Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Book and Women in the Military

Finished reading Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. (Once Going Postal arrives from being on hold at the library in a month or two, I'll be all caught up with the Discworld series.) It is actually the first book in the series that I have disliked. It's well-written and quite amusing in places, but the entire plot revolves around a small group of women that join the army, fight in the war and save the day. Okay, it's fantasy. There's a troll, a vampire and "Igorina" to go along with the humans, but Pratchett deliberately makes much of his writing "applicable" to the real world. He uses Discworld as a foil to comment on our world. And the message here? Women can be soldiers just as effectively as men, if not more so.

Which is ridiculous. All the evidence indicates otherwise. Brian Mitchell wrote a good book about this. Don't believe me? Well, let's look at what Colonel Patrick Toffler, Director of West Point's Office of Institutional Research (at the time of his testimony, this was his rank and position) had to say. (I have referred to this article from The Heritage Foundation for the information, but you can find his actual testimony in "Testimony, United States of America vs. Virginia Military Institute et al., U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Roanoke Division, April 8, 1991".)
Under cross- examination by VMI's attorney, Toffler acknowledged that separate physical requirements indeed exist for men and women at West Point, and that some physical activities for both sexes have been made easier or eliminated so that women would not suffer what Toffler delicately called "adverse impact." ( Ibid., p. 608.)...
Under oath, Toffler also admitted that West Point has identified 120 physical differences between men and women, plus psychological differences. This, testified Toffler, has prompted West Point to make its physical training easier to accommodate women. According to Toffler:

Cadets no longer train in combat boots because women were suffering higher rates of injury; cadets now wear jogging shoes.

Women cadets take "comparable" or "equivalent" training when they cannot meet standards in some events. In practice this means that West Point males must do pull-ups while females merely do "flex-arm hangs."

The famed and valuable "recondo" endurance week during which cadets used to march with full backpacks and undergo other strenuous activities has been eliminated, as have upper-body strength events in the obstacle course.

Running with heavy weapons has been eliminated because it is "unrealistic and therefore unappropriate" to expect women to do it.

Where men and women are required to perform the same exercises, women's scores are adjusted to give them more weight.

Today's West Point males are not increasing their cardio-vascular efficiency as much as their predecessors did because they are insufficiently challenged by physical training standards geared to include women.

In load-bearing tasks (carrying and lifting), 50 percent of the women score below the bottom 5 percent of the men.

Peer ratings have been eliminated because women were scoring too low.
Read the whole article. The strongest arguments for having women serve in the military are ideological ones relating to equality of opportunity. When the argument is on the grounds of effectiveness, it's clear what the answer should be.