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The answer to the question in the subtitle of this book is most assuredly: No.  Stephanie Gutmann does a terrific job of reporting on both the general changes that have taken place in the military culture as it has been gender-integrated and on how those changes have played out in specific episodes like the Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia, Tailhook, the Aberdeen scandal and other recent cases where the military's ability to deal with the complications caused by a coed fighting force was put to the test.  She presents a compelling case that the results have been abysmal.

The Military has always had a separate culture from the rest of the nation, which has been true in other countries, but has had particular meaning in America.  One of the most striking features has always been that soldiers do not enjoy the same civil rights as civilians.  It has long been recognized that things like the right to free speech, assembly, etc., must yield to the demands of military discipline.  We have been willing to accept these restrictions on the soldiery because it has been considered more important to have a battle ready and effective fighting force than a politically correct one.  As Ms Gutmann puts it:

    ...the "Old Military" said, "Here's the way we do things; we do things this way because we think
    they are morally right and because centuries of experience have told us they work.  You can come
    with us, but you may have to change yourself to do things the way we do."

The result has been that we have had both the world's greatest military and it's most democratic, but with certain understandable limitations.

But with the end of the Cold War, the need for an effective and prepared military has passed by the wayside.  As is our wont in times of peace we have gutted the armed forces.  Ms Gutmann cites a couple of pretty startling statistics:

    Defense spending comprised about half of the federal budget in the sixties; it went to about 25
    percent in the eighties, and was 16 percent in 1999.  In 1989, we had a force of 2.2 million people
    on active duty; that was allowed to decline to 1.4 million in 1999, the lowest troop strength number
    since 1940, the year before Pearl Harbor.

In this climate the Defense Department has been forced to curry political favor with Congress and the President, and one of the ways they have done that is to attempt to gender integrate the branches.  This has essentially required turning the military into an enormous laboratory where the ongoing experiment is to see if we can suppress 50,000 years of human nature and discard hundreds of years of military techniques and training regimens in order to create more warlike women and more peaceful and sensitive \ men.  Regardless of whether one thinks this human re-engineering is a good idea for society as a whole, it must give us particular pause when it is applied to the military forces which are all that stand between us and a generally hostile world.

Ms Gutmann recites all of the predictable problems and offers extensive anecdotal evidence that they are in fact occurring:  lowering of standards, sexual activity, sexual tension, declining morale, loss of focus, and so on.   From shipboard pregnancies in the Navy to drastically reduced retention rates for pilots to the general degradation of training programs, all of the predicted results are in fact coming to fruition.  To take just one example of the kind of general problem that gender integration is creating, she discusses how the military goal has always been to create cohesion on the unit level, but that cohesion amongst men and women resists this historic pattern:

    The problem is that male/female  love tends to work differently from single-sex group bonding.
    The love that grows up between males and females does generally not exist in the platonic, selfless
    phase for long.  It tends to be more selective, to be more exclusive.  It tends to evolve far more
    quickly into pairing--and "pairing off" at that.  In other words, once we have found "our mate," an
    I-got-you-babe/You-and-me-against-the-world/We-two-form-a-multitude mentality sets in.  Men
    and women are hardwired to "cohere," all right, but it's a very different type of cohesion.

Imagine the plight of a platoon leader who has to be concerned about whether his soldiers will act in the best interest of the platoon, or will instead act in the best interest of their special someone.

But in the end, Ms Gutmann makes a daringly conservative argument, that even after considering all of the very real problems that gender integration has caused, there is finally just an objection based in natural law to this whole mad experiment:

    After all the logical arguments about women in infantry have been made--strength discrepancies,
    effects on unit cohesion--the government will still have to deal with another objection, an
    instinctive "no"; the recoil of the heart, of the nerves, and of the gut.  It's the "argument" that can't
    be rationalized with logic or at least not with the kind of argument modern politically correct
    society accepts.  I call it the aesthetic argument.  I know that I find the prospect of a coed front line
    depressing somehow--even though I am convinced there are some women who would make
    excellent front-line soldiers, and that they are so rare that the gender-integrated part of that line
    would be very short indeed.  Something in me craves a restoration of darkness, of risk, of
    mysteries, and certainly of a world of stark polarities, not bland sameness.  I think androgyny is
    chilling, at the very least deeply boring.  And I do not think we could have a capable integrated
    combat arms without real androgyny, without real suppression of male and female qualities--and I
    do not think that is possible.  At least it would require something like what we are in today except
    multiplied by a power of ten.  If anything, think how expensive a full-fledged battle against human
    nature would be.  SERE training for prisoners of war has added a component to "desensitize" male
    soldiers to the screams of female unitmates.  This is the brave new world that waits for us if we are
    firmly committed to getting and keeping a gender-integrated combat force.  For those sexual
    differences and sexual interests will out; they will be flushed out by the urgency of war.  And
    knowing that they would--that a man would probably stop to mourn at the body of a woman, any
    woman, just for the fact of being a woman--makes me kind of happy.

In the final analysis, it is this kind of notion that separates the conservative from the liberal temperament.  Having determined that there should be complete gender blindness and equivalency in every aspect of life, the liberal is content to inflict every form of radical social re-engineering on the men and women of the armed forces, the consequences be damned.  The conservative, probably hostile to the notion of gender equivalence, but certainly opposed to forcing it overnight, regards the military as a valuable institution which has served us well and is extremely reluctant to tamper with it except in those areas where discrimination and inequality are truly irreconcilable with our societal values.

