Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Women and combat: the real problem?

The real issue with "women in the military" is alleged to be their male comrades.

We need independent high quality research, but it would not shock me if the data showed that military women in combat settings are exposed to an intolerably high risk of sexual assault from their male peers and superiors. The next question is then -- can this be changed? I would also not be surprised if we were to discover that this male behavior is extremely difficult to change, particularly when, as in Iraq, things are going badly.

Assuming research showed the risk was high, and that the probability of changing male behavior was low, then there are only two options -- strict segregation of combat forces by gender or removal of one gender from combat settings.


Doctor Science said...

And yet both the article and some of the more sane comments say that the CO's attitude makes a profound difference in the way female soldiers are treated. So clearly, empirically, male behavior *can* vary, the issue is *not* women in combat.

It's also important to compare US women soldiers' experience to those from other nations' armies in combat or quasi-combat positions. My google-fu doesn't tell me anything: it's possible the comparison hasn't been done, it's possible that it's out there and I just did not find it.

JGF said...

I should have written the title as "The problem with women in combat - is it Men?"

We do need real data. I'm not sure how many nations have the same combat/gender mix. Israel maybe?

Doctor Science said...

Even absent evidence from other countries, the "problem" with women in combat clearly isn't just men.

I don't know why one has to be a feminist to say this, but: Not all men are rapists. Not all military units harbor rapists or condone rape. Some (though by no means all) military units don't even condone rape of enemy civilians.

Men, too, can be held to a standard of basic human decency -- and "not being a rapist" is frankly a pretty low standard that should be well within everyone's grasp, even young males under stressful conditions.

JGF said...

The desired standard is probably more than not being a rapist (though definitions of that word are controversial). The standard is to avoid all physical and power-based sexual coercion.

So the empiric question is, under the conditions of war and low morale, can the US military be constructed so that an acceptable percentage of young men meet that standard?

I don't know the answer to that question. I'd be mildly but very pleasantly surprised if the answer were "yes". It doesn't help that the military is dramatically lowering its enlistment standards.