Femme Fatale: An Examination of the Role of Women in Combat and the Policy Implications for Future American Military Operations (Drew Paper Number 5, August 2009)
Author(s)Alfonso, Kristal L
Contributor(s)AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL AIR FORCE RESEARCH INST
KeywordsSociology and Law
Humanities and History
Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
*MILITARY FORCES(UNITED STATES)
SECOND WORLD WAR
*FEMALE SOVIET PILOTS
*FEMALE RESISTANCE FIGHTERS
*FEMALE SUICIDE BOMBERS
COMBAT EXCLUSION POLICIES
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AbstractThis paper reviews four case studies that demonstrate the variety of ways women have participated in modern armed conflict and explores whether current U.S. laws and policies excluding women from combat remain valid or need to be amended. Each case study examines three principal facets of female participation in combat -- context, motivations, and inspirations -- and the actual contributions made by these women in combat operations. Two case studies, one on World War II Soviet pilots and the other on modern Americans, follow the more traditional explanation of armed conflict and focus on women integrated into military organizations involved in wars. The other two case studies, including one on female resistance fighters in World War II Europe and another on female terrorists and insurgents, represent the asymmetric aspects female participation often provides during conflicts. The fourth case study also serves as the heart of this research paper since it focuses on the role of American women in combat. Current policies actually limit the combat roles available to women and spur some critics to argue that the combat exclusion policies do not go far enough. The fifth chapter of the paper presents this side of the debate over the role of women in combat and military service in general. This chapter presents the leading arguments against the inclusion of women in combat beginning with the physical differences between men and women, the effects of women on unit cohesion and combat readiness, and the moral debate over sending a society's mothers and daughters to war. Chapter 5 highlights the growing divergence between conservative cultural norms and the realties of current combat operations. The paper concludes with a proposal of how the U.S. military and society should move forward regarding the role of women in combat.
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