Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/13

27

Making social engineering work

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I tend to find the objection that having women in combat positions is a case of social engineering somewhat short-sighted. The military has long been a testing ground for social engineering. In the 1st century B.C. the Marian reforms helped transform the Roman legions from being the Roman nation at arms to a professional fighting force. It is a defensible position that those reforms were a major catalyst for the emergence of strongmen such as Sulla and Caesar, as professional soldiers looked to their generals to safeguard their rights, rather than the citizen soldiers who were safeguarding their nation and property. The issue then is not social engineering, but the shape and consequences of that engineering.

Women will now officially be in combat roles. My understanding is that over the past generation they have already been de facto in the “line of fire.” Conservatives, who are skeptical of change, have then to confront a very radical overturning of tradition. The likelihood of this being reversed is low. But, there are different trajectories that this policy could take. It seems that the primary issue that conservatives need to stand on is the fact that proportionality and ‘gender norming’ will not be guiding principles. There seems broad public acceptance of the idea that individual women who have the capacity to serve in combat roles  should be given that liberty, but there is no consensus that women should be equally represented in all arms of the military in direct proportion to their overall representation (15 percent).

It is notable to me that The New York Times, an organ of mainstream cultural liberalism, published a cautionary piece on women in combat in Israel, Looking to Israel for Clues on Women in Combat. Even after decades of having women in military roles there has not been an elimination of deep structural differences in males and females in terms of their typical roles. Why? Because males and females differ in bio-behavioral dispositions, and social and cultural mores may not be able to eliminate those differences (often, cultural changes only shift the differences in novel configurations).

Social conservatives who oppose these changes on principle will not be able to turn back the clock in the near term. The best case solution then is an alliance with libertarians who will be able to agree that the fitness of a soldier must be evaluated on an objective and universal set of individual criteria. If sex is no longer to be a bar on general service in combat, nor should it be a category which one uses to alter the rules of evaluation for fitness in that service.

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6 comments

  • Mark English · January 28, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Sounds like a sensible approach. You need to take account of both general tendencies and individual differences.

    Even in conservative contexts, individuality usually trumps culturally imposed stereotypes. (My little sister used to use a doll’s head as a projectile, shooting it from the barrel of a toy gun designed to fire ping-pong balls.)

  • John · January 28, 2013 at 3:59 am

    I also completely agree with this approach, but I don’t know is the public would be OK with it. I often hear cries that STEM degrees are underrepresented by women and non-Asian minorities. The sensible, conservative reply is, “There is nothing wrong if different groups of people have different average preferences, as long as each individual is judged by the same standards.” I’d love this, but that doesn’t seem to be the way our society is headed. Given the inevitable complaints when women make only 9% of combat troops, and poor policy decisions that will result, I think it would have been best to keep with the old policy.

    Heck, I’m always surprised to find how many women refuse to believe that the average man is physically stronger than the average woman. The frequent reply is, “I’ve heard of this woman weightlifter who is clearly stronger than you.”

  • WmarkW · January 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I’ll probably sound like an echo box here, agreeing with everyone.

    During the days of the Soviet Union, cost-effective military readiness was an uncompromisable priority. Now that the primary enemies are non-governmental rouge militias*, the question isn’t how much military we need and can realistically afford, but which priorities can we achieve through the military budget. I suspect equalizing opportunities by gender is going to be near the top of that list. (Providing economic opportunities for Southerners is an ongoing one.)

    Just like standardized tests are falling out of favor because they produce politically incorrect results, it’s possible that military fitness standards are going to be seen as a relic of the days of the doughboy pack.

    *BTW, did you see the NY Times column last week, that of the 30 significant armed conflicts in the world today, not one is the between the uniformed militias of sovereign nations? The last one was between Russia and Georgia in 2008, and it lasted less than a week.

  • Polichinello · January 28, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    The only “sensible” thing we can do now is stay the *(%^
    out of the military, and keep your kids out. It is full on pozzed. Any white male stupid enough to join will get to do more work for less credit, with the added bonus of possibly dying for a bunch of worthless foreigners who hate his guts.

  • Polichinello · January 28, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Now that the primary enemies are non-governmental rouge militias

    Now there’s a typo that says more than the original wording intended.

  • Polichinello · January 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    it’s possible that military fitness standards are going to be seen as a relic of the days of the doughboy pack.

    Once you factor in body armor, the amount of weight a soldier has to carry has gone up, not down, since the “doughboy” days. What this will mean is that standards will be lowered, and men stupid enough to stay will have to pick up the slack for their female colleagues. This is how it has always worked through every stage of gender integration. It is a (*^%ing joke intended to make a bunch of feminist harridans who hate everything about the military feel good about themselves.

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