Recreating Military Might

Military experts fighting the war on political correctness say it’s no surprise terrorists were able to attack the United States.

A group of analysts said Thursday that the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania could have been prevented if the last administration had not shrunk the budget and size of the military or given in to social demands from women's groups.

Supporters of former President Clinton, however, say blame for the current condition of the military does not lie solely with his administration.

“I’m not trying to suggest that the president and the administration do not have responsibility in any of this,” said Jay Ferrar, a military analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.  “The biggest response you can give is Congress is very much part of the equation on anything that happened in the military in the 1990’s.  They have appropriations as well as oversight responsibilities and if they saw deficiencies then they have the responsibility to address those deficiencies.”

But panelists at a reception Thursday at the Center for Military Readiness said the state of the military is rotten.

“It’s been 10 years of military and foreign policy, made by people with no visceral understanding of what combat is like, what a real threat is like.  We spent years making policy that is not grounded in any sort of reality,” said Stephanie Gutmann, author of “The Kindler, Gentler Military.”

Panelists said two forces were at work in the Clinton Administration to deteriorate the Armed Forces. One was the scale-back in funding for military procurement, resulting in a dire need for new equipment, spare parts, weaponry and other infrastructure needs.   The effect of such deterioration was shrunken intelligence, lower morale, and no explicit foreign policy mission for the United States.

The second force was political correctness, which led to the addition of women in the ranks and a more group-oriented approach to military command.

“Consensus rather than leadership and discipline – these were so contrary to the values of the military,” Gutmann said. 

Guttman traced the first softening of the military to the U.N.-led invasion of Somalia in 1993 in which 18 U.S. soldiers died during a peace-keeping mission gone bad.  No clear mission was established and a lack of reconnaissance put troops in harm’s way, Guttman said.

Elaine Donnelly, head of the Center for Military Readiness and an advisor to President George H.W. Bush on Pentagon activities, said the military’s decline dates back to 1992, when the increase in women in the ranks resulted in lower physical and preparedness standards, and their participation in areas where they may not have been qualified.

According to the Defense Department, 200,000 women are now in active duty – 14.7 percent of the total Armed Forces.

“The military reflects society. It’s the influence of society today on the military. Just like the 50’s, when we changed the racial make-up of the military and people were mad at that.  You’ve got to readjust,” said Ferrar.

“They are an essential part of the team,” added Maj. James Cassella, a DOD spokesman.

One retired officer said only a small fraction of women in the military are able to match the physical strengths of men. Lt. Col. William J. Gregor measured data from 1992 to 1998 of men and women ROTC Advanced Camp cadets and found women falling behind in running, push ups and aerobic efficiency.

Donnelly said another downside to women in the military is the Defense Department's challenge of grappling with pregnant female reservists and what duty assignments to give them.  Pentagon officials could not confirm how many women called up by their respective divisions in September and October reported for duty pregnant.

Pentagon officials, however, said pregnancy is not an issue. “Pregnancy is a temporary condition, just as if a soldier breaks his leg,” said Lt. Col. Catherine Abbott, a DOD spokeswoman.

But Donnelly says that reaction is typical of a military that has been caught up in the feminist battle.

“I personally won’t stand by and watch people die as a result of social engineering,” she said.

Critics of women in the military admitted that there are no hard and fast numbers on the impact of women in certain combat areas because the Armed Forces don’t collect the data.

“We can’t prove that if you put women in that plane it will result in more casualties in ‘A-B-C’ war because DOD doesn’t want to go there,” said defense contractor Peter Huessey.

“Are there women capable of having roles in the military? Yes. But you don’t put people in airplanes just to see if they are qualified.  You just don’t do that,” he added.

Even with a new commander-in-chief at the helm, Donnelly said the efforts to get women into direct combat – including special operations and multi-launch missile systems --  “are like a battleship on autopilot.”

One good thing to come from the Sept. 11 attacks, however, may be the military's return to basics.

“Hopefully, this was a great wake-up call.  It will be the thing that will motivate troops in a way they haven’t been motivated in 10 years,”  Guttman said.