If equality for women is ever achieved …

… conservatives will claim they were for it all along. In the meantime, they’re doing their best to obstruct it, as illustrated by the latest screed in the Wall Street Journal opposing admitting women to Ranger school.

… “conservatives” will claim they were for it all along.

In the meantime, though …

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

15 thoughts on “If equality for women is ever achieved …”

    1. Stephen Kilcullen is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

  1. That’s a logically nonsensical argument anyway. It assumes that the people who are for letting women into Ranger school are all the same people who want to get into Ranger school so that women who go to Ranger school will all be selfishly motivated. What evidence is there that women who apply for Ranger school will have any different motivations than men who do so? Certainly none was given in that article. Apparently one of the things they need to beef up in Ranger school is their curriculum on critical thinking skills.

  2. Well, what about that marching cadence song from basic training? The one that goes:

    The girl I marry has gotta be
    Airborne Ranger Infantry

  3. As a combat arms soldier, who has not attended Ranger School (although many of my friends have), I am torn on this issue, and the broader question of whether to allow women to serve in combat arms. First off, having seen the real-world implentation of the Army’s efforts on diversity/EO and sexual harassment, I doubt if this integration will be done fairly and intelligently. Specifically, although I have seen women in the Army who were stronger than me, the reality is that the current Army Physical Fitness Test and, AFAIK, the pending future version, both have significantly lower standards for females in upper-body strength and aerobic endurance (aka push-ups and run time). Even though I would still be personally opposed to allowing women at the small unit level (i.e. company and below) in combat arms, because one tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan have convinced me that it would disrupt unit cohesion, I also recognize the reality that equality is more important than combat effectiveness, both to the public and even to the “brass”/military personnel system. However, while unit cohesion is somewhat intangible, the disparity in physical fitness standards is a glaring example that needs to be fixed before further integration is even considered.

    Side note: While I don’t have time to explore my thoughts on unit cohesion right now, I believe that what leads to “frat-house” behavior in the civilian world is necessary for men under the physical and mental pressure of combat operations. And I say that as someone who thinks that both “Greek life” and big time college athletics should be seriously reformed and/or abolished.

    1. You should have written the article! Your comment is much more nuanced than the WSJ piece, which never actually gets around to saying why Kilcullen thinks women can’t be selfless or nobly motivated.

      To give him the benefit of the doubt, I might say that perhaps he doesn’t think this at all, but rather he is mostly concerned about unit cohesion itself, which he does talk about at length.

      As a total bystander, I must say this issue of unit cohesion is a big one. If we can’t have coed small infantry units, do you think that means it would have been better not to have women in the military at all? And what about all this high tech warfare? Do you still need to be able to lift a house? Is there no role for even men in the military who may be smaller, but maybe they’re faster? Or just really good tactically? Or extraordinarily brave?

    2. Also, and you may not want to get into this, but is the threat to unit cohesion from sexual tension, such that the don’t ask regime may have made some sense?

      Or, am I correct in getting a vibe from you that it has more to do with identity? There is some male-bonding thing that has to happen for people to have unit cohesion? What is it, exactly? And in that context, someone won’t care if a man is gay, because he’s still male and somehow you all have that in common?

    3. As I understand you, there are two different issues at play here.

      One is that professions that require high upper body strength tend to be predominantly male. I’m actually inclined to think of this as something that more as discriminating against men than against women. That’s because these professions (such as low-rank military, mining, and construction) also tend to be low-pay, low-status occupations. (Yes, there’s all the “support the troops” rhetoric, but the net effect seems to be more one of supporting warfare than the individuals who actually have to be in the trenches.) I’m not sure one can call this aspect misogyny anymore than a hypothetical prohibition to sell yourself into slavery that applies only to women. In short, I’m a bit worried about the creation of a society with both a male lower and upper class and women predominantly occupying the middle class (see also the decreasing college attendence of men). This just isn’t good, though I don’t have a good idea how to go about fixing it.

      The other issue is that mixed units may be less effective. I’m not surprised by this, but think that it is something that would have to be fixed (in the long term) rather than tolerated. I’m totally sympathetic to any argument that such change cannot easily be imposed overnight, and that there are cases where actual biological differences may lead to justified differentiation between men and women. At the same time, I’m skeptical about claims that this cannot be fixed at all (especially since experience in Israel seems to indicate otherwise). I see difficulties related to integrating men and women (in any area) as a challenge to be overcome, not an excuse.

      1. Generally I tend to agree that integrating women into an environment is usually an improvement. For example, I believe the Christopher Commission found that women can be better at some parts of the job of police officer. I just wasn’t sure, and am not sure now, if this is similar to the military, which seems to me to have different aims.

        Otoh, I could easily see it as just another area where many different talents can be put to use. I sound more deferential than I usually am because I know so little about military life. It really does sound like another world in some ways.

        I guess we lost Tierce? Too bad, he was interesting. Tierce, come back, we want to know what you think.

  4. Right – my inability to discriminate against you is because of your own selfishness.

    This is the same sort of Orwellian logic that says gay marriage denies heterosexual rights. The capacity of some people to underappreciate their own implicit privilege is amazing.

    1. btw, I tend not to read the WSJ, but I just wasted a few minutes reading their comments. New York Times commenters might have a liberal bias, but they are at least 2-3x as intelligent.

  5. The U.S. Supreme Court, in cases where GI’s were seeking rights similar to those of civilians, has said, “the military is, by necessity, a specialized society separate from civilian society. We have also recognized that the military has, again by necessity, developed laws and traditions of its own during its long history. The differences between the military and civilian communities result from the fact that it is the primary business of armies and navies to fight or ready to fight wars should the occasion arise. . . .

  6. As one of my physics professors used to say, any organization that deliberately prevents itself from using the talents to half the population is putting itself at a serious disadvantage. If I were being sent into combat, I would like to know that I was being commanded by the best and the smartest tactical and strategic leaders possible, not just the best ones who had an XY chromosome.

    As a non-military person, I have to wonder: is the unit-cohesion problem for adding women to the (apparent) default of straight white male christians substantially different from that of adding black/hispanic/asian, queer or jewish/muslim/wiccan/atheist soldiers?

  7. Why is it that push-ups are always the focus? They could just beef up the sit-ups standards and flunk out half the guys.

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