02 September 2015

Keep Women Out of Ground Combat Units

Stephen Kershnar
Women Rangers: Against Gender Integration of Ground Combat Forces
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
August 30, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, the first two women ever graduated from Ranger School. Ranger school is part of the Army’s special operations unit and an extraordinarily demanding program. Some consider it the most physically and mentally demanding course in the U.S. Army. Predictably, the Obama administration plans to allow women into the Rangers as well as other ground combat units, such as infantry, armor, artillery, and special operations. This is a mistake.  

Having women in ground combat units will likely make them less effective and we don’t know about the wider costs and benefits of such gender integration on the military as a whole or society. In general, if a change carries has significant cost and if we don’t know the net balance of other costs and benefits, then the change is best avoided. This is true here. 

Ground combat units (for example, infantry, armor, and special operations) are designed to close with and kill enemy combatants. Close combat units use guns, grenades, bayonets, or hand-to-hand fighting. To be effective the members of such units need strength, endurance, and to work well with teammates. What lessens these features threatens to degrade the team’s performance and increase the chance that members will get hurt or killed.

The notion that admitting women would make ground combat units less effective rests on the fact one way in which the sexes differ. On average, men have more strength and aerobic capacity than women. They are also less susceptible to injury. A British study of whether women should be in combat units found that, women performed 20 to 40% worse on various strength- and aerobic-based tests. The lesser performance is in part because, as the British Ministry of Defence found, in general, women have 30% less muscle as well as smaller hearts and skeletal structures.   

Even for women with the same aerobic fitness and strength as men, the British study found, women have a greater risk of musculoskeletal injury. According to the Center for Military Readiness, U.S. Army data indicates that in some areas (for example, artillery), women had double the injury rates as men. The British found that women are five times more likely than men to be injured when carrying heavy loads (consider, for example, stress fractures) and that these loads are less than what are carried in some ground combat units.

This rate of injury is distinct from women’s expected absences due to pregnancy and the extended recovery time that follows it (up to 24 months). Unsurprisingly, strenuous training with heavy loads undertaken before full recovery from pregnancy increases the risk of injury. The British also found that women in the military are also more likely to have mental health issues than men and that is before they being serving in ground combat units.

The problems here are threefold. First, introducing women into ground combat means more combat teams will operate shorthanded and have more turnover. When a team member gets injured, a unit operates with fewer people or has to get a replacement. Small combat units such as tank crews, infantry rifle squads, and artillery gun crews, the Center for Military Readiness points out, consist of 4-12 people. Injuries are a problem because, during combat, evacuating injured soldiers is impractical and operating shorthanded can endanger the crew. The same is true for pregnancy.

Second, on average, introducing women into ground combat crews will result in team members performing worse. There is no question that when pressure to achieve gender balance is applied to the military, standards will be lowered. This might be done by having different standards for men and women, lowering the minimum standard, or replacing higher scoring men with lower scoring women. Anyone who has watched the way in which affirmative action at universities has led to the admission of worse students knows how this will play out.   

Third, it is unclear whether introducing women will reduce cohesion among combat teams. The British study found that unit cohesion plays a significant role in determining how well units perform. The literature does not show whether introducing women will affect unit cohesion. For example, will the different perspectives outweigh tensions caused by courtship and jealousy, two sets of standards, and chivalrous concern? Studies of race and gender on unit cohesion were inconclusive, but in any case, the British claim, they are likely weak and fleeting. Given the greater turnover, it is hard for me to imagine that cohesion won’t take a hit, but this is armchair speculation. 

Other effects of gender integration are harder to assess. Among the expected benefits of gender integration are that more people are eligible to work in ground combat units, the cost of labor for such units will lessen, and there will be more equality of opportunity and more role models. There are also expected costs. These include the significant retraining costs for women who try but fail to qualify for ground combat units. When the injury rate climbs, so will medical costs, both short-term and long-term. There is also the smorgasbord of costs that will accompany separate gender facilities, diversity training, increased adjudication and punishment costs for sexual misbehavior, extra personnel to compensate for maternity leave, and so on.

The balance of these wider factors is unclear. One thing is for sure, American political leaders can’t be trusted to give an honest accounting. Consider the recent Presidential liars and bullshit artists. Obama, for example, lied about whether Obamacare will allow you to keep your doctor. George W. Bush lied, or was unformed, about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. When it comes to sex and race, our leaders will be even more likely to lie or mislead than normal. 


In short, integrating ground combat units will likely cost money and lives, cause large numbers of preventable injuries, and degrade combat performance. It is best avoided.   

11 August 2015

Confederate Flag: Blood in the Water

Stephen Kershnar
Confederate Flag: Imprudent to Take It Down
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
July 21, 2015

On July 10th, following the Charleston church shootings, South Carolina took down the confederate battle flag. Barack Obama and the rest of the American left demanded its removal as did establishment Republicans such as Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and Mitch McConnell.

