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A Kinder, Gentler Military:
Good Thesis, Faulty Conclusion


Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.

Book-review on the work A Kindler, Gentler Military:
How Political Correctness Affects Our Ability to Win Wars,
by Stephanie Gutmann
San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2001, 300 pp.


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The "War Dogs" platoon, average age 19 and half female, are lined up at Fort Jackson basic training camp beneath the Victory Tower to complete one of the more visually interesting exercises: the trainee makes a Tarzan like-swing on a rope over a short crevice, walks a rope bridge and then skirts across the "rappelling wall," a narrow slab of weathered boards forty feet above the ground. It's not physically dangerous. The point of the exercise is to build confidence, a big priority item of the "New Army."

The Drill Sergeant seems a bit uncomfortable in his new mentor-role as he calls out: "Anybody scared of heights?"
A few girls raise their hands.

His tone becomes less harsh: "It's okay to be afraid of heights… you'll be okay."

The recruits line up to climb the 40-foot-high Tower. Seat harnesses are clipped to the safety line. The exercise begins. A pattern develops.

The boys hardly listen to instructions; instinctively, off they go, often with a certain bravado and energy to spare. Roughly half the girls make it fine through the various paces, but with a serious and methodical approach.

And then there is the other half of the female contingent… One girl is weeping, her mouth quivering. The Drill Sergeant, under strict order not to "abuse the recruits," is supposed to offer encouragement and "build confidence."

"You can do it," he says.

"Will you catch me," pleads the girl who is supposed to swing across the gap on the platform.

"I'm here," he says.

She completes the exercise. "How are you feeling now?" he asks.
"Great, Drill Sergeant!" she squeals in triumph, her self-esteem at a new high and feeling very good about herself, an important priority, it seems, of the New Army.
Later, the sergeant, thinking back to the days of his basic training at the all-male infantryman camp at Fort Benning (Georgia), broods over the lower training standards that have evolved to accommodate women:
    • an obstacle course renamed "confidence course" and moved indoors so as not to intimidate women (who balk at crawling through mud on their stomachs);
    • dual obstacle courses, the easier ones for women; different standards for women, e.g.,. while men must be able to throw a grenade 35 meters, it suffices for women to toss it over a concrete wall; women get a three-minute grace period to complete the three-mile run;
    • "teamwork" is stressed to cover for women who can't perform standard tasks; "ability groups" accommodate those who can't keep up the pace, and training "time-outs" provide for those who are overtired or overstressed;
    • recruits are given from day one the honorary title "soldier" (no more "private") to build self-esteem;
    • "It's okay to cry" orientation videos and CARE counselors work recruits through stress or sexual harassment;
    • "Sensing sessions" deliver feedback about the sensitivity of instructors, and "sexual harassment sensitivity training sessions" are as or more important than physical training and battlefield tactics classes.
It is not only that this type of training does not bode well for military readiness. It is terrible for morale among the men, those men who thought that boot camp was supposed to be about "tearing a boy down and building him up to be a man," and the drill sergeants who used to do the job. That is to say, morale is low among the real soldiers.

Finally, the Drill Sergeant explodes: "This is too easy. I'm leaving. 'Kinder, gentler military!' I'm leaving! I'm sick of this."

That is what is happening more and more in the New Army, it would appear. The going isn't tough, so the tough -- and the best -- get going. Seasoned hard-line sergeants and mid-level career officers are leaving the army in disturbing numbers, dissatisfied with a military culture that has been trivialized and feminized. They simply can't take the military that has become a mouthpiece for sexual equality and the advancement of women's rights.

A kinder, gentler military

"The new boot camp is a product of a changed philosophy, a change in the way society values what is often called the 'warrior culture,'" explains Stephanie Gutmann in her controversial and surprisingly well-received book The Kinder, Gentler Military: How Political Correctness Affects Our Ability to Win Wars. In the late nineties, Gutmann, a journalist who specializes in gender issue topics, went out in the field to look at the "New Military." She visited boot camps, army bases, naval ships; she spoke with officers, sergeants, sailors, airmen, and soldiers.

What she found and reported was a reality being ignored by politically correct politicians and officers: an institution in turmoil. The American Armed Forces, she summarizes, is "struggling with 'reformers' without and within who are trying to expunge their hierarchical, competitive, aggressive and generally masculine character - the kind of character that wins wars."

