DoD Finally Gets the Point of Women, Peace, and Security
US-Australian Joint Military Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015 shows that incorporating Women, Peace, and Security considerations into military operations significantly enhances overall peace and stability outcomes.
Despite having spent much of the last 20+ years dealing with “civilian” issues in conflict zones, it’s clear that the American military needs to improve the way it addresses 21st century security challenges. Its experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria alone attest to it. One solution is to more earnestly implement the 15-year old UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, a landmark international legal framework that addresses the particular impact of war on women as well as the decisive role women should and do play in conflict management and sustainable peace. Women in conflict have been almost completely ignored notwithstanding substantial evidence pointing to the fact that– like men – they also actively contribute to conflict as well as promote peace. Overlooking these key players means that “knowing your enemy” will be impossible, and opportunities to facilitate peace and stability will be missed.
UNSCR 1325 provides a relevant framework for integrating gender considerations throughout a country’s defense, diplomacy, and development processes. Countries implement 1325 by creating National Action Plans (NAPs), detailed road maps outlining ways to address the specific effects of conflict on women and girls as well as increase women’s participation in rebuilding from conflict. Although the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, instituted by Executive Order 13595, requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to do this, its pace has been rather glacial. To date, the vast majority of the DoD’s implementation efforts have revolved around research, studies, and discussion forums. Essentially, there has been a fair amount of talk, but not a lot of walk.
Some long-awaited “walk” finally became evident in the recent biennial, joint Australia-U.S. military exercise Talisman Sabre. For the first time ever in its 12-year history, this exercise included a WPS component. And that’s a big deal considering this large-scale exercise involves more than 30,000 participants across multiple locations in Australia and the U.S.
Training exercises – or war games - are critical to ensuring military readiness; they represent a principal way to integrate and, eventually, operationalize new ideas. It’s important to socialize new concepts through education, but when they become part and parcel of how military operations are conducted, then ideas become real. Talisman Sabre 2015 made WPS real. For instance, UNSCR 1325 highlights the fact that women and children account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by conflict, including as refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). While many in the military know this, Talisman Sabre required participating units to directly deal with this issue by liaising with humanitarian aid organizations to ensure that refugee and IDP camps could logistically access assistance that met the particular needs of women and children.
In addition, military exercises serve to certify and validate units for capabilities such as deployability and readiness. Talisman Sabre 2015, for example, served as the U.S. Army I Corps' certification as a Land Force Component Command headquarters. Since integrating WPS was a one of the exercise’s top training objectives, evaluating I Corps’ performance as a land force headquarters included assessing its ability to competently plan for and respond to WPS-related issues.
So why after 12 years was WPS finally included in Talisman Sabre? The short answer is that Australia’s Defence Implementation Plan for the country’s NAP on Women, Peace, and Security expressly requires it. Recognizing the importance of war games, someone in Australia had the common sense to require using military exercises as a means to constructively implement UNSCR 1325. In comparison, the U.S. NAP only calls for incorporating “NAP objectives into appropriate DoD strategic guidance and planning documents,” rather than explicitly requiring that they also be incorporated into military exercises. There’s a lesson in this: if NAP Implementation Plans are specific, specific change will occur. If they are vague, there’s no chance to benchmark. In addition to including WPS implementation as an integral part of the exercise, the ADF also designated it as one of the top three training objectives, virtually guaranteeing a serious and committed response from all participating units. Again, there is a lesson in this: if commanders take WPS seriously, serious attention will be paid.
Integrating WPS adds much needed realism to large-scale military training exercises. For too long, the military has ignored the fact that women are active agents who both contribute to as well as mitigate conflict. As a result, many military professionals focus their efforts on war fighting capabilities that presume an exclusively male enemy, assuming that peace will likewise become a reality through the efforts of men alone. Talisman Sabre required participants to dispense with these long-held and inaccurate assumptions concerning violent conflict by acknowledging and wargaming an array of real-world issues including conflict-related sexual violence, human trafficking, and women peace builders.