The bad news is that the liberals are winning; the good news is that it ultimately doesn't matter all that much.  One of the ugly secret truths of American politics is that in times of peace the military is simply allowed to rot.  Every time that war has come we have found ourselves completely, embarrassingly  unprepared.  We are wisely unwilling to spend the money that is required to keep the military combat ready.  And we distrust the very idea of a large military in peacetime, both as a threat to our own domestic security and because of what overzealous politicians might get us into overseas if we left them a healthy fighting force to wield.

Beyond these general historical forces is the unique geopolitical and military situation of the day.  There is just no likelihood that the United States will ever be involved in another conventional infantry or naval war.  In the first place, no one could ever effectively attack the continental U.S. with conventional forces.  Second, technology has made most of the duties of the infantry and the navy obsolete.  As Patton said:

    No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.  He won it by making the other poor dumb
    bastard die for his country.

And there are easier ways of making the other guy die than by sending ground troops to shoot him and his compatriots, one by one.  What's more, this technology makes it extraordinarily unlikely that any national leader would be willing to sit by as the body bags filled the TV screen during a conventional war.  The public pressure would be enormous to respond with our overwhelming technologically superior weaponry.  The Gulf War may be the last action that even resembles a traditional ground war and, even there, it was merely left to the ground troops to sweep up after the technowar had been waged and won.

So, while we should all abhor the utter shambles that gender activists and the forces of political correctness have been allowed to make of the once-great American military, and should mourn the passing of one of Western Civilization's greatest institutions (has any other ever freed as many people from tyranny?), it is unlikely that most of us will ever feel the direct effects of this disaster.  It would be nice to think that, one day, the damage will be undone and the U. S. military will be returned to the warrior ethos that has served us so well for several centuries, however chauvanistic and insensitive it may appear to civilian eyes.  (Though there is absolutely no chance, regardless of Republican rhetoric, that they will ever again receive adequate funding to be an effective fighting force.)  But it is comforting to know that even if this liberal experiment continues until we have an all-female force which is sensitized to the point of pacifism, it just doesn't really matter.  As a nation, we have decided to return to our traditional isolationist posture and an effective military is a luxury we no longer need, and, as Stephanie Gutmann conclusively demonstrates in this provocative book, no longer have.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

CSPAN Booknotes
Book-related and General Links:
    -Booknotes Teacher Guide
    -BOOK SITE: The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? (Simon Says)
    -EXCERPT: The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars?
    -ESSAY: Dr. Kevorkian's woman problem.  DEATH AND THE MAIDEN (Stephanie Gutmann, New Republic)
    -INTERVIEW: Stephanie Gutmann Says... "[The military is] going to have to stop buying into their bad  press."  (Kate Dwyer, National Review)
    -ESSAY: Gilligan's Folly : The propagandist and feminist shill is at it again. (Rich Lowry, NR)
    -ESSAY: Technology, "Friction" and Women in Combat (Mackubin Thomas Owen, Claremont Institute)
    -ESSAY: Putting women in combat is shameful (BETSY HART, Scripps Howard News Service
    -REVIEW: (Richard Bernstein, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Kinder, Gentler Military Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? By Stephanie Gutmann (Carol Gilligan, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: GI Jane   The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? by Stephanie Gutmann (Francis Fukuyama, Commentary)
    -REVIEW: The Kinder, Gentler Military:  Janey Got Her Gun (MICHAEL KIMMEL, The Nation)
    -REVIEW: A Mockery of Female Contributions ( J. Michael Brower,  Special To The Stars and Stripes)
    -REVIEW: of The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? (Harry Thoms)
    -REVIEW: The Kinder, Gentler Military: (Gerard J. DeGroot, Christian Science Monitor)
    -REVIEW: The Kinder, Gentler Military: (Bill Murchison, Townhall)
    -REVIEW : of The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? by Stephanie Gutmann (H. Joachim Maitre, American Spectator)
    -REVIEW: (Divine Principle)
    -REVIEW : of THE KINDER, GENTLER MILITARY, by Stephanie Gutmann. (Andrew J. Bacevich, Wilson Quarterly)

    -Keeping APAce with Military Life (Ezine)
    -Center for Military Readiness
    -PROFILE: Michiganian takes offensive against women in combat (George Cantor / The Detroit News)
    -Civil-Military Gap: Is there a widening "thought gap" between civilians and  the military? (Online Newshour, PBS)
    -ESSAY : The New Army : Be whatever you want to be (Matt Labash, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY: Women in Combat  Time for a Review : Social engineering can't trump  the basic truths of human nature and  necessities of realistic national defense. (Elaine Donnelly, American Legion Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Boot Camp or Summer Camp? :  Restoring Rigorous Standards  to Basic Training ( James H. Anderson, The Heritage Foundation Roe Backgrounder No. 1157)
    -ESSAY: Let's raise standards for our co-ed military  (Thomas Shull, Detroit News)
    -ESSAY: Ability is the only standard that should matter in military (Cathy Young, Detroit News)
    -ESSAY: Military Might :  The U.S. armed services clearly are dominant in the world today, but politically correct policies threaten to undermine their strength in a rapidly changing world.  (Sean Paige, Insight)
    -ESSAY: Inside a lesbian "witch hunt" : For too many women in the military, homophobia plus sexual harassment equals a reason to get out. (Fiona Morgan, Salon)
    -ESSAY: Structure comes under fire (TOBY HARNDEN , The Age)
    -ARCHIVE : Political Science, Law, Military and International Relations
    -ESSAY : Apocryphal Now : The myth of the hollow military (GREGG EASTERBROOK, New Republic)