. Though that was live fire, not true combat.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 1, 2013 at 9:29 am

        Everyone wants to be equal, only a bit more equal than others.

  5. magus71 said, on January 30, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Couple of comments:

    First, the argument that women should be able to do the same jobs as men in the military as men if they pass the same standards sounds great, except that it will not be implemented that way. How do I know this? Because women are already given all kinds of advantages that men do not get, and they do not yet hold infantry slots in the Army. I note some of the advantages in the article that WTP linked to. The standards WILL get lowered. I promise–I’ve been in enough male dominated jobs to know this. This is not about equal opportunity or winning wars– many liberals don’t give a fuck about those things. They want to make a point and punish the right.

    Please read this article. Bing West is possibly the best commentator on military matters in the world:


    As West states, the Joint Chiefs have made it clear that if women begin failing infantry schools at a high rate, the military will begin examining why this is. Logic would tell any society in history that they are failing because combat is tough and has been man’s business for 10,000 years, not because of politics but out of necessity. Our postmodern insane culture tells us it’s because we hate women. A society hates women because we won’t throw them into the front lines? Hmmm…..

    Secondly, also as West points out, there are things about women that are not measured by the standard requirements of military schools. Women in the Army require a shower every 72 hours when in the field, for sanitation reasons. Watch the documentary, Restrepo. Read Sebastian Junger’s book, WAR. Those men go for month’s without a shower. They climb mountains at 8000 feet with over 100 lbs of equipment, something that will buckle the best trained male soldier. If a woman were part of that unit upon deployment to the Korengal Valley, she would sit on the firebase because no commander would have his whole platoon dragged down by someone who couldn’t keep up.

    Thirdly, women are more prone to psychological damage from combat. Google: “women more susceptible to ptsd”.

    Did I tell you about the real-life women in combat story I have? My friend is dating a woman who was on an Army FET (Female Engagement Team). FETs are some of the most highly trained units in the Army. They are designed to interact with females in societies ruled by Sharia. They have high physical standards, receive extensive language and cultural training etc. They almost always deploy with Special Forces troops to some of the worst areas of Afghanistan. It cost the Army a butt-load of cash to train one FET trooper.

    Well, my friend’s girlfriend graduated from the school with 30 females. All immediately deployed to Afghanistan. *Within 6 months, 18 of the 30 females were pregnant while deployed.* One special forces Master Sergeant was sent home for having group sex with about 7 women. All 18 women had to be sent home. How much money did the Army waste, not to mention the discipline issues and severe compromise of the mission.

    One thing that I have harped on, and I made the same argument when it came to gays, is the “culture” of the military. This is not Wal-Mart. This is a fight to the death. Most people don’t get it, because they’ve never even been on a fight in a playground. The agendas of the left have distracted the military. I like Leon Panetta–he’s done a decent job. But when have we heard him extolling our military to crush the Taliban? Never. It’s mostly about social petri dishes in the military.

    We still have the best military in the world, but it is weakening. I promise that we DO NOT want to go the way of Europe here. We get to see what their militaries are like, and they are pathetic. Truly pathetic. They have destroyed their military culture with similar politics and thus they do not fight at all. They sit on bases and screw prostitutes that they ship over form Poland. (true)

    We’re going to pay for this nonsense. Someday. Thank goodness for our geography.

    TJ, I’d be with you if I though it truly meant women carrying an equal load. But it won’t be implemented that way. Because even when it comes to non-combat roles, it’s not implemented that way.

    • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Elections have consequences. Women voted for Obama, Men voted for Romney. Clearly, women think it is important that they be killed in equal numbers. I say give them what they want.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 1, 2013 at 9:45 am

        That seems to insinuate a rather negative view of women who are willing to risk their lives for the country.

        • T. J. Babson said, on February 1, 2013 at 10:06 am

          It was meant to insinuate a negative view of women who say they want equality but really want special privileges.

    • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:17 pm

      Enjoy the Decline, Magus. I am halfway through the book and so far it isn’t bad. It is all about going Galt. The author argues that a single guy can live quite well on $15K per year.

      • Douglas Moore said, on January 31, 2013 at 3:18 am

        I’ll check it out. I’ll try to enjoy the decline. I dont think the world will. Unlike when the British Empire melted away, after America, there is no bulwark against the barbarism that will ensue. It’s already beginning to ensue. Wait until the chaos leads to mass migrations into Europe form North Africa….Too bad, as you say, the Red-Staters will be the ones who’ll be called to take care of business. Dying so the Left can have their Egalitarian utopia and welfare state.

        Actually, maybe I’ll steal your idea, TJ. It could be a book, like Atlas Shrugged, where the Red-Staters ban together and refuse to join the military.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 1, 2013 at 9:51 am

        Decline is not a matter of necessity. While no empire has endured, this does not necessitate that an empire cannot endure. In any case, the decline tends to come from the top and not the bottom. As the Russians say, “the fish rots from the head.”

        $15K a year would be tough living in most places, but doable. I lived on $650 a month in grad school-I just did without a car, a phone and cable. Getting married and then divorced broke me financially-I’m still digging out of that despite being frugal and careful with my money (aside from getting married, of course). So buy my books, damn it. 🙂

        • T. J. Babson said, on February 1, 2013 at 10:24 am

          “Decline is not a matter of necessity.”

          It is when mathematics and demographics are ignored. The country is on an unsustainable path and it is not clear than anyone can turn the rudder.

          I’m not going to worry about it. I will just Enjoy the Decline…

        • magus71 said, on February 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm

          We are declining. There’s no metric that says otherwse.

        • T. J. Babson said, on February 1, 2013 at 11:18 pm

          In any case, the decline tends to come from the top and not the bottom. As the Russians say, “the fish rots from the head.”

          Bingo. It never ceases to amaze me how much better ordinary American are than their “leaders.”

          • WTP said, on February 1, 2013 at 11:49 pm

            I doubt that. They’re the ones who elected the sob’s. Americans want their leaders (including their “teachers”) to tell them sweet big lies and their leaders oblige. Whose fault is that?

    • T. J. Babson said, on January 30, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      “We still have the best military in the world, but it is weakening.”

      Of course it is weakening, but that is what the country voted for in the last election. Soon there will be be big cuts to the defense budget.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 1, 2013 at 9:44 am

      I stick with my principle of merit, namely that a person should be able to hold any position that s/he qualifies for, regardless of sex (and so on). I also hold to the principle that the standards must match the requirements of the position and not be adjusted so that the unqualified can thus qualify because of some irrelevant factor (like the person’s sex). So, just as women should not be unfairly excluded when they are actually qualified, they should not be unfairly included when they are not qualified.

      Realistically, they do tend to end up changing standards (such as how the military changed its entry requirements in terms of age, felonies and so on). If the standard are lowered in a way that is detrimental (that is, they are lowered so that the unqualified now qualify), then that is a problem.

      While your anecdotes are interesting, they are just anecdotes and tell us nothing about women in general. After all, an anecdote about General Petraeus’ affair or anecdotes about the sexual misdeeds of male soldiers would not show that men are unfit for military service. These tales just show that there are men and women who behave badly-no shock there.

      As far as the shower thing, women are obviously capable of surviving without showers (or even bathing-look at the historical European aversion to bathing which women survived). As far as the fitness thing, true-women will generally be weaker than men. However, this does not entail that there are no women who are fit enough to qualify for the really tough positions. After all, there are women ironman competitors-they bike 112 miles, swim 2.4 miles and then run 26.2 miles. I think a woman who can handle that can hang with most military men.

      • WTP said, on February 1, 2013 at 10:26 am

        Notice how Magus’s experiences, and if you read his blog, the experiences of other military personnel, are just anecdotes. But when Mike wants to make a point about female physical fitness, he points out that there are women ironman competitors, ignoring that they are very few relative to the number of men and even fewer who can compete at the same level that the majority of men compete. Hell, I can swim 2.4 miles but that doesn’t make me qualified to be a navy frogman.