While there remains considerable room for improvement, significant gains were made during Talisman Sabre with regard to both the ADF’s and US military’s obligation to implement UNSCR 1325. This occurred in large part because of appropriate staffing. A Gender Advisor was appointed in each unit at all levels: tactical, operational, and strategic. Further, recognizing that a single Gender Advisor would be insufficient to adequately advise the hundreds-strong land forces headquarters staff, U.S. Army I Corps decided to establish a WPS Cell consisting of a three-person team: one civilian WPS expert as well as an Army Colonel and Sergeant Major, both of whom received WPS training prior to the exercise. Likewise, the land forces’ higher command, Combined Task Force 660, appointed two Gender Advisors to provide adequate support.
Equally important to appointing Gender Advisors was ensuring that they were located in the appropriate staff section. There are many moving parts in a military operation and each staff section is responsible for handling specific issues like intelligence, logistics, communications, etc. Because WPS is cross cutting, a Gender Advisor needs to be located in the Operations section since this is the section that coordinates all aspects of military operations from preparing for combat to actual fighting to conducting stability operations. Gender Advisors have often been mistakenly assigned to the Civil-Military Operations (CMO) section meaning that they are only called upon to address stabilization issues like health and education rather than all phases of military operations. This misstep guarantees that UNSCR 1325 will be, at best, only partially implemented. Furthermore, by incorrectly assigning Gender Advisors to the CMO section, military planners – the backbone of effective military operations -- are precluded from adequately preparing for WPS-related events that occur during combat thereby creating unnecessary risk to soldiers.
Because the main objective in war is to end violent conflict and foster enduring peace and stability, achieving anything less means that soldiers will be called on to continue to fight and take casualties. Failing to prepare for and appropriately respond to WPS-related issues virtually guarantees the latter since research shows that the security of women is a vital factor in the security and hence, stability of states. During war fighting, for instance, high rates of conflict-related sexual based violence further destabilize already-traumatized communities creating a significant roadblock to achieving the desired peaceful end state. In addition, failing to recognize that women, like men, provide critical support to the enemy in the form of food, shelter, and medical care and, moreover, also serve as combatants similarly increases soldiers’ risk. An inability to know the enemy equates to an inability to effectively subdue the enemy.
Talisman Sabre 2015 played a pivotal role in educating military leaders and their subordinates about the importance of implementing UNSCR 1325. Senior U.S. General and Flag Officers acknowledged this and were very open to integrating WPS considerations into future plans, exercises, and operations. However, the U.S. military’s current lack of capacity to effectively do this – the vast majority of military members, including Gender Advisors, have had little to no WPS training – constitutes a significant impediment to achieving this aim.
To overcome this barrier, DoD should require basic WPS training for all military members with a select cadre of senior officers and non-commissioned officers receiving advanced WPS training. In addition, integrating WPS considerations into all U.S. military exercises should be required, not optional. Doing so would give soldiers the chance to operationalize concepts learned about during training. The Australian Defence Force is to be commended for including WPS as a top-three training objective in Talisman Sabre 2015. The U.S. military should take a lesson from their playbook.
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I read the article after reading the comments, and unfortunately I'm finding it difficult to present a counter argument to the numerous negative comments about the author's argument. While it reeks of political correctness, especially the part of treating women as equal partners to help resolve conflict. One would assume that a real gender expert would realize that women are not equal partners in many traditional societies, and any attempt to impose our liberal Western order on them would lead to greater instability and put more women at risk. Our feminists tend to overlook these inconvenient facts.
Beyond that, as a retired SF soldier I think leveraging a wide range of actors in the human domain, regardless of gender, is appropriate for pursuing various objectives. Women have always played critical roles in undergrounds and auxilliaries in unconventional warfare. In many other conflict situations women have always played important roles, but to my knowledge they have never been decisive in conventional warfare. They are not equal to men in that type in conflict, and we shouldn't lower combat soldier standards to create the illusion of physical equality. It would seem that a real gender expert would apply academic rigor to identify relevant facts versus ignoring facts to pursue a political correct agenda under the guise of academic expertise.
One of the qualifications the author list is "gender expert"....... Seriously, is there any wonder why we lose so many wars! Gender expert,how many billions of dollars are wasted on such nonsense? Once again William S. Lind is being proven right in his assessment of a total crisis in the ability of the State to provide security. But they have plenty of "gender experts"... No competent Generals need apply!
MF: Thanks for the clarification on your original comments. As usual, I'm largely in agreement with your thoughts. I would also note, relative to your final paragraph, that particularly during the Iraq War (well, the second phase of it, '03 to ~'09), the Algerian War was a hot topic in military circles. The Battle of Algiers, which specifically depicts female agents bombing French-Algerian civilian targets, and A Savage War of Peace which discusses it in greater detail, were both in circulation throughout the officer corps. The Pentagon held at least one special screening of The Battle of Algiers. As I alluded to, while working as an instructor at the NTC, there was no shortage of training that emphasized women - protecting women, using female soldiers to search women, engaging with women in villages, and so on and so forth. As you rightly note, FETs and other initiatives were and are prominent in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, the quorum seems to have recognized that the article describes a solution in search of a problem, potentially with ulterior motives involved.
Thedrosophil, my comment was a reaction to Anthro03 and comments of the earlier “macho” article rather than Opperman’s articles which I pretty much scanned initially. After rereading both articles more carefully, the major fallacies appear to be as you and Warlock pointed out.
In addition to both your points, major areas where Opperman’s thesis fails is the reality of the current trend toward a national policy of airpower and special operations forces with a complete absence of major ground operations and stability operations. Obviously, if you are not on the ground, you cannot protect civilians from those who would kill and do the unspeakable to women, children, and, yes, men noncombatants. Having a Gender advisor in the JAOC or even in a CP in Iraq is not going to help the Yazidis and Assyrians being turned into sex-slaves and forced wives of ISIL, or killed if they do not convert.
If you are shacking up with your reporter girlfriend in an A-team, it is unlikely to endear you with the local Islamic population no matter how much you play with their kids. If you try to force hardcore Islamists to violate their culture and faith by forcing too many women’s rights and women’s schools too fast, your gender advisor making such recommendations is also failing our efforts to win hearts and minds.
Beyond that, when we patrol towns, roads, and fields on a regular basis on foot or in vehicles, IEDs will be planted that blow up unknowing women and their families on foot or in civilian vehicles. When there is a shura, no women will be invited. When you eat meals with Afghans, no women will be present, but perhaps Opperman is correct that the FET (or female infantry Soldier/Marine) could be eating with the women assuming a female interpreter. Let’s say you pull a Lysistrata and convince the women to withhold sex if the men keep fighting. In Muslim areas, that might simply result in married rape and apparently there are not an abundance of mothers willing to stand up to Muslim men raping their young sons and daughters.
If we go to the opposite extreme as we are doing now and do little to nothing except bomb with no ground presence, then refugees and internally displaced persons get afraid and mad, fleeing to Europe to commit terror like tonight in Paris. The women and girls stay behind and are turned into sex slaves or wives of fighters while military-aged males are the bulk of the refugees or forced ISIL recruits, so how is your gender advisor helping there? You know what will happen to the women, but there is no way to stop it without troops on the ground driving ISIL out.
Not our problem you say. Just another civil war we should avoid. Maybe we will bomb, yet that merely encourages ISIL to hug civilians and hang out with and force themselves on women. If you only bomb, you soon run out of combatant targets and start to bomb infrastructure and main supply routes that effect ISIL supply access but also the livelihoods, foodstuffs, and mobility of civilians who are not your enemy.
One example of that last point could occur if we elect a Republican billionaire who says “bombs away” with less discrimination in what we bomb. Worse still, he supports Putin in bombing ISIL---except he is not bombing ISIL and instead is bombing other insurgents fighting Assad. Putin does not care about civilian women or children or male non-combatants as he carpet bombs with cluster bombs, fuel-air explosives, and white phosphorous according to Outlaw’s reports. So how is your gender advisor going to affect Putin’s policies or those of our “President Billionaire” who says “bombs away.” Beyond that he says we should bomb the Iraqi and Syrian oil so it gets in their water supplies. Oh well.
