The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars?

By Russell, Natalie S. | Aerospace Power Journal, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars?


Russell, Natalie S., Aerospace Power Journal


The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? by Stephanie Gutmann. Scribner (http://www.mlr. com/scribner/index.html), The Gale Group, P.O. Box 9187, Farmington Hills, Michigan 48333-9187, 2000, 300 pages, $25.00.

The Kinder, Gentler Military is a scathing critique of policies that, according to the author, have created a military force perhaps incapable of protecting the very society to whose standards it must adhere. The author implies that her problem lies not with the women currently serving in the military or with those who have already served. Instead, efforts to create a gender-neutral environment have led to a fatal loosening of standards. Her book makes some very good points and has some well-researched sections. However, her overall disregard for many important aspects of a modern military and her choice of subject-matter experts make some parts of the book almost laughable. She defines readiness as simply a measure of morale. One would be hard pressed to find a real military expert who would define readiness in such a limited manner. The book, while purporting to be a critique of the military, is really a critique of the Army, with some attention paid to the integration of women aboard Navy ships. It seldom mentions either the Air Force or Marine Corps.

Gutmann's self-professed "military illiteracy" pervades the book. She often mocks terms and situations she does not understand, thinking them another example of succumbing to political correctness. This serves only to lessen her credibility and weaken her argument. For example, while recounting her visit to Army basic training, she mocks the term reception (the in-processing that begins the first day). Had she been "militarily literate," she would have known that reception is a logistical term (ask any logistician about reception, staging, onward movement, and integration [RSO&I]) rather than a "gentler" term referring to a social gathering.

Gutmann should have spent some time trying to learn about military operations and force employment. Her ignorance in this area is stunning. For example, many of her references to commanders are drawn from the movies. In fact, the book cites more movies than it does books on the military. …

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