        More willful ignorance here is his obivious understanding of what is required of soldiers in war. It’s one thing to be able to run 26 miles, etc. but to do it under fire, repeatedly, day after day, after seeing one or several members of your unit, who you may have been speaking casually to just moments before, killed right in front of you, and then to have the intestinal fortitude to charge that enemy moments later, that is an entirely different matter. Mike only undertands the military as a job. The realities are too far beyond his ability to comprehend.

      • T. J. Babson said, on February 1, 2013 at 12:39 pm

        Mike, when a man joins the military the military decides where he should serve. He does not get to decide “no, I would really rather not see combat just let me serve in supply or something.” Should women be treated the same way or should combat be voluntary for them?

        I think they should be treated exactly the same. Of course if they are treated the same, many fewer women would join the military. Would you have a problem with that?

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 1, 2013 at 7:23 pm

          If men do not get to decide, then fairness requires that the same apply to women. If women elect to not serve from fear of combat duty, that is their choice. Just like it is a choice for men.

          • WTP said, on February 1, 2013 at 10:00 pm

            But that is not what the genesis of this post is about. The policy change gives women in the military the option of front line combat duty. Men do not have this option. Your whole point is either intentionally deceiving or based on ignorance. Which is it? I think this question deserves an answer.

      • magus71 said, on February 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm

        Sign women up for selective service. Change the physical fitness test, a test that provides “promotion points” that help get to the next level. In order for me to max my PT test at my age, and thus maximize my chances of being promoted to E6, I needed to do 74 pushups in 2 minutes, 76 situps in 2 minutes, and run two miles in 13:36. A woman of the same age needs 40/76/17:00 respectively. So not only is *passing* easier, *getting promoted* is easier. There are other exercises that are not tested that are even tougher for women, the ones that measure strength as opposed to endurance, such as pullups.

        Make it all equal and I’m for “equality.”

        And while we’re at it get rid of Affirmative Action–the most utterly blatant form of accepted injustice in America.

        • T. J. Babson said, on February 1, 2013 at 2:31 pm

          Perfect. Make objective standards for each job, and only people who meet the objectives are qualified for the job. Equal treatment for all. No double standards. No special treatment.

          Make them live under their own rules.

          • WTP said, on February 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm

            And we’re not doing that now, because ??? I’m still not seeing what the magical difference is/shall be except for a weaker military and more dead service men. Sure, some women will get what some women deserve. No way of ensuring the right ones get the right lessons.

            If this was going to happen, it would have happend already in basic training or would be happening in PT, as Magus notes. 40 pushups in 2 minutes releative to 70? 25% more time to complete a 2 mile run?

            Magus, I’m curios (again). Is that with pack, with uniform & boots, or just regular workout clothes? Also, on full-pack runs (or whatever you call them) do women carry the same size load?

            • Anonymous said, on February 2, 2013 at 10:00 am

              The test is in workout clothes. Ten minutes rest between each event. My unit does a yearly 12 mile ruck march, wearing helmet, a 35 lb pack, a rifle and water. It must be completed in under 4 hours. I’m not sure if women have the same standards. Ranger qualification, Air Assault School require the march be completed in under 3 hours. My unit is a “line” light infantry unit; that is, it has tons of infantry men, and a smaller support element, and gets deployed to the nastiest areas. There are only 2 or 3 females in my entire battalion, because it is an infantry battalion.

            • Anonymous said, on February 2, 2013 at 10:01 am

              Had problems logging in. “Anonymous” is Magus.

  6. T. J. Babson said, on January 31, 2013 at 12:09 am

    “TJ, I’d be with you if I though it truly meant women carrying an equal load. But it won’t be implemented that way. Because even when it comes to non-combat roles, it’s not implemented that way.”

    You are no doubt right, at least for a while. We need to keep pushing for full equality. I suspect that when girls have to start registering for the draft they will not be too happy about it.

  7. T. J. Babson said, on February 3, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Maybe Magus can comment?

    In response to “Some advice on women in combat from a female veteran,” I too am a female veteran, and there is little in this Marine’s commentary I DON’T take issue with. For starters, I was stationed in both Babil and Baghdad, and I did not just “see the male combat units” while I was in Iraq. I was embedded with them. I lived on a patrol base with them, and I went out on foot patrol with them every single day for months. I was the only woman on the team, and I wasn’t there because someone was trying to be politically correct and wanted to make me feel good about being a woman in the Army. I was there because we have spent the last 10 years fighting two wars with an all volunteer military.

    I was a member of a four-man team that was sent out to support a patrol base. I was initially assigned to whatever patrol team happened to need an intel collector until the platoon leader of my patrol unit hand picked me to be on his team permanently. He had worked with every single member of my team, and he requested I be permanently assigned to his unit because he felt I was the best person to get the job done. This is a young man who had done three tours in Iraq by his 23rd birthday who I had originally mistaken for someone pushing his 30′s when we first met. His only concern was getting his guys home in one piece. There wasn’t a single decision he ever made to be politically correct, and he sure as hell would not have allowed me to step foot in his vehicle if he thought for one second my presence would have compromised the safety of his unit.

    This young lady makes some valid points, but they are completely overshadowed by her obvious inexperience outside the wire. Her statement is among some of the most damaging commentaries I have read on this subject in the past week because, like some of the other infuriating editorials I have read recently, she establishes herself as a subject matter expert to the civilian population and yet, any female in the Army reading her piece could tell by her second paragraph she is what we call in the military a FOBBIT–someone who has never left the comfort of the FOB.

    There are many valid arguments against allowing women entrance into the Infantry, but arguing over whether or not women should be allowed into the Infantry completely misses the entire point of what Sec. Panetta’s decision actually accomplishes. For starters, the “ban” on women in combat isn’t about the Infantry–since military branches are allowed to file for exceptions, it is quite possible and even likely these jobs will remain closed off to women. The term “combat” encompasses a huge range of jobs and positions that go way beyond Infantry, and women have been filling those jobs and have been put in those positions for the last decade. What the Secretary’s decision does, effectively, is recognize the role women have already been playing for the last 10 years.

    The physical strength argument is valid, although not for the reasons cited here. I know few men, my husband (also a combat veteran) included, who could single handedly scale a 10-foot wall in full battle rattle, and if this Marine is being told that’s what her male counterparts are doing on the other side of the fence, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell her. Women sustain stress injury at a substantially higher rate than their male counterparts, that is a fact. It is a legitimate concern in this debate, but it hasn’t stopped countless women from serving admirably and putting their own lives on the line for our country which apparently doesn’t even realize that’s what they’ve been doing.

    Another legitimate argument is the hygiene argument, but I’m getting really sick of reading stories about marines defecating in plastic bags next to each other (she is not the first one). I have to tell you, I’ve taken care of far worse hygiene issues than peeing in a bottle in the back of a HMMWV while out on mission wearing full battle rattle, so everybody who’s freaking out over where the ladies are going to pee or how they’re going to tend to their cycles need to get over it. Of all the arguments against putting women in combat, this one’s pretty low on the list. Again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about hygiene. I just wish service members who never served with women outside the wire, or service women who have never been outside the wire, would stop talking about it in the hypothetical and allow those of us who have actually been in that situation talk about whether or not these things were detrimental to the mission.

    There is a really important piece of this entire argument that is being completely overlooked, and that’s the fact that women may not be in the Infantry, but we are already serving in combat, and chances are that when all the exceptions have been filed, and everything is said and done, Secretary Panetta’s decision will be little more than a formal recognition of the present status quo.


    • Douglas Moore said, on February 4, 2013 at 12:16 am

      I believe the female Marine article this author is refering to is here:


      The above posted article is full of problems. First, the author goes on to acknowledge that many issues brought up by opponents of women in combat are real, but then dismisses them as not mattering. Fact: Field sanitation is a huge issue, stength is a huge issue.