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Today's war council room, where men and women are interchangeable. Not only unrealistic, but impossible, says Gutmann
What has raised a ruckus among feminists and in the Pentagon is where she lays the finger of blame for the "kinder, gentler military" she found: the large numbers of women being admitted to the armed services, which has been systematically remaking itself to accommodate them. Today, in the Army the female presence is 15 percent, and the Navy 12 percent, and the pressure is on recruiters to raise the numbers. Now these women are not nurses, secretaries, and clerks, like the "good old days" of World War II. They are soldiers, mechanics, sailors, airmen, you-name-it. In 1994, laws and policies were changed so that in each of the services today, only a few job categories are still closed to women.

The problem, according to Gutmann, is that it is no longer the policy to find the best man for the job. Instead, what has been does is to change man-size jobs to accommodate women. Double standards have influenced everything from recruiting to basic training graduation to promotion qualifications. Under pressure to meet "mission numbers of gender and race," that is to say, "quotas," women were allowed to come into basic training at dramatically lower fitness levels and then climb lower walls, throw shorter distances and carry lighter packs. The disparities became glaring in the Gulf War, when men in many units took over tearing down tents or loading boxes because most of the women simply couldn't manage these chores or do them as fast. Women who were sent home because they were pregnant before they saw any action were allowed to wear combat patch sleeves and awarded medals.

But even with lowered standards, women still didn't feel at home in the fighting forces. The feminist answer: if the warrior culture frightens away women, then the warrior culture has to be changed. This is apparently what is happening as a new value system that worships "sensitivity" is being set in place. What the military forces are engaged in is a huge social experiment. Unfortunately for us, the people who depend on an armed services for protection and defense, says Gutmann, it is an experiment that isn't working.

A utopian vision ends in babies and abortions

Mixed-sex units? Anyone who believes in original sin would question the sanity of the proposal. Gutmann points out the futility of this "politically correct utopia, on in which men and women toil side by side, equally good at the same tasks, interchangeable, and of course, utterly undistracted by sexual interest."

What really happens is instinctive: Men will tend to protect the women, and the women to rely on the men in combat situations of danger.

And when they are out of danger, especially when they are deployed together on those long and boring peace missions at sea, well, with the "new morality" of the sexual revolution, you can guess the results. The Acadia and USS Yellowstone are now jokingly referred to as the "love boats" of the Gulf War, since 31 percent of the "sailors" on them came home pregnant. In Bosnia from the time deployment began in December 1995 until July 1996, Stars and Stripes reported, one woman had to be evacuated for pregnancy approximately every three days.

Pregnant sailors (an oxymoron if I ever heard one!) routinely are flown off ships for abortions. War ships, already invaded by mirrors, blow dryers and nail polish, are being designed now with the needs of pregnant sailors in mind. The New Navy, says Gutmann, tends to be very "Mom-centered."

This also has not been so good for morale among the men, needless to say. Declining recruitment and retention are plaguing all the services (except the Marines), and the Navy are especially hard hit. Women tend to leave because they get pregnant or other family-related reasons. Men leave because they can't bear the new politically correct climate where a glance or word improperly interpreted can get him written up and his career ruined. With potential sexual harassment suits lurking around every corner, it is not so safe to be a man making a career in the military services anymore. It is the men who used to be the best and toughest officers and soldiers who are now deserting the ranks in discouragement and disgust.

As Gutmann notes, as more and more of our troops fall into the hands of people more interested in social experimentation than national security, it is becoming apparent that military readiness has been sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.

Who is to blame?

Most of the problem can be traced to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), a 50-year-old civilian board that, according to its charter, advises the Secretary of Defense “on the full range of matters relating to women in the Services.” Today it is this board, ridden with feminists and driven by the flawed theory that, were it not for artificial barriers to women, they would be interchangeable with men in all military tasks, that is directing and policing the gender-neutral policies for the New Military.

It's really hard to understand how powerful this special-interests group has become. For example, last year, despite the fact that high navy officials spoke against assigning women to submarines, despite the available information presented on the huge redesign costs, social complications, habitability hardships, medical risks and operations hazards that could compromise submarine missions, the DACOWITT committee recommended unanimously the exact opposite: women should be assigned to submarines.

