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Women at War

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Women at War"

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It hardly counts as a good reason to initiate wars, but I believe that empirically speaking wartime mobilization has often been a force for women’s equality and Elisabeth Bumiller reports that counterinsurgency in Afghanistan is no exception:

In their sights they could see the source of the blast: an Afghan man who had shot aimlessly from behind a mud wall, shielded by a half-dozen children. The women held their fire with the rest of the patrol so as not to hit a child, waited for the all-clear, then headed back to the base, survivors of yet another encounter with the enemy. [...]

As new faces in an American counterinsurgency campaign, the female Marines, who volunteered for the job, were to meet with Pashtun women over tea in their homes, assess their need for aid, gather intelligence, and help open schools and clinics. [...]

Here in Marja — which, seven months after a major offensive against the Taliban, is improving but remains one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan — the female Marines have daily skirted the Pentagon rules restricting women in combat. They have shot back in firefights and ambushes, been hit by homemade bombs and lived on bases hit by mortar attacks.

It seems worth noting that the restrictions on women in combat roles not only violates the spirit of modern egalitarianism, but seems to go against at least the rhetoric of COIN and a different kind of war.

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