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Gendered practices of counterinsurgency


Current US counterinsurgency doctrine is gendered diversely in the different geographic locations where it is formulated, put in practice, and experienced. Where Iraqi and Afghan populations are subjected to counterinsurgency and its attendant development policy, spaces are made legible in gendered ways, and people are targeted – for violence or ‘nation-building’ – on the basis of gender-categorisation. Second, this gendering takes its most incendiary form in the seam of encounter between counterinsurgent foot-soldiers and the locals, where sexuality is weaponised and gender is most starkly cross-hatched with class and race. Finally, in the Metropole, new masculinities and femininities are forged in the domain of counterinsurgency policymaking: While new soldier-scholars represent a softened masculinity, counterinsurgent women increasingly become visible in policy circles, with both using ostensibly feminist justifications for their involvement.

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1 Blaufarb, Douglas S., The Counterinsurgency Era: US Doctrine and Performance: 1950 to the Present (London: Collier Macmillan, 1977) ; Galula, David, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (New York: Praeger, 1964) ; Elkins, Caroline, Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya (London: Pimlico, 2005) ; Horne, Alastair, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954–1962 (New York: New York Review of Books, 2006 [1977]) ; Kitson, Frank, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency, Peacekeeping (Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1971) ; Newsinger, John, British Counterinsurgency from Palestine to Northern Ireland (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002) ; Short, Anthony, The Communist Insurrection in Malaya, 1948–1960 (London: Frederick Muller Limited, 1975) .

2 Birtle, Andrew J., US Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine 1860–1941 (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1997) ; also see Silliman, Stephen W., ‘The “Old West” in the Middle East: US Military Metaphors in Real and Imagined Indian Country’, American Anthropologist, 110 (2008), pp. 237247 .

3 Hammes, T. X., The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century (St Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2006) ; Kaplan, Robert D., Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond (New York: Vintage Books, 2005) ; Kilcullen, David, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (London: Hurst & Co, 2009) ; Marston, Daniel and Malkasian, Carter (eds), Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2008) ; Nagl, John, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002) ; US, Department of the Army, FM3–24: The US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007); FM3–07: The US Army Stability Operations Field Manual (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009).

4 US Department of the Navy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (2007), available at: {}, pp. 6, 7, accessed on 30 March 2009.

5 US Army, FM3–07, p. ix.

6 Ibid., FM3–24, p. 49.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.; Khalili, Laleh, ‘Tangled Webs of Coercion: Parastatal Production of Violence in Abu Ghraib’, in Khalili, Laleh and Schwedler, Jillian (eds), Prisons and Policing in the Modern Middle East and North Africa (London: Hurst & Co., 2010) .

9 Easterly, William, ‘Foreign Aid Goes Military!’, New York Review of Books, LV (2008), pp. 5154 ; US Army, FM3–24, p. 54.

10 For a social-scientific discussion of this process, see Kalyvas, Stathis, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) .

11 Scott, Joan, Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988) ; Riley, Denise, ‘Am I that Name?’ Feminism and the Category of ‘Women’ in History (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989) .

12 McClintock, Anne, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (London: Routledge, 1995) .

13 On ‘telling’, see Feldman, Allen, Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), pp. 5659 .

14 Carver, Terrell, ‘Being a Man’, Government and Opposition, 41 (2006), pp. 450468 ; ‘The Machine in the Man’, in Parpart, Jane L. and Zalewski, Marysia (eds), Rethinking the Man Question: Sex, Gender and Violence in International Relations (London: Zed Press, 2008), pp. 7086 ; Enloe, Cynthia, The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993) ; Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, 2nd edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004); Cockburn, Cynthia, ‘The Continuum of Violence: A Gender Perspective on War and Peace’, in Giles, Wenona and Hyndman, Jennifer (eds), Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict Zones (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), pp. 2444 ; Cohn, Carol, ‘Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals’, Signs, 12 (1987), pp. 687718 ; ‘“Clean Bombs” and Clean Language’, in Elshtain, Jean Bethke and Tobias, Sheila (eds), Women, Militarism and War (Savage, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1990), pp. 3356 ; Eisenstein, Zillah, Sexual Decoys: Gender, Race and War (London: Zed Books, 2007) .

15 See especially Kilcullen, Accidental Guerrilla.

16 Kinsella, Helen, ‘Securing the Civilian: Sex and Gender in the Laws of War’, in Barnett, Michael and Duvall, Raymond (eds), Power in Global Governance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 249272 ; Carpenter, Charli, Innocent Women and Children: Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2006) ; Cockburn, , The Curious Feminist, p. 35 ; Innes, Michael A., ‘Protected Status, Sacred Sites, Black Holes and Human Agents: System, Sanctuary and Terrain Complexity’, Civil Wars, 10 (2008), pp. 15 ; Lt. Col.Renzi, Fred, ‘Networks: Terra Incognita and the Case for Ethnographic Intelligence’, Military Review (2006), pp. 1624 .

17 McKelvey, Tara, Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2007) ; Sjoberg, Laura and Gentry, Caron E., Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Women's Violence in Global Politics (London: Zed Books, 2007) .

18 Kaplan, Imperial Grunts.

19 Spencer Ackerman, ‘Women Prominent in Defense Movement: Seventh Instalment of the Rise of Counterinsurgents’, Washington Independent (2008) available at: {} accessed on 31 December 2008.

20 D'Amico, Francine and Weinstein, Laurie (eds), Gender Camouflage: Women and the US Military (New York: New York University Press, 1999) ; Solaro, Erin, Women in the Line of Fire: What You Should Know about Women in the Military (Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2006) .

21 Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 174 .

