The army is being turned into ineffectual "cream-puff" troops because of the influence of egalitarianism. A fictional scenario demonstrates how this is happening. And the controversy generated by GI Jane indicates that such a transformation is already taking place. The only alternative: objective standards applicable to all.

Our New Cream-Puff Army

Edwin A. Locke, Ph.D.

Ten years of military threats and small-scale skirmishes had finally come to a head: an Iranian army of a million men, backed by additional Chinese troops and materiel, was poised to take over the Middle East and its vital oil fields.

But General Peter Clark, commander of the U.S. Army in the Gulf, was not worried. He felt sure that his troops were ready because morale and group-cohesion ratings were at an all-time high. This was the "new" Army, where feelings were all-important. During training, the troops' "self-esteem" had been vigorously puffed up, and their "sensibilities" studiously protected. Obstacle courses, now called "confidence courses," had been redesigned to avoid inculcating any feelings of failure. Archaic notions of competence had been discarded. The "new" Army was 30 percent female.

The first attack was probing and tentative. But meeting only token resistance, the Iranian-Chinese troops began to advance in wave after wave. Clark's forces fell back in panic. In places the enemy broke through. The Americans were not used to this. Their drill sergeants had been selected for their "niceness," but the Iranian and Chinese soldiers were not very nice. Whenever the recruits had felt upset during training, they were encouraged to take time out for counseling or for a good cry; here, there was no time to spare.

General Clark ordered a nighttime redeployment through long, forced marches. But his troops had never experienced real hardship before. Stress -- their instructors had been taught -- is "non-productive." The female trainees had been allowed to wear sneakers because boots resulted in too many injuries; but now the desert sand was causing severe blisters. They (and some men) had never had to carry full packs before because the official policy-premise was that "anybody can get through boot camp."

Most of General Clark's troops never reached their destination, and those who did were physically exhausted and emotionally dispirited. They could not understand what had punctured the "self-esteem" that had been so carefully inflated during training camp. The troops could no longer fight, and General Clark was forced to surrender.

Yes, this scenario is fiction -- but it is rapidly becoming fact. Just look at the controversy generated by the movie G.I. Jane. Feminists are upset that the Demi Moore character insists on fulfilling all the exacting, "chauvinistic" standards of the elite Navy Seals. She does not demand "gender-norming" in the military -- as the feminists do. She does not believe that female recruits who are unable to do push-ups or throw grenades as well as the males should nonetheless be accepted as long as they exert what is now approvingly called "comparable effort." Where will our Army find real soldiers in the future if they are all trained by "kinder, gentler" drill sergeants who, in the name of "equality," are not allowed to impose demanding standards? A cream-puff Army will not protect us from anyone.

The purpose of a standard for any task is to separate the more able from the less able -- the more able take pride in their accomplishments, while the less able turn to other activities. But this is an inequality that today's egalitarians -- in the military and elsewhere -- repudiate. So they seek to destroy all standards, in pursuit of "equality" -- an equality of incompetence and failure.

The alternative to egalitarian non-standards in the military is not arbitrarily sadistic rules, but objective standards for all, based on what soldiers have to do in war. These standards entail exposing the recruits to adversity, deprivation and even pain, insofar as it is necessary to enable them to prevail on the battlefield. The ultimate purpose of the military, after all, is not to cope with neurosis but to engage in deadly combat.

A pervasive egalitarianism is eating away at society -- at our schools, through progressive education; at our businesses, through affirmative action; at our criminal justice system, through the cult of non-responsibility and universal victimhood. Egalitarianism leads to the destruction of all values and to the worship of the zero. It leads to students who cannot read, workers who cannot produce and courts that cannot discriminate between the innocent and the guilty.

This is the philosophy that has now infected our armed forces. If the disease is not arrested, the tragic result will be soldiers who are incapable of defending us.

Edwin A. Locke, a professor of management at the University of Maryland at College Park, is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina del Rey, California.



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