Political Hay

Your Mother’s Army

John Kerry has found himself a chairwoman for his Joint Chiefs.

By 6.4.04

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Even as John Kerry lapses into pacifist rhetoric -- describing the military under President Bush as a "back-door draft" is a scare tactic from his anti-war days -- Kerry casts himself as strong on national defense. To appear sufficiently militaristic in the eyes of the moderates he needs to win, Kerry cobbled together a board of military advisers this week. Kerry is turning for advice to, among others, Claudia Kennedy, the first female three-star general -- a feminist famous during the Clinton years for charging a fellow general (whose advancement she hoped to stop) with "inappropriate touching."

Kerry's selection of Claudia Kennedy to his board of military advisers is illuminating: he is now taking advice on how to strengthen the military from feminists intent on weakening it. Claudia Kennedy once bragged to West Point cadets that "this is not your father's Army anymore!" As the press reported in the 1990s, Kennedy didn't like the word "enemy"; she relied instead on the term "peer competitor."

Hillary Clinton was so impressed with Kennedy's political correctness she named Kennedy her "favorite general." While Kennedy never received a Purple Heart from Bill Clinton for getting chased around a desk, she received many honors and served in important posts. One of her more noteworthy contributions was her launching of the "Consideration of Others" (COO) training program.

People magazine reported that Kennedy entered the military after filling out an Army enlistment coupon in Cosmopolitan magazine. She had hoped to feminize the military and did. But not all of her subordinates appreciated her vision for a softer military. The press reported their criticism of her for "giggling" at an intelligence conference.

After she lectured them on the need to conduct Consideration of Others sessions, one complained to the press: ''The general, wearing spit-shined paratrooper boots that came up to her knees, spent 15 minutes discussing our mission. And then, for the next 40, she stressed the need for equality and sensitivity and understanding of others…I couldn't help wondering if this was some event sponsored by the YWCA instead of the U.S. army.''

Kerry's comment about Bush's "back-door draft" is curious given that he is taking advice from feminists who have long thought that women should be exposed to a draft. After all, equal rights means equal exposure to the draft. Claudia Kennedy thought it only fair that she enter the military if men were entering it. As she writes in her memoirs, "In 1969, America was at war in Vietnam, and although some of my sorority sisters ... were bemused when I told them I was joining the Army, young men were being drafted and I didn't think it was fair for them to shoulder the entire burden when women were exempted. I also didn't believe women could claim equal privileges of citizenship without understanding and accepting the equal responsibilities of a citizen."

Imagine what America's draft policy would be like under a Kerry administration if Kennedy were the head of the Joint Chiefs, with Hillary chipping in from the Armed Services committee (where she now sits). We might have a Kerry kitchen-door draft. The military already dragoons single mothers from the reserves into service (on the principle that deployment policies must be gender-neutral and leaving orphans behind is a price an enlightened society must pay for the progress of women in combat). In the Iraqi conflict, at least 20 women have died, several of them mothers. The first woman killed in combat in Iraq was Lori Piestewa, a single mother with two preschoolers.

A few more years of gender engineering ramped up under a Kerry administration, and Claudia Kennedy would be able to say: This is your mother's army.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.