Summary: Martin van Creveld discusses a timely topic: “To Wreck a Military“, Small Wars Journal, 28 January 2013. He describes the likely results of employing women as soldiers, no matter how politically and ideologically necessary. Here we examine his claims, however impolitic. His record of successful forecasts is unmatched in length and breadth by any living military theorist (including those who have mocked his predictions).
By José M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune
- Why DoD now allows women in combat
- How expensive are women soldiers?
- What effect on unit cohesion?
- Protests by soldiers about change
- MvC’s other works about women soldiers
- Other posts about women soldiers
- Leave a comment
- About Martin van Creveld
- Trailer to “GI Jane” (1997)
Photo: Staff Sgt. Jackelyn Walker fights Pfc. Gregory Langarica in the first round of the bantamweight championship of the finals of the Fort Hood Combative Championships on 16 February 2012 (LA Times story).
(1) Why DoD changed the rules to allow women in combat
DoD’s mostly-male leaders have not suddenly become feminists. They bow to the necessity of numbers, seeing changes in the pool of potential recruit that will make finding the necessary manpower increasingly difficult in the 21st century. Demographics: fewer young men. Obesity and drugs (including Ritalin and Prozac): fewer eligible young men. Cultural changes: fewer educated young men willing to join the military.
For links to studies about the difficulties of military recruiting see sections 5 and 6 of the FM Reference Page An Army near the Breaking Point – studies & reports.
Allowing gays increases the numbers by a few percent. Allowing women to join and advance doubles the size of the recruiting pool (more than doubles the pool of officers, as women comprise an ever-growing fraction of educated young people). It’s an old story — which might have a surprise ending. Van Creveld points us to Job Queues, Gender Queues: Explaining Women’s Inroads into Male Occupations by Barbara F. Reskin and Patricia A. Roos (1990):
Women’s increasing share of the labor force and the pools from which employers recruit workers (such as M.B.A.’s) contributed to.their movement into some male occupations, but unless circumstances impelled employers to hire women, the increased supply of women would not have been sufficient to feminize these male occupations.We must remember that women’s growing representation in the specific labor pools was largely a response to employers’ need for workers in occupations that were more attractive than those to which the gender queue customarily relegated women.
Opportunities beckoned, and women responded. Important in persuading women to study pharmacy, systems analysis, accounting, journalism, and financial management was their confidence that antidiscrimination and affirmative-action regulations and public opposition to discrimination ensured that jobs would await them when they had finished their education. Moreover, as larger numbers of women pursued sex-atypical jobs, their presence stimulated “natural” forces that fostered the employment of even more women: jobs’ sex labels and employers’ preferences changed; women recruited more women through their informal networks; and some men fled or avoided feminizing jobs, increasing employers’ reliance on women — and potentially leading to resegregation.
Corporations have shown that women thrive in rule-based hierarchical organizations, and the military is the extreme case. Following this pattern, as more women join the military they will reshape the military so it becomes more congenial for women. After a generation or two the military might look radically different than it does today. We can only guess how well this new military will perform.
(2) How expensive are women as soldiers?
Our 11 years of wars give DoD ample data on the equivalent costs of men and women as soldiers. Although DoD keeps the results secret, available evidence suggests that women are far more expensive soldiers than equivalent men. Van Creveld points out three kinds of higher costs: