Tag Archives: women warriors

News about the battle for women’s equality in our armed forces

Summary: The military has become one of America’s petri dishes for social policy experiments, and the integration of women into the front line fighting forces has introduced stresses far greater than anything they’ve experienced before (the faux revolution from letting people out of the closet has produced a false sense of confidence in the outcome of this far greater change). Here we briefly review the state of the action today.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

GI Jane


The tides of change have hit the US military as it adapts to equal roles for women, with massive effects that we as yet can only dimly see.

One result has been to start a slow-mo purge in the officers corps. “At least 30% of military commanders fired over the past 8 years lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses, including harassment, adultery, and improper relationships” (per AP). The scalps include those of senior officers. They might look with envy at Congressmen whose office policies (illegally) protect them at against charges of improper behavior (it’s as delicately written an article as any in a Victorian era newspaper).

War is perhaps the most complex and demanding of social activities, made more so by its rapid rate of evolution during the past 150 years. Adding women to the formula makes it far more complex. What gets dropped to make mindspace for these new concerns? What would Clausewitz or Patton make of this: “Lawmakers want clearer Army breastfeeding rules“?  Or this tidbit about women warriors from AP’s “Pentagon grapples with retaliation in sex assault cases“…

“… often victims believe they are being retaliated against if peers no longer invite them to parties or if they are disciplined for illegal drug or alcohol use in connection with the assault.”

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Women in combat are the real Revolution in Military Affairs

Summary: Women combatants appear in many of today’s conflicts around the world, a change in warfare with few precedents in history and perhaps the biggest change since the use of nukes. Recent examples include fighters in the Eritrean Wars, Middle East suicide bombers, soldiers in western armies, and in the Kurdish forces. With few historical precedents, except in near-mythological tales, large numbers of women in combat represents a real revolution in military affairs. Here we sort through the news for an introduction to this powerful trend.

Warrior Women

Fact catching up to fantasy.


  1. War by women in developed nations
  2. Women soldiers in future wars
  3. War in the less-developed lands
  4. The democratization of warfare
  5. How will this revolution change war?
  6. For More Information

(1)  War by women in the developed nations

First let’s look at women’s increasing role in the military forces of the developed nations.

Some have gone all the way: “8 Other Nations That Send Women to Combat“, National Geographic, 25 January 2013 — Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and Norway. In these nations women serve in roles that include “engaging an enemy on the ground … while being exposed to hostile fire and a high probability of physical contact with the hostile forces personnel” (per a 2010 British Ministry of Defense (MOD) study).

The number of nations doing so is increasing. As in the UK “Women soldiers to serve in front-line combat units” — “Senior Whitehall source says that MoD is ‘leaning towards making the change’ to allow women in front-line combat units after a six-month review” (The Telegraph, 5 December 2014).

But things might not be what they seem, as Martin van Creveld explains in Men, Women & War (2002):

This argues it is all a great illusion: that the influx of women into the military, far from representing a world-historic step in women’s unstoppable march towards liberation, is both a symptom and cause of the decline of the military. The process was triggered by the introduction of nuclear weapons over a half century ago. Since then the armed forces of no developed country have fought a war against a major opponent who was even remotely capable of of putting its own national existence in danger …

The more superfluous they have become — indeed precisely because they have been becoming superfluous — the more society and its leaders feel able to treat them not as fighting machines but as social laboratories …

For more about his theory see his article “The Great Illusion: Women in the Military”, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 2000. Also see “Putting Women in Combat Is an Even Worse Idea Than You’d Think” by Mike Fredenburg at the National Review, 15 July 2015.

(2)  The test for women soldiers lies in future wars

The test of van Creveld’s theory and of western nations’ commitment to gender equality in combat, comes when women return in large numbers of body bags. So far none of those nations have had large numbers of women casualties.

Women have died serving America in our post-9/11 wars, but in small numbers (reflecting limitations on their roles) — as shown by this Congressional Research Service report (OIF and OID are Iraq; OEF is Afghanistan): women are 2% of military deaths so far vs roughly 11% of total US troops serving there.

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About the future of an American army with women as combat soldiers

Summary: Martin van Creveld discusses a timely topic: “To Wreck a Military“, Small Wars Journal, 28 January 2013. He describes the likely results of employing women as soldiers, no matter how politically and ideologically necessary. Here we examine his claims, however impolitic. His record of successful forecasts is unmatched in length and breadth by any living military theorist (including those who have mocked his predictions).

By José M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune

By José M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune


  1. Why DoD now allows women in combat
  2. How expensive are women soldiers?
  3. What effect on unit cohesion?
  4. Protests by soldiers about change
  5. MvC’s other works about women soldiers
  6. Other posts about women soldiers
  7. Leave a comment
  8. About Martin van Creveld
  9. Trailer to “GI Jane” (1997)

Photo: Staff Sgt. Jackelyn Walker fights Pfc. Gregory Langarica in the first round of the bantamweight championship of the finals of the Fort Hood Combative Championships on 16 February 2012 (LA Times story).

(1)  Why DoD changed the rules to allow women in combat

DoD’s mostly-male leaders have not suddenly become feminists. They bow to the necessity of numbers, seeing changes in the pool of potential recruit that will make finding the necessary manpower increasingly difficult in the 21st century.  Demographics: fewer young men. Obesity and drugs (including Ritalin and Prozac): fewer eligible young men. Cultural changes: fewer educated young men willing to join the military.

