The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Are young men better soldiers?  (Read 3178 times)

Offline vampares

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 33
    • View Profile
Are young men better soldiers?
« on: 21/09/2014 06:13:13 »
I would like to know if young men are inherently better warriors than their younger and older counterparts.

Most military forces enlist men between the ages of 17 and 24.  Why this a prime age for the most funded industry on the planet?
« Last Edit: 22/09/2014 08:10:26 by chris »


 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Strength training is easier in the late teens and early 20's than just about any time in life, and the individuals may have more brute strength during that time than later in life.  And, of course, also healing quicker.  Fewer aches and pains in life.

However, there are also mental and logistical reasons to choose the youth. 

Younger soldiers may also be more impressionable.  Soldiers in their 40's might wish to analyze orders rather than following them.

The young also have less societal ties.  Less likely to be married, less likely to have children, less likely to own property, and less likely to be in the middle of a career. 

HOWEVER, I do believe that it reflects poorly on a society to be eager to send one's children to war, and the death of a young adult child is still traumatic for the parents.
 

Offline alancalverd

  • Global Moderator
  • Neilep Level Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4699
  • Thanked: 153 times
  • life is too short to drink instant coffee
    • View Profile
Quote
HOWEVER, I do believe that it reflects poorly on a society to be eager to send one's children to war, and the death of a young adult child is still traumatic for the parents.

In an ideal society, no politician could vote in favour of overseas military action unless he had served in the military or had immediate close family currently liable for deployment. Home defence, or the hot pursuit of an actual aggressor, is a different matter, but nobody should be empowered to provide other people's relatives as targets for guerrillas.
 

Offline vampares

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 33
    • View Profile
That is a good analysis.  I too am not comfortable with using youth as "cannon fodder".

A battle young vs. old who would win?  If there were soldiers without some of the impediments that were mention who were older (or younger), is it implied that these soldiers would be better (or would have been better) suited to preform battle field tasks?
 

Offline chris

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 5337
  • Thanked: 65 times
  • The Naked Scientist
    • View Profile
    • The Naked Scientists
Re: Are young men better soldiers?
« Reply #4 on: 22/09/2014 08:16:04 »
There is one key answer to this question: testosterone. This is the androgen that makes muscles grow and causes aggressive and sometimes - some would say - unreasonable behaviour. It is highest in young men and declines with age. Therefore, alongside the other considerations highlighted above by CliffordK, the best recipe for a vicious fighter who blithely does as he is told is a young, androgen-charged, impressionable youth.

Take a look in the Middle East right now and you will see this in action (quite literally). There are very few female jihadists...
 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Are young men better soldiers?
« Reply #5 on: 22/09/2014 10:51:40 »
A battle young vs. old who would win?

Send the octogenarians out to battle, and the battle would be over by noon siesta.

Middle aged leaders would likely battle smarter than the young.  However, an armed unit would fall apart if everyone was a leader.  They need to work as a cohesive unit.  So, what they really need is a few vetran leaders, and a group of  blind followers. 

Make the unit 100% out of teenagers, and the unit would lack direction and experience. 

Make it 100% out of middle aged soldiers, and it would lack the strength and power of the youth, and perhaps also lack the unity that might come with younger soldiers.
 

Offline alancalverd

  • Global Moderator
  • Neilep Level Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4699
  • Thanked: 153 times
  • life is too short to drink instant coffee
    • View Profile
Re: Are young men better soldiers?
« Reply #6 on: 22/09/2014 11:20:52 »
Depends on the nature of the fighting. Hand-to-hand fighting, trench warfare, and to some extent aerial dogfighting, is all about strength, testosterone, and reaction times, but team fighting (operating a tank, bomber, or warship) requires lots of acquired skill at the top (including good anticipation of the enemy's response - see Horatio Nelson and Cloudsley Shovell for prime examples of this) and the ability to collaborate with your immediate buddies and colleagues miles away who you have never met but have to trust to follow their orders: hot-headed youth is a menace in a submarine or a formation flight.

Strategic fighting (ballistic missiles, long range artillery, and the like) is all about mature judgement of the most effective expenditure of limited munitions: personal survival is not an issue, but do you use your drone to support an infantry unit or to attack a rocket factory? Cold evaluation of the bigger picture is needed, and this usually comes with age. 

Quote
However, an armed unit would fall apart if everyone was a leader.
Years ago I watched a TV interview with the captain of the Israeli cricket team, in Ireland for the first World Cup   "What is your biggest problem?" asked the interviewer "The other ten captains" was the instant reply. 
 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Are young men better soldiers?
« Reply #7 on: 23/09/2014 07:56:16 »
Good Point.

War is quickly becoming more than the ability to carry 100+ pounds of gear 30 miles on one's back, and still being able to fight for one's life at the end of the day.

There is no substitute for in depth knowledge.  However, as new technology comes online, it may be easiest to train new recruits from the ground up, rather than retraining older individuals (unless there is significant overlap in skills). 

Where is the cutoff between tech-savy, and tech illiterate? 

Lots of 70 yr olds have very poor tech skills, but somewhere around 50, and one hits people who had limited access to technology during the developmental years.  They may be able to use E-Mail, but may find some technological advances quite frustrating. 

Many younger soldiers may blend in with the increasing use of technology.
 

Offline alancalverd

  • Global Moderator
  • Neilep Level Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4699
  • Thanked: 153 times
  • life is too short to drink instant coffee
    • View Profile
Re: Are young men better soldiers?
« Reply #8 on: 23/09/2014 08:22:04 »
Quote
Lots of 70 yr olds have very poor tech skills, but somewhere around 50, and one hits people who had limited access to technology during the developmental years.

Objection, your honour! My 70th birthday is in 4 months' time. Having spent a lifetime designing analog and digital electronics, repairing cars and aeroplanes, and now building MRI clinics and designing x-ray machines to amuse myself in my dotage, I look at the next-but-one generation and wonder how any of these illiterate cackhanded morons are going to survive in the world I made for them. (Having said that, I think my grandfathers would have found my horsemanship pitiable.)

I commend http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Olds as an example of what makes a warrior. The optimum blend of skill, strength and aggression is rare, but seems to be heritable.
 

Offline chris

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 5337
  • Thanked: 65 times
  • The Naked Scientist
    • View Profile
    • The Naked Scientists
Re: Are young men better soldiers?
« Reply #9 on: 27/09/2014 20:29:31 »
Happy birthday for 4 months' time, Alan. Your point about horsemanship in today's age is nice; I was thinking this today as I watched ladies riding side-saddle and a working horse demonstration at a country show I attended...
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Re: Are young men better soldiers?
« Reply #9 on: 27/09/2014 20:29:31 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums