The Kinder, Gentler Military: How Political Correctness Affects our Ability to Win Wars
San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2000
About a year and a half prior to 9/11, I watched Stephanie Gutmann being interviewed on C-SPAN about her book, The Kinder, Gentler Military, which I then went on to read. What is remarkable about it is the opening sentence:
Five or ten years from now, if we find ourselves in an air and 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 Chaney, Les 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. (p. 11)
Well, now that we’ve lost a war against somebody we didn’t notice in 2000, and since military operations in general have been going pretty poorly of late, I decided to reread the book and see how accurate her predictions were.
What I found is that Gutmann didn’t err on anything, given its focus: a feminized military is dysfunctional. She does err when she believes that racial issues have been worked out in the service; they are not. In that regard, the book is also an interesting time capsule of the assumptions and ideas that dominated the mainstream Right at the End of History — the period between the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 and the World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks of September 11, 2001. During the End of History, the sociopolitical scene was marked by the unquestioned superiority of American arms, and a society-wide focus on trivial matters while deadly forces gathered unnoticed.
There have been women in the military, mostly medical personnel and clerks, for a very long time, but putting women into jobs where the likelihood of seeing direct combat was quite possible began when the United States government ended conscription in early 1973. The end of the draft occurred at a time when the military was the most unpopular institution in America. Getting recruits was a challenge, and the Pentagon co-opted the feminist movement to pull women in to fill the ranks.
Gutmann doesn’t mention the politics surrounding the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s, possibly because the ERA died so spectacularly that it was forgotten entirely during the End of History. The ERA was destroyed by Phyllis Schlafly’s highlighting of the fact that, if adopted, the ERA would eventually mean women would be drafted and sent into combat.
After the ERA’s fall, feminists waged an insurgency campaign to open up more and more billets — called a Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) — to women. By the mid-1990s, feminists in Congress effectively led by Patricia Schroeder were successfully pushing for women in high-prestige, high-danger jobs such as fighter pilots.
One institution used to push for “gender integration” in the armed services is the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). It consists of a co-ed advisory board of notable civilians. It is a perk for politically active people; they get to go on junkets to various bases. Gutmann points out that the women on this committee are hopelessly overwhelmed. They understand the politics of “sexual harassment” and feminism, but don’t understand basic military concepts like “front and rear.” Gutmann witnessed an event where a female DACOWITS advisor was told that proper-fitting boots are important for soldiers. The advisor hadn’t considered such a thing.
Another problem is the physical strain involved in some of these jobs. Many of the women cannot lift the tents, spare parts, toolboxes, and so on that are commonly used in a soldier’s tasks. In response to this, the military changed the job requirements. Toolboxes that a man was expected to lift became a “two-soldier lift” when women were integrated. But unfortunately, changing designations doesn’t take into account the entire picture. Some heavy components, such as engine parts, can only be hoisted into place by a single person, because there is no room in the compartment for anyone else.
In an attempt to see if improved physical training would help, the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts developed a variety of exercise programs to make women soldiers as tough as the men. These programs did indeed make the women very fit, indeed — but they were still not as strong as any of the men.
Then there is the problem of field hygiene. For female soldiers in the ground forces, urinary tract infections turned out to be a major problem during the Persian Gulf War. Many women soldiers drank as little water as possible in order to avoid urinating. Gutmann describes the various projects that failed to work at Natick to alleviate the urination dilemma. One can’t help but speculate that toilet issues may have been part of the reason why the Army garrisoned Iraq with enormous forward operating bases rather than smaller outposts that could have better stabilized the population better during the Iraq War.
Gender integration has required a host of costly other changes. Watertight doors on ships needed to be redesigned, as did ejection seats in jet aircraft. All of these changes were costly and time-consuming. They amounted to reinventing the wheel to accommodate a less functional force.
Then there is sex. Gutmann was able to take a tour on the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier then deployed to the Persian Gulf. She found that there were considerable sexual problems due to “gender” integration. As mentioned above, there was tension caused by the fact of there being a small number of women among a large population of men. There was an illicit heterosexual bathhouse culture that was impossible to control. Sailors ended up having sex while on duty, there were unplanned pregnancies, and of course there was plenty of drama. Sailors described the place as a “high school,” filled with unstable romances, jealousy, and gossip.
According to feminist dogma, pregnancy is a medical condition akin to a broken arm, but Gutmann points out that while pregnancy is, in fact, a medical condition, it is also a doorway into a new phase of life where a woman becomes a mother. The mother in question acquires a new set of priorities upon the birth of a child. And when the new mom is sent out of the unit, and thus not doing her duties, she is still on the books in her unit. The men behind must take up the slack, and there is no replacement coming for her.
Aboard the Stennis, Gutmann found that there was a schoolmarm culture that infected everything. Words like “cockpit” or “gash” were deemed insensitive and rendered taboo. The term sex had been replaced with “gender.” The sailors wouldn’t even look at Gutmann in the passageways, and conversations with them were awkward and forced. This situation, it turned out, came about as a result of the scandal caused by the Tailhook Convention of 1991.
The Tailhook conventions are put on in Las Vegas by the Tailhook Association. The word “Tailhook” comes from the hook on a carrier aircraft which catches the arresting wires as it is landing on the carrier, stopping it on the extremely short runway. The convention held speeches and question-and-answer sessions away from headquarters, so there was considerable freedom to ask tough questions of various notables.