Final point is what makes us think that women do not become radicalized themselves? Didn't some captured ISIL wife turn out to be a key facilitator of sex slave sales? Was not the mother of the Boston Marathon bombers pretty radical herself? Wasn't some fine looking Mississippi woman allegedly willing to travel to Syria to join ISIL with her boyfriend?
I'm not sure that MF or Anthro read the same article that I did, because this didn't seem to speak to the debate about women in combat arms. My concern with this piece is that it basically reads like a veiled case for corporate welfare for otherwise unemployable women's/gender studies graduates. The author claims that 1) WPS as a concept and gender advisory cells are important in both training and operations; 2) such functions should be incorporated into <I>every</I> military exercise; 3) gender issues pervade all aspects of war and warfare; 4) gender advisory cells should be moved from the CMO to Ops. I didn't feel that the author made a particularly convincing case for any of these claims. Justifying these claims on the premise of a UN mandate and an Australian military that, save for SOF units and strike aircraft, hasn't been afforded the opportunity to deploy in recent operations does little to support the author's argument. (That's not a dig at Aussie troops, merely an acknowledgment that Canberra has been reticent to deploy most of Australia's forces.) Having spent a respectable chunk of my early career as an instructor at a CTC, I can also attest to the fact that just because someone in a position of senior leadership decides that something is important to include in training doesn't preclude that content from being irrelevant or even counter-productive.
I also took exception to two of the author's quotes in particular. First, the author claims, erroneously, that "for too long, the military has ignored the fact that women are active agents who both contribute to as well as mitigate conflict". Looking only at the post-9/11 battlefield, training on women's issues and incorporation of women's issues into the overall concept of operations has been arguably disproportionate to their actual utility on operations. The DoD enforces human trafficking prevention training even for CONUS support personnel who never deploy, the Army in particular employs hundreds of contracted female expatriate role players at the CTCs and elsewhere to force deploying troops to learn about women's issues, and leading COIN experts like David Kilcullen bang on about engaging women all the time. That brings up another concern: as reticent as I tend to be to rely upon anachronistic examples from the Second World War or Desert Storm, in the inevitable event that the United States fights another conventional war, will gender issues remain relevant enough that they ought to have a gender advisory cell taking up space in the Ops cell? Second:
<BLOCKQUOTE>Because the main objective in war is to end violent conflict and foster enduring peace and stability, achieving anything less means that soldiers will be called on to continue to fight and take casualties.</BLOCKQUOTE>
Wholly incorrect. War <I>is</I> violent conflict, and is inherently unstable because its purpose is to apply force and violence to alter the status quo (or else, to threaten the application of force in order to maintain the status quo). This statement alone calls the author's understanding of war and her credibility to opine on such matters into question.
Ultimately, despite being an openly "COINdinista", and despite having encouraged one of my colleagues to deploy to Afghanistan as a gender issues advisor, I'm underwhelmed by the author's case for the criticality of WPS or gender advisory cells. This seems more like an appeal to sociological or gender studies theory than anything that's actually critical to improving America's capacity to win wars.
For war-games of a foreign intervening power to be realistic, they would seem to need to take into account the classic negative consequences of the foreign intervening power's planned actions -- vis-a-vis for example -- the exceedingly different, but time-honored and exceptionally revered, values, attitudes, beliefs, customs and norms of the targeted state and society.
Thus, for war-games involving the U.S./the West to be realistic, they would seem to need to take into account, for example, the classic negative consequences of our planned gender-enhancement actions -- outlined by the author above.
Which, if I read the author correctly, suggests that, via our efforts, the native population's women folk will be afforded both roles, and status, that might be inconsistent with, and indeed contrary to, their traditional roles and status and, thus, be inconsistent with, and contrary to, the dictates of a particular state, society, civilization, religion, culture, etc.
If this is indeed the case before us, then our war-games -- to be realistic -- would seem to need to show:
a. How such (apparently misguided?) efforts.
b. Inflamed the situation and
c. Compounded/compromised, rather than enhanced, our ability to accomplish our mission; this by
d. Providing that these, shall we say, "way of life" wars took on an even grander aspect and scope -- and, thus, became even more common and wide-spread?
This now appears to be advertising for a program the author's supporting.
<blockquote>For too long, the military has ignored the fact that women are active agents who both contribute to as well as mitigate conflict. As a result, many military professionals focus their efforts on war fighting capabilities that presume an exclusively male enemy, assuming that peace will likewise become a reality through the efforts of men alone. </blockquote>
In 30 years of military service, I never saw a capability estimate or a war plan that presumed an adversary's gender. It's true that the bulk of military professionals focus on warfighting capabilities...that is the essence of the job.
<blockquote>Because the main objective in war is to end violent conflict and foster enduring peace and stability....</blockquote>
As I wrote in the comment to Ms Oppermann's previous article, this reflects a misunderstanding of war, and therefore a misunderstanding of armed forces' role. The main objective in war is to impose a particular outcome on an adversary and make it stick. An end to violent conflict is a byproduct, either through an adversary's capitulation, or rendering them incapable of continuing to fight. And fostering enduring peace and stability is the role of diplomats and politicians...the military may serve as an instrument by means of occupation or deterrence.
So where does this leave specialized Gender Advisors stuffed into every staff function? It doesn't. The Law of Armed Conflict and additional U.S. DoD policies address preventing sexual violence and human trafficking...they're wrong, and they're addressable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Assigning a specialist to the civil-military operations section makes good sense, for as the author points out, non-combatant women and children make up a large proportion of IDPs and refugees. There's much merit in addressing women's role in organizing and running functions in many cultures (that's as much or more a cultural issue as a gender issue, though), which may produce solutions like the FETs. Until someone produces a mass of data showing females within military forces change the way those forces generate intelligence, conduct operations, supply their forces, plan, communicate, and so on, plunking a gender specialist in each staff section just consumes precious oxygen, particularly when on many headquarters staffs, there are plenty of smart women with a fine understanding of war and the military.
It has been amusing to read comments on this subject. Anthro's comment is interesting but like many elsewhere misses the point and ignores key issues. I'm a pretty macho guy and few my age are in as good shape (my wife of many years is also plenty hot). Once, I shared similar adverse views toward women in combat arms and acceptance of gay service members but life has shown me I was wrong.
We were in the first class with women at West Point and that created both positive and adverse views. Working with women as subordinates and peers in the Army gave me additional good and bad anecdotes. As for gay service members, my opinions were slanted by an undesired advance by an airport worker who gave me a ride to Fort Monmouth after my flight was delayed and I missed the military bus. That and my wife’s stepbrother who died of AIDS gave me fears of military blood transfusions and other things. However, several factors since then cannot be disputed:
• Women and gay service members appear to be functioning well in other service branches outside the combat arms that also require physical strength, endurance, and teamwork. I’ve seen plenty of out of shape or smallish, scrawny/fat males and females at the gym and walking around bases so it is not a male/female issue exclusively. If a woman can meet the physical standards for combat arms, why not give her a shot? An A-Team or SEAL team with a female member would appear to be less obvious in disguise would it not?
• Women are functioning as police officers and fire fighters, as well as in the military. If you have ever seen the chief of the Washington D.C. police interviewed you understand how she got the job—brains, polish, and competence and you see ample examples in military women as well.
• The male-female attraction aspect <i>is</i> a major distraction but a decade of war would seem to imply that it is not insurmountable. I once feared that a wounded or captured female would prove a major mission distraction but Jessica Lynch and hundreds of wounded/killed female combatants would seem to argue otherwise.
Perhaps the example that taught me the most was my own daughter who was high school Valedictorian, Magna Cum Laude in college Biochemistry, and a Medical School graduate soon finishing her residency in a hospital Emergency Room. She also was an accomplished high school and college tennis player leading her team and earning many honors while successfully completing a half marathon and staying in shape playing adult tennis. Competency, brainpower, and physical fitness are not exclusive to any gender or sexual preference. Nor frankly are the combat arms of the Army and Marines sufficiently unique to make them a good old boys club exclusively.
I was originally going to post this comment in “Changing the ‘macho’ Male Culture of the US Military” but seeing as these are all the same issues, I may as well post it in the most updated article.