      Secondly, she goes on and on about how women are already in combat, a common assertion by proponents of female infantry. They are in combat, they are not infantry, there is a huge difference. When I was in Kabul for 5 months of my last tour, I attached to the Nebraska National Guard on several occasions, going on patrols through Musahi district. Previous to that, I went on patrols in Kunar Province, one of the most violent provinces in Afghanistan. I am an intelligence analyst, not an infantryman. Technically, while on patrol, I was in the same circumstances as the infantrymen, and had we been attacked, would have had to perform the same duties: Locate the enemy and shoot him. The difference is, after a couple of patrols, I could go back to my regular job as an intelligence analyst, which includes lots of time behind a computer. I did not have to do what the Nebraska National Guard Cav Scouts were doing every day, and there are men doing much more difficult tasks in other spots in this country.

      I 100% guarantee, that if a member of the above females unit were severely injured in combat while she were on patrol, she would not have been the one carrying a 200 lb man, with his body armor, weapon and ammunition, on her back, to a safe location. It would have been a man doing that. She could not do it, and I have never seen a woman in the military who can do it. I have never seen a woman who can even do 5 pullups. As for Mike’s assertion that women do triathalons, yes they do. That is an endurance sport, not a strength sport. You know who some of the first people to gas out while climbing mountains with heavy packs are? Distance runners. They don’t have stregth. Much of endurance athletics involves stride efficiency and learning NOT to use muscles because muscle activation burns energy. There is no way not to use the biggest muscles in your body when climbing steem terrain with packs.

      Women do not play professional football. Not because of sexism, but because pro teams want to win. There is no more utilitarian organization than a pro football team: If you can contribute in a positive way, and you are the best available, you will have a job. Yet no women play pro football because the bottom line is important. It’s sad that in the military, the bottom line of quickly dispatching the enemy is no longer important. That’s because these agendas are pushed by idealogues who know the military is a great way to change society overall.

      Sure, let the women keep their support roles, and believe they are “in combat” even when most of them aren’t. But they better not bitch and whine when they don’t get selected over men for 11B slots, because even the weakest men are stronger than the top 2% women and they are much more resistant to the psycholigical effects of combat.

      • WTP said, on February 4, 2013 at 9:54 am

        Yeah, seems like I said some of these same things above in regard to this general argument. One other point to note, the quoted piece from HotAir is that soldier’s perspective of her own abilit. The objectivity is quite questionable. Similar to some of Mike’s posts.

        While I defer to your experience specifically in mountain combat, I think it is hard to say whether endurance or strength is more important in general. I understand the military is moving more toward strength as engagements in today’s battles tend to be short and mobile transportation to and from the area of battle is more the norm. Engagements of the kind that were the norm in past wars, which while we are unlikely to see again cannot be ruled out, might have been more favorable to the endurance, slow-twitch muscle types.

  8. magus71 said, on February 5, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Homosexuals in the Boy Scouts? Thoughts?

    Here’s Nick Gillespie’s and mine:


    • T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2013 at 6:56 am

      Ideas have consequences, Magus. Gillespie is just being consistent in his words and deeds. Kids are impressionable as well as innocent.

      Libertarians seem to be the only ones comfortable with leaving people alone. Gillespie’s “ideology” consists in not going along with someone else’s ideology.

      • magus71 said, on February 5, 2013 at 11:35 am

        My problem with the article is not that he thinks homosexuals should be allowed in, but that he would not send his kids to the Scouts because the current set-up does not allow homosexuals. It would be like refusing to endorse a person’s entry into the military when the military did not allow homosexuals. I appreciate his consistency, too. But one of the traits of idealogy is being consitent to the point of harm. I would like to ask him if he believes his kids will have a net advantage by never being in the Scouts. He never mentions in any way how the Scouts’ stance negatively affected him. Every person that I know who was in the Scouts was better for it–sexual preference never came up. It was don’t ask, don’t tell.

