[Kingsley Browne, guest-blogging, December 7, 2007 at 4:56pm] Trackbacks
Co-ed Combat -- Responses to Comments:

In my last post, I said that my next post would be my concluding one. However, I thought that it might be worthwhile separately addressing a few recurring points from the comments.

THE RACE ANALOGY: Several commenters suggested that the arguments made in my posts are illegitimate if they would be unacceptable if "race" were substituted for "sex." Acceptance of that argument would lead to the conclusion that the Women's National Basketball Association, sex-segregated bathrooms, and women's colleges are examples of apartheid.

The fact is that race and sex are different as categories. Although both of them have underlying biological bases, racial segregation in the military had nothing to do with the biology of race and everything to do with the social meaning placed upon race. Despite arguments to the contrary, however, sex is not just a social construct, and sex differences relevant to military service exist irrespective of what we think about them.

THE INDIVIDUAL-TESTING ARGUMENT: Several comments suggested that everyone should be given the same tests and any individual who can satisfy them -- irrespective of sex -- should be able to join. While that approach could work with strength, as I pointed out in one of my early posts, it works less well for psychological attributes. Moreover, some of the concerns about women in combat arise from the mere fact of women's "femaleness" as opposed to any particular individual traits.

Few people seem to be incensed by the military's use of age restrictions. If you are over 27 and try to join the Marines or Air Force, or if you are over 35 and try to join the Navy, or if you are over 42 and try to join the Army, you are extremely unlikely to be successful. Yet the same individualistic arguments can be made about people who are over the age limit as can be made about sex. After all, some people who are too old for enlistment no doubt would be more valuable to the military than some younger people whom the military would be happy to have. Of course, this could just mean that the age restrictions are ill-advised, too.

CITATION TO AUTHORITY: A number of people expressed regret (or more) that I did not cite authority for assertions in these posts. When I started writing my entries, I had to make a judgment about whether to cite to the relevant literature. I decided, for better or worse, not to, for a variety of reasons. First, assuming that I did not provide authority for every assertion, there was the difficulty in drawing the line between assertions for which I would provide authority and those for which I would not. Second, not all (or perhaps even most) readers of blogs expect or want to read heavily sourced, academic style writings, and I assumed that people seriously interested in the underlying research would go to my book (and, of course, I hoped that they would buy it for themselves, as well as for everyone on their Christmas card list).

Perhaps the most fundamental reason for not citing to the relevant literature is that a one-sentence assertion in a blog post might be summarizing several pages of my book, which in turn might be citing numerous authorities. To give one example, in my post on cohesion and trust I stated: "Formation of, and functioning in, large cohesive groups is easier for men than for women, and men are more accepting of hierarchy than women are." I was criticized for "bald assertion" in making this point, and, of course, the assertion was "bald," if that means that I cited no authority for it. However, that one sentence summarized about five pages from my book that contained nineteen footnotes that cited to over twenty separate sources, most from the psychological literature. That does not mean that my inferences and conclusions are correct, of course, but it does mean that I didn't make them up out of whole cloth.