12 January 2010

Read War is Boring

If you are not reading War is Boring, I highly recommend it. In particular, they catch a lot of things that other might miss. Including this:

For 60 years the U.S. Navy has been organized around its force of large, heavily-protected aircraft carriers, each deploying more combat power than most whole nations can muster. “Carrier proponents … seem to accept on faith alone the premise that a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is essentially invulnerable,” Commander John Patch writes in the current issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings. “The truth is, a deployed aircraft carrier is more vulnerable to mission kill than is commonly believed.”

“Mission kill” means knocking a carrier out of action, rather than sinking it. So what are our carriers’ greatest weaknesses? Patch sketches a range of threats, from explosives-laden small boats to cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. He particularly emphasizes the danger posed by crafty, bloody-minded extremists. For one, “carrier crew size and diversity would likely allow unfettered access to clandestine infiltrators of almost any ethnicity,” Patch writes.

In other words, because there are so many people on carriers — up to 5,000 — some of them are bound to be brown-skinned. And the presence of brown-skinned sailors could make it easier for Islamic terrorists to sneak on board and sabotage the ship.

Axe (the author of this piece) goes on to point out two more examples of the time-tested "black people are being unfairly advanced over better qualified whites!" hackery. In one, found here, the authors resort to the time-tested (and time-destroyed) trope of using SAT scores to say who is and isn't qualified to be a naval officer. Somehow, the fact that the vast majority of black incoming officers have scores below 600 on the SAT Math section, rather than the large minority of white officers, is supposed to mean something.

A few points on that:

1) I work as a teacher of standardized tests. If you have money, I can get your score up. It doesn't matter much who you are, I can get your score up.

2) Why 600? It is never explained why 600 is used.

3) There has long been statistical evidence that the SAT has subtle bias effects.

4) (and most importantly) Who cares about the SAT? Really? Why is this now the end-all be-all of being admitted as an officer for these people?

I can answer number 4. Test scores always show whites doing well and non-Asian minorities doing poorly. If you want to make a "scientific" sounding racist argument, you go for test scores, either SAT or IQ.

Another example is here, where a blogger asks "what core competency does diversity represent?" Axe has a good take-down of this one already:

Well, innovation, for one. “Recognizing the unique potential everyone adds in cultural background, gender, age, and ethnic diversity provides the foundation for creative interaction and healthy debate in our workforce,” said Dr. Walter Jones from the Office of Naval Research.

I hate racist arguments from anywhere, and as the military has actually managed to be in the forefront of antiracism in the past, I particularly hate to see them deployed on the military.