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04-01-06, 09:02 AM
Women and the New Face of Strategy
March 31st, 2006
Sharon Tosi Moore

Harvey Mansfield’s new book Manliness has sparked new and vigorous debate about male vs. female qualities. His unapologetic claim that manliness involves risk taking and direct confrontation, and should be encouraged, has drawn the expected howls of outrage from certain women. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, for instance, insists that what the country needs is less manliness and more

womanly qualities: restraint, introspection, a desire for consensus, maybe even a touch of self-doubt.

Personally, I have serious misgivings about developing national policy based on consensus, which normally means rallying around the lowest common denominator of agreement. We can all agree North Korea should be friendlier, but should that be a basis for our dealings with them? As for trusting national security to an administration filled with self-doubt I think we have tried that. It was called the Carter Administration.

However, I understand what Ms. Marcus is trying to convey, and I agree that it is important that there be a balance between warrior and statesman. My main issue is with the fact that Ms. Marcus, like so many of her ilk, obviously has no idea who really is shaping our national strategy. She ignores the fact that the President’s closest and most visible advisor is a woman, let alone the unprecedented number of women in his cabinet. Ms. Marcus has also failed to note that there are many women working out of public view to shape policies, both now and for the next twenty years.

A prime example is taking place right beneath her nose in Washington. In the past few months, with little fanfare and no media coverage, the military unveiled the changing face of strategic thinking. Marine Major General Frances Wilson was nominated by the President for promotion to lieutenant general and appointed as president of the National Defense University (NDU), the largest of the four schools dedicated to the advanced education of government leaders. For the past three years she has served as the commandant of one of NDU’s colleges, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF).

Moreover, in January Air Force Major General Marne Peterson became commandant of another of the NDU’s colleges, the National War College. Together these women are in the unique position of being able to be able to influence and shape future senior leaders, both military and civilian, for a new generation.

For those who are not familiar with them, the War Colleges have long been at the forefront of innovative strategic thinking. The NDU mission, as with all of the service War Colleges, is to prepare

military and civilian leaders from the U.S. and other countries to address national and international security challenges, through multi-disciplinary educational programs, research, professional exchanges, and outreach.

The influence of these institutions on national policy is hard to overestimate. The students are selected from the most promising mid-level commissioned military officers and civilians, both American and foreign. Attendance marks the transition from a tactical to a strategic focus.

In the distant past, some military officers viewed attendance as a place to punch your ticket and mark time for a year. The challenges of the new global environment have demanded that the colleges change the focus of their instruction, and students can no longer coast to completion. Students are put through a rigorous series of courses, resulting in a masters degree in some aspect of national security.

They are encouraged to engage in critical thinking and innovation is rewarded. For the past fifty years, some of the most creative ideas affecting public policy are originated in the War Colleges. These students are the future high level commanders and policy advisors, and their intellectual foundations are now in the hands of highly competent women.

What is also different about recent War College classes is that for the first time since the 1970s, virtually all of the military attendees are entering the course with some level of combat experience, either as commanders or as staff officers. This experience lends an immediacy that has not been present in the past because the lessons are no longer theoretical. These officers have seen first hand what has and hasn’t worked and are encouraged to explore novel solutions to our most pressing national security issues. They realize that the war does not end when the shooting does and that the modern soldier is expected to be an emissary as well.

What does this mean? It means that the administration and the military get it.

For years the War Colleges have drawn professors from a wide variety of disciplines, but for the most part, the head of these institutions have been combat arms officers, men whose careers have followed fairly predictable paths. At this critical time in history, the leadership is looking past the combat arms and focusing on the reality that the military is now about more then combat. That is not to say that there is no place for the old fashioned “muddy boots warrior.” It is still important to know how to maneuver large forces in conventional battle, but the far ranging missions the military is now undertaking requires leaders who also understand economics, governance, civil infrastructure and diplomacy.

The women now in charge at the National Defense University fit the bill of requirements admirably. Not only are they incredibly qualified militarily, but, as a glance at their resumes will attest they also have outstanding civilian schooling. They understand the unique position the military occupies that requires leaders to embody the spirits of both the warrior and the diplomat .

Are these women “manly” enough to be warriors? Undoubtedly they meet Mansfield’s definition, as they are confident risk takers and have served our country in time of war. However, they are also well-rounded individuals, who can bring that “woman’s touch” to public policy. The perfect match of X and Y.

Sharon Tosi Moore is a major in the U.S. Army Reserves. She is co-author of the forthcoming book Fresh from the Fight, and is a doctoral candidate at Leeds University in the U.K. The views expressed are her own.