South Carolina’s removal followed a mad rush to dump the flag. Walmart led the charge when it stopped selling items with it. Walmart was followed by Apple, Amazon.com, Google, Kmart, and Target who did the same. TV Land stopped showing reruns of the “Dukes of Hazard” because the car featured on it had a confederate flag on its roof. Corporate America had decided the flag was like used toilet paper.

This is yet another step toward cleansing the country of symbols of the confederacy. It is only a matter of time before military bases named after confederate military leaders (Fort Hood and Fort Brag) are renamed and statutes of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Richmond are removed.

There is the problem of inconsistency. No one wants to ban the sale of the Chinese flag. This is odd given that China’s flag flew during Mao’s dictatorship. His government starved and killed more than 60 million people as part of his attempt to shoehorn China into communism. A similar thing is true of current flags, t-shirts, and other displays of the Soviet flag despite its having flown during Joseph Stalin’s regime that starved and killed 20 million people. Few even seem to want to eliminate President Andrew “Indian Killer” Jackson from the twenty-dollar bill, despite his aggressive military campaigns against Native Americans. Apparently, contemporary Native Americans will have to rest content with changing the name of the Washington Redskins.  

Leaving inconsistency aside, the argument for removing the flag is unclear. It appears to be that governments and people should not cause offense to others when it is unreasonable to do so. For example, posters and t-shirts with the swastika, Princess Diana’s head superimposed on picture of a porn star performing oral sex (an Irish group’s taunt of England), “God hates fags” posters (Westboro Baptist Church), and pictures of partially dismembered fetuses (assorted pro-life groups) might violate this principal. The issue is whether flying the confederate flag is similarly offensive.   

It is not clear that flags and other symbols have a meaning in the sense that they express declarative sentences. Consider, for example, Israel’s flag. What does it mean? Israel exists. Israel is strong. Israel is a Jewish state. It is not clear which of these sentences, if any, are expressed by the flag. This is not true for symbol that focuses on an idea (for example, the peace symbol), but the confederate battle flag is not a symbol that focuses on an idea.

Rather than express declarative sentences, flags and similar symbols often have emotional content. Consider, for example, the emotions Marines feel when they fly the Marine Corps flag or see their grown children in Marine Corps uniforms. The problem here is that the emotional content of the confederate battle flag is different for different people and it is unclear whether, in this context, the emotions of one group are more reasonable or virtuous than another. 

Many Southern whites see the battle flag as symbolizing their ancestry and history. This is similar to a family coat of arms. The emotions they feel are those they associate with a band of brothers fighting against impossible odds. They’re offended when people want to take it down much as former Marines would be incensed were peaceniks to burn the Marine Corps flag. To many blacks, leftists, and establishment Republicans, the confederate battle flag is associated with bigotry and race-hatred that has its roots in American slavery and the antebellum Southern way of life.  

In general, there is no right against being offended or even unreasonably offended. People have a right to do what they want with their property and this right includes using it to express ideas. A pro-lifer’s ownership of her t-shirt includes the option to put a graphic pictures of fetuses on it even if it makes people uncomfortable. Even if there were a right against being offended, it wouldn’t solve the issue here as you have one group who will be offended if you leave the flag up and another that will be offended if you take it down.

Leaving rights aside, I think it is probably a bad idea to take down the flag. Nations and other political entities are often specific peoples with shared histories. Consider, for example, England, Germany, and Japan. I don't think it is a good idea to whitewash a people’s history any more than it is a good idea to airbrush out relatives from family photos. Knowing one’s family history, whether good or bad, is important for identity and a shared identity is often a good thing.  At the very least, we should have good evidence that airbrushing out the Confederacy is good for people or morally required before we do so. I don’t see any evidence that this is the case. 


More importantly, the movement to remove controversial historical figures and symbols will likely spin out of control. Not only because it has no natural stopping point, but also because once easily offended groups smell blood in the water, they’ll go on a feeding frenzy. Today the flag is lowered from South Carolina. Tomorrow statutes to confederate generals (for example, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson) and money with a murderous leader (for example, Andrew Jackson) are removed. Later, we’ll remove still more references to other historical leaders or events that retrospectively offend people. Perhaps the right will get in on the act and target horrible Presidents (for example, Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt) and stupid wars (for example, World War I). No thoughtful adult trusts the Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, the NAACP, and their ilk to know when to stop dismantling historical symbols. Better to keep our connection to the past in place and be honest about where we came from. 

