- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2000


The past two decades were the worst and best of times for the United States military.
The 1980s saw a demoralized, drug-infested, under-equipped force transformed into the most professional body of troops ever assembled. The armed forces got bigger, better and smarter. This helped win the Cold War and beat Saddam Hussein's army in the desert.
Things started deteriorating soon afterwards. Budgets and troop strengths were constricted. By 1998, the military languished in readiness problems. Pressured by Republicans, President Clinton offered up more money for defense. Something else happened too under Mr. Clinton's watch. The military became awash in questions of social propriety. Women in combat, homosexuals in the military, sexual harassment, adultery and fraternization all seemed to consume the nation's war machine.
A once supremely confident military leadership went before civilian commissions and congressional panels, begging for understanding on why a fighting force must not bend to every social whim. They got little sympathy from an agenda-driven media or various liberal pressure groups determined to make the 82nd Airborne just another federal government, equal opportunity employer.
Now comes the first book to chronicle the politically correct capture of the American military. Stephanie Gutmann visited boot camps, ships and combat units to observe the new military. She's not impressed. "The Kinder, Gentler Military" charges that the Pentagon's lust for making itself entirely women-friendly has resulted in lowered standards and silly rules.
The author writes, "The nineties were a decade in which the brass handed over their soldiers to social planners in love with an unworkable (and in many senses undesirable) vision of a politically correct utopia, one in which men and women toil side by side, equally good at the same tasks, interchangeable, and, of course, utterly undistracted by sexual interest."
The author spends considerable time at Fort Jackson, S.C., one of two Army basic training centers that mix men and women recruits. She notes that co-ed groups casually walk on an athletic field the first week because they are not physically fit enough to run. The grenade-toss distance is shortened. Obstacle courses are renamed "confidence courses." Drill sergeants purr encouragement and console crying recruits.
The plight of today's drill sergeant is a sorry sight. Deathly afraid of a career-ending sexual harassment charge, he rarely raises a voice. In fact, one of the first stops a recruit makes is a class explaining all the things a drill sergeant can't do. The author quotes an unnamed recruit trainer: "It destroys what we call our power base right there. A drill sergeant can't touch you, a drill sergeant can't cuss at you, a drill sergeant can't this, that or the other."
The author assesses the power shift this way: "Assuming they were now committed to creating a force that looked like America, would they ask women to change themselves to fit into military culture and infrastructure, or would the institution change itself to ensure that women came and stayed? The significant fact about the nineties is that after decades of operating on the first premise, the institution became convinced it had to adopt the latter."
The author next visits Navy warships steaming in the dangerous waters off Iraq. On board the sexually integrated carrier USS John Stennis, Lt. Cmdr. Graham Guiller tells her, "This ship is so wrapped up in not failing and feeling good that in my opinion it's not a (fully) effective war-fighting ship. We have a Mommy ship."
The military leadership rejects charges of a "softer" war machine. The Army points out that Fort Jackson trains support personnel. The Army's heart and soul infantry, artillery and armor soldiers still get their baptism in rigorous all-male outfits. A recent, extensive study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found a peacekeeping-weary force in need of nourishment. But it also found a warrior culture still intact. Critics of the CSIS report claim researchers never thoroughly asked about the gender wars.
The author did, and concluded: "The pursuit of 'gender equity' is exacting a huge price in dollars and morale. The brass claim we are wedded to finding ways to integrate women because we can't find sufficient numbers of qualified men and/or because integrating women is just like integrating black men: Whatever the cost, they say, it's the right thing to do."
The author gets the ultimate irony in all this from the lips of an Army public relations specialist. He is attending a meeting of the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, a group that sees few limits for women and wants them assigned to submarines and artillery units.
Says the PR officer, "It often strikes me as ironic that these days people like Patton and Schwarzkopf would never have made it past basic training."

Rowan Scarborough covers the Pentagon for The Washington Times.

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