For links to studies about the difficulties of military recruiting see sections 5 and 6 of the FM Reference Page An Army near the Breaking Point – studies & reports.

Allowing gays increases the numbers by a few percent. Allowing women to join and advance doubles the size of the recruiting pool (more than doubles the pool of officers, as women comprise an ever-growing fraction of educated young people). It’s an old story — which might have a surprise ending. Van Creveld points us to Job Queues, Gender Queues: Explaining Women’s Inroads into Male Occupations by Barbara F. Reskin and Patricia A. Roos (1990):

Women’s increasing share of the labor force and the pools from which employers recruit workers (such as M.B.A.’s) contributed to.their movement into some male occupations, but unless circumstances impelled employers to hire women, the increased supply of women would not have been sufficient to feminize these male occupations.We must remember that women’s growing representation in the specific labor pools was largely a response to employers’ need for workers in occupations that were more attractive than those to which the gender queue customarily relegated women.

Opportunities beckoned, and women responded. Important in persuading women to study pharmacy, systems analysis, accounting, journalism, and financial management was their confidence that antidiscrimination and affirmative-action regulations and public opposition to discrimination ensured that jobs would await them when they had finished their education. Moreover, as larger numbers of women pursued sex-atypical jobs, their presence stimulated “natural” forces that fostered the employment of even more women: jobs’ sex labels and employers’ preferences changed; women recruited more women through their informal networks; and some men fled or avoided feminizing jobs, increasing employers’ reliance on women — and potentially leading to resegregation.

Corporations have shown that women thrive in rule-based hierarchical organizations, and the military is the extreme case.   Following this pattern, as more women join the military they will reshape the military so it becomes more congenial for women.  After a generation or two the military might look radically different than it does today.  We can only guess how well this new military will perform.

(2)  How expensive are women as soldiers?

Our 11 years of wars give DoD ample data on the equivalent costs of men and women as soldiers.  Although DoD keeps the results secret, available evidence suggests that women are far more expensive soldiers than equivalent men.  Van Creveld points out three kinds of higher costs:

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Putting women in combat: a quick look at the other side of the debate

With DoD’s decision to open more combat-related jobs to women, it’s timely to review of some the literature on the subject. Especially the non-consensus thinking (yes, there are two sides to the issues). Here we look at Women as soldiers – an update from 25 August 2009.




  1. The articles
  2. Background about women killed in our wars
  3. Implications for our military
  4. Implications for our society
  5. For more information

(1)  The articles

{read the post}



Women as soldiers – an update

Sometimes articles in the news raise questions about the changes occurring in our society.  Evolution in action, mostly without reflection or analysis.  This post looks at the changing role of women in combat.  While not unique in history, it is unusual.  All I have are questions.  If you have answers or references, please post them in the comments!




  1. The articles
  2. Background about women killed in our wars
  3. Implications for our military
  4. Implications for our society
  5. For more information


(1)  The articles

(a)  “G.I. Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier”, Lizette Alvarez, New York Times, 15 August 2009

(b)  “Living and Fighting Alongside Men, and Fitting In“, Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, 16 August 2009

(c)  And my favorite:  “The Feminist Hawks”, Virginia Heffernan, New York Times Magazine, 19 August 2009 – In their special issue “Saving the World’s Women”.  Opening:

“Consider the feminist-hawk position — the one that advocates the use of force to liberate Muslim women from persecution and burkas. This position has become an integral part of the ideological Web. Feminist-hawk arguments may even be considered an artifact of the Web, just the way the revolutionary arguments of 18th-century America can be seen as an artifact of pamphlets”

(2)  Background information:  relative casualities among women and men

I cannot find a precise measures of women’s service in US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The best is a this from the August 15 article above:

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The Real Revolution in Military Affairs (it’s not what you think)

Summary: one of the most important and least discussed changes in the nature of warfare is who does the fighting. Women and children acting as soldiers are not unknown in the past, but never with such a large and increasing role. Their participation changes the very nature of war, with effects today we can only guess at.


  1. About the increasing use of women and children as soldiers
  2. Causes of this trend
  3. What might this mean for warfare as a social phenomenon?
  4. For more information about the use of children as soldiers

(1)  About the increasing use of women and children as soldiers

Excerpt from “Muslim Female Fighters: An Emerging Trend“, Farhana Ali, Terrorism Monitor, 3 November 2005:

“Muslim women are increasingly joining the global jihad, some motivated by religious conviction to change the plight of Muslims under occupation, and recruited by al-Qaeda and local terrorist groups strained by increased arrests and deaths of male operatives. Attacks by female fighters, also known as the mujahidaat, are arguably more deadly than those conducted by male jihadists, attributed in part to the perception that women are unlikely to commit such acts of horror, and when they do, the shock or “CNN factor” of their attacks draws far greater media attention than male bombers. Increasing awareness with instant media attention can motivate other women to commit similar attacks.”

Farhana Ali is an Associate International Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation. She has done extensive research on jihadist networks and religious extremism.

Women combatants appear in many of today’s conflicts around the world. Recent examples include Middle East suicide bombers, soldiers and officers in western armies, and fighters in the Eritrean War for independence from Ethiopia. With few historical precedents, except in near-mythological tales, the appearance of women in combat represents a real revolution in military affairs.

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