Carrier operations are hard work, and the Tailhook Convention gave those hard workers a place to play hard. The 1991 convention was a booze-filled party, made more rowdy by the fact that the Persian Gulf War had recently been won. But it was only rowdier by degree: all past Tailhooks had been rowdy; it is in Los Vegas, after all. There was a rumor that a Secretary of the Navy had a $20 bill pulled out of his mouth by a stripper’s vagina. Eventually, a disgruntled woman made a stink about it, and the story snowballed into a huge moral panic. Subsequently, the Navy had a purge. Careers were sunk and a demoralizing pallor descended upon the Navy that has never lifted.
The Tailhook Scandal is the result of the contradiction at the heart of having women in the military. On the one hand, these women are supposed to defend America, and are said to be able to do anything a man can do. But on the other, the military must protect them while they protect the rest of us. Thus, women soldiers are both warriors and damsels in distress.
Then there is rape. The dark truth of warfare is that rape is a big part of it. Women in the military are often victims of rape. This has led to all sorts of difficulties. Gutmann recounts the story of a female soldier who was raped by Czech soldiers in Bosnia. (And America’s leaders talk about “respecting” our allies . . .) The Czechs claimed that the sex was consensual. Since the Czech military is not under the authority of the American chain-of-command, the case couldn’t be tried. An attempt to mitigate this risk was to have two females on each team (the possibility that two women can also be raped wasn’t considered). When a woman couldn’t command one of the teams because there was an uneven number of females, she sued.
There was also the sordid tale of the Aberdeen Proving Ground scandal. It was discovered that a group of sub-Saharan drill sergeants had been raping female trainees. Gutmann argues that the drill sergeants were railroaded. This is the book’s weakness; race differences in criminality had a great deal to do with the scandal. At the End of History, Rightist or conservative authors were genuine believers in “civil rights,” however. In reality, there is always a potential for sexual aggression when a man has power over a woman, such as in basic training.
All women in the service are running an enormous risk for sexual assault, both from the enemy should they be captured and from their fellow soldiers. Deliberately sending women into this environment is immoral and brutal. It is not kinder and not gentler.
Now that more than 20 eventful years have passed since this book was first published, it is clear that Gutmann was on to something. While it can’t really be said that the United States military lost the Iraq War, that war was nevertheless certainly more difficult and unsatisfying than its planners imagined. The War in Afghanistan was undeniably lost however, and in the aftermath of the Fall of Kabul, it is clear that, apart from Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, most of America’s leadership — even down to the midlevel ranks — was lying about just how badly the conflict was going.
Once the United States military became co-ed, the culture of lying (which already existed due to “civil rights”) metastasized. No military leader can go against a Congressional committee hell-bent on putting girls in the infantry, no matter how idiotic that policy is on its face.
There are genuine examples that illuminate the dysfunctional nature of the co-ed military. One is Paula Broadwell, a West Point graduate who carried on an affair with General David Petraeus. The affair was discovered after Broadwell cyberstalked a woman she believed was a sexual rival. The lack of judgment and dishonesty involved was astonishing. What bright young man didn’t get to go to West Point because of Broadwell’s appointment there? What was Petraeus missing out on while carrying on his affair?
Gutmann’s focus on the aircraft carrier’s sexual antics was on to something, too. In 2020, the USS Bonhomme Richard was lost, most likely because of a fire caused by arson, perpetrated by a sexually jealous sailor. It has been further revealed that the crew didn’t recognize that the ship was on fire for several hours, and then failed to put the blaze out even once it was discovered. One can easily make a case that the focus on sexual harassment in today’s Navy means less focus on basic seamanship.
Then there is the enormous puff and fluff related to single mothers in the service. Child care is an enormous issue and expense. Furthermore, if a single mother is killed, such as PFC Lori Piestewa of the Hopi Nation, her children are orphaned.
In short, the Department of Defense has a problem with its structure. Its senior leadership is at the mercy of a hostile Congress every time there is a sex-related problem. There is no possible way to politely point out this fact. It is highly unlikely that the institution will be able to reform itself, even though the United States has now had a series of catastrophic military engagements.
One last word of caution: The Congress, led by feminists and war hawks, is pushing to draft women. That idea is out there, and one day could be reality.
* * *
Counter-Currents has extended special privileges to those who donate $120 or more per year.
- First, donor comments will appear immediately instead of waiting in a moderation queue. (People who abuse this privilege will lose it.)
- Second, donors will have immediate access to all Counter-Currents posts. Non-donors will find that one post a day, five posts a week will be behind a “paywall” and will be available to the general public after 30 days.
To get full access to all content behind the paywall, sign up here:
Paywall Gift Subscriptions
- your payment
- the recipient’s name
- the recipient’s email address
- your name
- your email address
To register, just fill out this form and we will walk you through the payment and registration process. There are a number of different payment options.
Rightist Innovation in Dallas
In Praise of Healthy Vice
Remembering Lothrop Stoddard: June 29, 1883–May 1, 1950
Perilously Fair: Reflections on the Ladies of the Lake
The Crossroads of Our Being: Civil War Commemorations During the “Civil Rights” Movement
The Tragedy of the Faux Boys
Christopher Pankhurst’s Numinous Machines
When Florida Was French
White Fragility & Joseph Conrad’s The Nigger of the “Narcissus”