        My time as a Scout was one of the few respites from an otherwise miserable childhood. So I am biased.

        • WTP said, on February 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm

          I was a Scout also. It came with good and bad. Sometimes things fell into a Lord Of The Flies mentality, though one of the goals of the organization was to mitigate that problem. That aside, while I don’t wholly endorse Libertarian idealism (or any idealisms that I’ve found so far) especially the hippy-dippy Ron Paulbot variety, the Scouting issue for me boils down to this:

          1) Freedom of association dictates that organizations are entitled to make their own rules.
          2) To counter TJ’s point, I think an all-or-nothing perspective of individuals in an organization endorsing all aspects of that organization is unrealistic and unreasonable. Similar to something Ed Koch once said, “If you agree with 9 out of 12 things I say, you should vote for me. If you agree with 12 out of 12 you should see a psychiatrist.”
          3) Other organizations also have the freedom to endorse or not endorse other organizations.
          4) If the Scouting organization, as a whole, does not wish to have homosexual leaders, that is their choice and it should be respected.
          5) If elements within the Scouting believe some of the rules, in this case in regard to homosexuality, conflict with the principles of the organization, they have an obligation to change those rules, but only by convincing a significant majority of the organization through reason in accordance with the organization’s principles.

          While I agree that sexual preference was a non-issue back the day, it is not so now. That’s just a reality that is external to Scouting. Though I would say that the main purpose of Scouting is to prepare young men for entry into the real world. I’ve known quite a few gay people in my life, but never encountered poison ivy. YMMV, though.

          None of this rules out the possibility, and it being wrong to do so, of outside organizations meddling in the affairs of a private organization and pressuring it, from the outside, to change. Outside of out-an-out war followed by mild to extreme tyranny, change can only come within.

        • biomass2 said, on February 6, 2013 at 10:15 am

          When I was a kid, I don’t remember homosexuality being an issue at all. That had probably changed by the time your generation came around. It wasn’t a matter of don’t ask, etc. at my school, in my community. It was more a matter of being totally innocent (oblivious?) of the issue—(at least on my part, and, it seemed, with my peers, in my community).
          Now, racism—that’s was a real issue. Another issue entirely.

      • T. J. Babson said, on February 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm

        Magus, if you join an organization you are implicitly endorsing its goals. For example, Hamas is an overwhelmingly evil organization but they build roads, schools, hospitals, etc. You can’t just say “I will go along with the good things Hamas does and ignore the bad stuff.”

        Of course I have chosen an extreme case to prove a point, but the principle is similar. If the Boy Scouts did not allow black people to join, would you still feel comfortable about it as an organization? Can you see that some people feel equally strongly about the exclusion of gays as they would about the exclusion of blacks? Could they, in fact, have the moral high ground?

        • Douglas Moore said, on February 5, 2013 at 11:20 pm

          Before writing my article, I thought about a similar argument you made about Hamas. I came to the conclusion that we must assess “net good”, and it doesn’t seem that Gillespie believes the Scouts are a net evil, as I believe Hamas is. Surely we can understand why the Scouts may not want homosexuals; sleeping next to a man who is attracted to men when you are a boy may cause problems.

          You know, TJ, one of my reasons for speaking out against the homosexual agenda is because I see what is happening, same with many liberal institutions: They’re trying to take over. Planned Parenthood wanted to provide sex education to the Girl Scouts. Really? How about, No. I’m tired of it. I’m calling them on what they do, They’re predatory, period. After all of our progress, are we better off? In some ways, yes. You make a valid point about black people. But I don’t believe the prime mover is the same when it came to black rights as it is when it comes to many homosexual movements. The idea is SEX, not sexual preference.

          There are tons of black-only, women-only, and gay-only groups. Why not straight-only?

          I see no white people in this link:


          I don’t hate black people, women, or gays. I’m calling them on their power grab and hypocrisy.

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