A disturbing pattern has developed. DACOWITT' makes its unreasonable demands. And fearful of upsetting the feminists, the politicians, the officers, and a generally liberal press all go meekly along.

As Gutmann observes:
"Five or ten years from now, if we find ourselves in an air or ground war with Iraq or North Korea or somebody else we haven't noticed yet, and we get utterly whipped, you can blame presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, Secretaries of Defense Richard Cheney , Oles Aspin and William Cohen, the Congresses who wrote and passed the bills they signed and the Pentagon leadership who just grinned nervously and sat on their hands while all of this was going on."
A good thesis; a faulty conclusion

"The army is broke like it has never been broke before," said a highly placed Army officer, one voice in the chorus Gutmann heard service-wide down the ranks. In fact, in her book under review here, she relied primarily on anecdotal evidence. Again, to save their necks from the nooses of the feminist vigilantes, most of witnesses prefer to remain anonymous to protect their careers. The methodology makes it a very readable book. Even without the footnotes or statistical evidence from studies and polls (which do exist, but which you won't find here), her presentation of the facts rings true. I think everyone knows someone in the service who will confirm her thesis: the kinder gentler army that has resulted from the high brass following the feminist agenda is a disaster.

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The affective nature of women is not suited for combat
Time, March 24, 2003
I agree one hundred percent with this thesis. It is wrong, and obtuse, to jeopardize military preparedness for the sake of an equality that simply does not exist. Women were not made to be soldiers and kill people. They were made to be wives, mothers and daughters, and, in this sense, a complement to the man. Because of this, what is natural to them is to provide affection, sympathy and emotional support for men and families. An armed service teaches its recruits how to face and destroy an enemy. Subjected to this training, the affective nature of women is essentially damaged or destroyed. At the same time, the armed service is essentially destroyed when it assumes feminine characteristics. Women and soldiers: the two realities are not a comfortable fit.

Gutmann will almost go so far as to agree with this. She mentions the idea of natural law, according to which women were made to give life and not take life. She questions whether she wants the kind of men who have become "desensitized" to the screams of female unit mates (one of the new training eercises in the New Army), or the kind of woman who no longer naturally seeks protection from men. Do we really want a world, she asks, where men and women can work, live, eat, and sleep together without any romantic inclinations, even if it were possible? And it is not.

Notwithstanding this movement of good sense, in the end, Gutmann just cannot give a manly response to what she calls the "heart-wrenching" question: "Should we have women in the military?" It wouldn't be such a hard or "heart-wrenching" question to answer for any sergeant of the "Old Army," I am sure. But Gutmann is not able to respond in a strong and categorical way: No Women Allowed. Instead, in the conclusion of the book, she contradicts the very thesis she defended, and takes the easy middle road, a semi-feminist position.

Women are an indispensable part of the U.S. armed forces, she concludes. All we have to is go back to the pre-nineties measures that made sure women were fit for the job. She suggests eliminating all recruiting quotas for women, separating the sexes in boot camps (like the Marines and Israelis do), and applying equal standards in testing. Why would she make this disappointing counterassault to her intelligent statement about natural law, to her strong assertions that the presence of women lowers morale, and her bold attack on political correctness? I don't know.

Therefore, my conclusion is that Gutmann makes a very good and gallant argument to show that the policy of women in the armed services is not working, but she loses both continuity and courage in her flawed conclusion. I would suggest that if you want to read this book, which I can only half-recommend, that you take this into consideration.

A final caveat preemptor: Gutmann chooses to write her book in what seems to me a deliberately coarse tone. She seems to be trying to prove that she can write about the Army like a vulgar man by tossing in low level terminology. I don't think it is necessary for me to provide examples of this.

In fact, if this book were a film, it would receive an R rating. Beware. Gutmann does not hesitate to describe many of the lurid details of the military sex scandals of the '90s, especially Tailhook (1991). In my opinion, this false bravado provides further proof that women just are not the same as men. For when a woman tries to fight, swear, or write like she thinks a man does, she ultimately fails … and humiliates her own sex.


Posted on April 22, 2004


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