08 July 2015

Donald Trump is Right: Low Quality Immigrants and the New England Patriots

Stephen Kershnar
Donald Trump, New England Patriots, and Immigration
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
July 5, 2015

Instead of the U.S. choosing the best and the brightest immigrants, we allow immigrants themselves to choose who gets to live here. This is in part because of an immigration system that favors family connections over skill, education, and money. It is also in part because of aliens who sneak into the country in the dark of night.  

Ann Coulter points out that the New England Patriots carefully select who gets to be on their team. The team spends a large amount of money vetting players in order to get the best players and fulfill their needs. The team’s owners, players, and fans would be outraged if college players got to decide who was on the team by sneaking into the locker room or by being related to a current player. They would be even more furious when they discovered that other teams weren’t so handicapped. The U.S. should draft immigrants similar to how the Patriots draft players.

These issues matter because the U.S. is being flooded with low end immigrants, especially from Mexico. The U.S. has been taking in roughly 1 million legal immigrants a year for over thirty years and has another 11-30 million illegal immigrants, depending on the estimate. Roughly 1 out of 8 members of the U.S. population are immigrants, the highest number since the 1920’s. 1 out of 8. A large number of immigrants are poor, unskilled, and on welfare. A 2011 study by the Center for Immigration Studies found that 48% of immigrants and their U.S. born children (and roughly 68% of Mexican immigrants) are in poverty or near poverty. In fact, Coulter points out, we now have roughly one-fourth of Mexicans in the U.S. (specifically, people of Mexican origin).

Enter Donald Trump. The Republican presidential candidate and real estate mogul, during his presidential announcement speech, said, “When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."

Corporate America immediately attacked him. NBC and Univision will not air the Trump-owned Miss Universe Pageant, Macy’s dropped his signature clothing line. New York Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a review of Trump's city contracts. NASCAR is moving an annual banquet from the Trump National Doral resort in Miami. 

Shame on Trump for winging such an important point. Here’s what he should have said. “There are many wonderful immigrants, particularly Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. They are our family members, friends, and lovers. However, when it comes to immigrants in general, we can do better. Compared to natives or other immigrants we could have gotten, our current Mexican immigrants are poorer, less well educated, less intelligent, less skilled, and fatter. They have worse family values and three quarters of their households are on welfare. No one seriously suggests that we are better off with millions of Mexican immigrants than we would be with immigrants from England, Ireland, Germany, and Japan. Just as the New England Patriots get the best players they can, we should do the same. Let’s choose who gets to join our nation rather than let others decide by sneaking in or citing family relations.”

Consider Trump’s sloppy argument. Mexico doesn’t send its people, but let’s ignore that claim. He didn’t say that they have a disproportionate number of rapists, drug dealers, and people with problems, but let us pretend he did in order to evaluate the corporate assault.   

First, consider drug dealing. The Pew Hispanic Center study found that in 2007 Hispanic illegal aliens were 5% of the population, but 25% of federal drug offenders. In general, Hispanics, and Mexicans in particular, are more likely involved in crime than whites but not blacks. According to a study by Jason Richwine using 2006-2008 data, compared to whites, Hispanics (immigrant and U.S. born) are 80% -150% (depending on the data source) more likely to be imprisoned than non-Hispanic whites. I should mention Ron Unz’s interesting, but I think unsuccessful, challenge to Richwine’s analysis is worth considering.   

Hispanic criminality is relevant to the immigration discussion. According to a 2007 study by the Sentencing Project, 20% of state and federal prisoners are Hispanic and 1 in 6 Hispanic males can expect to go to prison in his lifetime. Trump’s courage in discussing this is in sharp contrast to cowards such as Clinton and Bush.

Data on the ethnicity of rapists is hard to come by because the Bureau of Justice Statistics does not keep data on what percentage of rapists are Hispanic. The Center for Control and Prevention report that in the U.S., Hispanic women are less likely than white women to be raped, although Hispanic men are more likely than white men to be raped. Mexico’s reported rate of rape is less than that of the U.S., although it is unclear whether this is because Mexican women are less likely to report it. On rape, then, Trump might well be wrong.

It is worth noting that Bill Clinton waived criminal background checks on hundreds of thousands of immigrants as a way of getting a large number of new voters right before his second election. Clinton’s sleazy move undoubtedly brought about many unnecessary rapes and murders in America.

Barack Obama implemented one blatantly illegal amnesty and recently tried to implement a much larger one. His administration cut back on deportations of illegal aliens (despite lies to the contrary) and recently sharply cut back on monitoring worksites for hiring them. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush backed driver licenses and in-state college tuition for illegal aliens as well as promising not to immediately reverse Obama’s executive amnesties. Candidate Hillary Clinton can be counted on to do the same.

Predictably, NBC, Univision, Macy’s, de Blasio, and NASCAR say nothing about any of this, it’s a serious discussion of immigration that puts their panties in a twist.