By William S. Lind
Martin van Creveld’s latest book, Pussycats: Why the Rest Keeps Beating the West and What Can Be Done About It, is so important that it re-defines the military reform agenda. Previously, military reform has focused on the problems that have led to America’s repeated military defeats. The issues van Creveld raises in Pussycats suggests we are moving from an American military that can’t win to one that won’t even fight.
The essence of Creveld’s argument is that we (both the U.S. and Western Europe) have de-militarized our military. The introduction of women is one of the factors, but not the only one, although if a military is to fight it must have an aggressively male culture. That is unacceptable not only to the women in the military but to a broadly womanized society and culture. It would not surprise our ancestors to hear that a womanized society can’t fight.
But Creveld looks at influences well beyond womanization. The de-militarizing of our armed forces begins, he argues, with the way we now raise children, especially boys. No longer do they “go out and play”, get into fights, get into difficulties they have to find their own ways out of. Rather, they live controlled, “safe” lives where they always have adult supervision and are instructed in how to do everything before they have to do it. Instead of growing up, they are forever infantilized.
This problem is very real. Recently, I recommended to a friend, a lieutenant colonel at the Marine Corp’s Basic School for new lieutenants, that they reinstitute the “Zen patrol”. In the Zen patrol, which TBS used to do, new lieutenants are simply taken out on a patrol, without having received any instruction in patrolling. They have to figure it out for themselves, which means they also learn how to learn.
My friend replied, “You cannot do that with this generation. In everything they have ever done, they have had adult instruction and supervision. If you don’t first tell them what to do and how to do it, they get angry. They say, “You are setting me up for failure to embarrass me in front of my peers.”