Spencer Ackerman's got an interesting piece in the Washington Independent about several leading female counterinsurgency theorists and practitioners. I know most of the women in the piece and think quite highly of them. Spencer's right that we'll likely see a number of them take top positions in the next Pentagon, at the State Department or on the next NSC staff -- regardless of who's elected in November.
Spencer speculates about why women have done so well in the counterinsurgency community and correctly notes that they're competing for prominence in a male-dominated field, where it matters to many that you've served as a combat infantryman or have participated in special operations. Although many combat roles in the military have opened to women, most infantry and special operations jobs remain closed. And thus there are few opportunities for women to prove themselves on the frontlines, at least in the manner the defense establishment is used to.
Times, though, are a changin'. A new generation of female military personnel is growing up, serving in combat with distinction -- as diplomats, helicopter pilots, civil affairs officers, engineers, logisticians, military police, and in many other roles. More than 100,000 women have served in Iraq or Afghanistan as military, civilian or contractor personnel.
Although the article subtly argues that some of the theorist-practitioners it profiles will rise to cabinet rank as secretary of state or defense, I'm not so sure. More likely, it's the new generation of women with Iraq and Afghanistan combat experience who will eventually leave the service, develop civilian bona fides, run for office and then go on to take positions of leadership such as secretary of defense.
More broadly, I think this will be the trend for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Although a few did step off the battlefield to run for elected office right away, most did not. I think most will come home, leave the service, attend college or grad school, and then spend 10-20 years working and living as civilians before they run for office in any large numbers (or win in any large numbers).
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Posted by: Bill Keller | July 10, 2008 7:07 AM
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