What is interesting is that we are actually listening to these nut cases. If we don’t like it we have plenty of legal options to prevent the implications of females in combat. In general however, both sides of the argument are not debating the same concept. One side points at sex, which is based on biology, to justify their position. 15,000 years of humanity and including historical, scientific, anthropological, and biological evidence, or in other words “how things actually are,” supports their claims. The other side seems to build their arguments on gender, which is based on individual or group social attitudes and constructions. People are sexually born male or female while each sex chooses their identity, or gender. The dominant American culture accepts females practicing previously male genders, we can see this by the high slut factors, drunkenness, baggy and male looking cloths, short haircuts, and, most importantly, the desire to think like a stereotypical male and even go so far as to imagine they are “male trapped in a female body” (MTFBs). The opposite is also true seen with the transformation of the male sex, to which the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) are showing great success with their beta-male experiments and transsexual advocacy. Another confusion is that between ascribed and achieved status. Man and woman is considered an achieved status, one has to earn it, while a female and male is an ascribed states, one has no choice, they were born that way. another example of ascribed would be a brother, sister, cousin, or nephew. This social construction of man and woman are the only two genders sexually derived since they are based on each sexes biological strengths. A male may choose the gender of a woman, but in actuality he/it can never be one since his biological makeup does not allow him to experience true woman-hood since one has to be female to be a woman. The same is correct in the opposite. I do not know what the SJW architect’s/leader’s evidence is to support why reversing the gender roles is a good thing except for “evolution for the sake of evolution” or technological superiority and Rape prevention. We do know that these savages are an international organization. They support a Hobbsean form of rights, human rights, but will support liberty as long as it does not get in the way of particular freedoms and freedom in general. We also know that they always show up around the death of civilizations. The Babylonian, Egyptian, and Byzantine empires, as well as ancient Greece, are all good historical examples. Anthropological studies on the matriarchal/matifocal aspects of the Igbo and Alaska Native tribes is a good study on how societies based on female issues and focus on “equality,” rather than roman style duality, dooms a nation and keeps people in the dark. To iterate, there is miscommunication in this debate, or decision, which is one side thinks its about sex while the other thinks its about gender. Another interested related study is looking at how somebody gets to make these decisions when they have no particular relation to the people or institutions they wish to change and why do it in the first place. Another good study is finding out why a female wants to behave like a "man" and not a "woman."
The next thing I would like to point-out is the “macho” in the military. I am not critiquing the author of this article ("Changing the 'Macho' Male Culture of the US Military") only reinforcing what he has to say. This “macho” concept might constitute to the “fake opposition.” the U.S. military is not as “macho” as one is lead to believe. Most of us are only good at killing the enemy in our particular way and nothing else. A lot of us are not invested in manhood. A lot of us get beat up in town all the time, not very “macho.” There also seem to be a confidence issue in the military as well. I draw on the fact that most enlisted, regardless of being an Arnold looking SSGT roping in 5k+ a month and overqualified to be in most security jobs, are too scared to have a short conversation with some hot chick, even if she’s a high school drop-out working in a coffee shop, and would rather settle for some whale of a wife who won’t work, cook or clean depending on what you want. Most guys will fuck a fat chick than take the countless variety of better options. I have also noticed that most military members don’t know how to dress and therefore don’t know how to get the actual ladies and own their environment. I think we all know that the military home life is also a matriarchy as well. Don’t forget the male on male rape which is supposedly happening. None of this sounds very “macho” to me. Manhood is up to the individual at this point of time in the military which still exists but is somewhat not officially recognized. Overall its difficult to call the military “macho” due to low confidence levels and weaklings, infantry MOS is not excluded from these observations. Another thing wrong is that “macho” is a term used by females to describe what they think is a manly thing to do. Automatically the arguments for how the military behaves is based off the female perspective and what they say they want, not what they actually want.
The last point is that this female integration problem must be a response to the lack of available qualified males in the United States. There are too many batas in the United States and most people are not interested in military service. Should the draft be necessary, I guess somebody’s logic might be that some females will be better qualified as cannon fodder than 450lbs. fat guys who can barley walk. This does not exactly help the citizen birth rate problem since any decent father will die before his daughter registers for a draft, being that smart future dads won’t have their daughters as US citizens, but it is an excellent quick fix for draft problems.