22 Beehner, Lionel, ‘The Battle of the “Youth Bulge”’ (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Daily Analysis, 27 April 2007) available at: {} accessed on 31 March 2009; for a scathing critique see, Therborn, Göran, ‘NATO's Demographer’, New Left Review, 56 (2009), pp. 136144 .

23 Stack-O'Connor, Alisa, ‘Picked Last: Women and Terrorism’, Joint Forces Quarterly, 44 (2007), pp. 95101 .

24 For an analysis of this category of social science, see Gilman, Nils, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2003) and Milne, David, America's Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War (New York: Hill and Wang, 2008) .

25 Rostow, W. W., The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960) .

26 A WorldBank study of women's empowerment shows that much of the literature on empowerment was actually more interested on how empowerment of women affected other development indicators: Malhorta, Anju, Schuler, Sidny and Boender, Carol, ‘Measuring Women's Empowerment as a Variable in International Development’ (Washington DC: World Bank, background paper, 2002), p. 23 .

27 Bernard, Cheryl et al. , Women and Nation-Building (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2008) . On corruption and efficiency, see Dollar, David, Fisman, R., and Gatti, R., ‘Are Women Really the “Fairer Sex”? Corruption and Women in Government’, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 46 (2001), pp. 423429 .

28 Lieutenant ColonelWinn Byrd, Miemie and Gretschen Decker, Major, ‘Why the US Should Gender Its Counterterrorism Strategy’, Military Review (July–August 2008), p. 96 .

29 Ibid., p. 100.

30 Kilcullen, David, ‘“Twenty-Eight Articles”: Fundamentals of Company Level Counterinsurgency’, Military Review (May–June 2006): pp. 103108 .

31 Bernard, et al. , Women, p. 13 .

32 AAA Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities (CEAUSSIC), ‘Final Report on The Army's Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program’ (14 October 2009) available at: {} accessed on 21 December 2009.

33 TRADOC G2 Human Terrain System, ‘My Cousin's Enemy is My Friend: A Study of Pashtun “Tribes” in Afghanistan’ (Ft Leavenworth: US Army Training and Doctrine, Afghanistan Research Reachback Center White Paper, 2009), p. 10.

34 TRADOC G2 HTS, ‘My Cousin's Enemy’, p. 5.

35 Weizman, Eyal, ‘Waking through Walls: Soldiers as Architects in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’, Radical Philosophy Review, 136 (2006), pp. 822 .

36 Stiehm, Judith Hick, ‘The protected, the protector, the defender’, Women's Studies International Forum, 5 (1982), pp. 367377 ; Tickner, Ann, Gendering World Politics: Issues and Approaches in the Post-Cold War Era (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001) ; Young, Iris Marion, ‘The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflections on the Current Security State’, Signs, 29 (2003), pp. 125 ; Kinsella, ‘Securing the Civilian’.

37 Enloe, , Morning After, p. 166 .

38 An extreme instance of the gender segmentation of civilian victims could be observed during the Israeli assault upon Gaza in 2008/2009 when most media outlets tallying the casualties of the Israeli attack only counted ‘womenandchildren’ as ‘innocent’ victims, and men were automatically excluded from such rosters of victimhood and trauma by the fact of their sex. An even more extreme instance of the counterinsurgency cooptation of women and children as possibly complicit with the insurgents is Alan Dershowitz's defence of Israeli military's violence against civilians, where only babies are considered to be rightfully civilians. See, Dershowitz, Alan, ‘“Civilian casualty”? That's a gray area’, Los Angeles Times (22 July 2002) ; also see Hills, Alice, ‘Hearts and Minds or Search and Destroy? Controlling Civilians in Urban Operations’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 13 (2002), pp. 124 .

39 Mestrovic, S. G., The Trials of Abu Ghraib: An Expert Witness Account of Shame and Honor (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2007), p. 124 .

40 Bailliet, Cecilia M., ‘“War in the Home”: An Exposition of Protection Issues Pertaining to the Use of House Raids in Counterinsurgency Operations’, Journal of Military Ethics, 6 (2007), p. 185 .

41 Filkins, Dexter, ‘The Fall of the Warrior King’, New York Times Magazine (23 October 2005) .

42 Levinson, Charles, ‘Fallujah Safer but Residents Still Lack Basic Services’, USA Today (24 January 2008) .

43 On the targeting of men, see Jones, Adam (ed.), Gendercide and Genocide (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004).

44 Colonel Michael Formica (21 April 2006) quoted in Gott, Kendall D., Eyewitness to War, Volume 1: The US Army in Operation Al-Fajr, an Oral History (Fort Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2006), p. 33 .

45 Edwards, Sean A., Complex Environments: Battle of Fallujah I, April 2004 (Fort Belvoir, VA: US Army National Ground Intelligence Center, 2006), p. 12 .

46 See a critique of this idea in Puar, Jasbir, ‘Abu Ghraib: Arguing against Exceptionalism’, Feminist Studies, 30 (2004), pp. 522534 .

47 Lagouranis, Tony and Mikaelian, Allen, Fear Up Harsh: An Army Interrogator's Dark Journey through Iraq (New York: NAL Caliber, 2007) ; on Patai, see Said, Edward, Orientalism (New York, Vintage Books, 1978), pp. 308309 . On the US military's use of Patai, see Porter, Patrick, Military Orientalism: Eastern War through Western Eyes (London: Hurst & Co., 2009), pp. 6061 .

48 Rosenfeld, Maya, Confronting the Occupation: Work, Education, and Political Activism of Palestinian Families in a Refugee Camp (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2004) .

49 McKelvey, , Monstering, p. 103 .

50 McClintock, , Imperial Leather, p. 6 .

51 Saar, Erik and Novak, Viveca, Inside the Wire: A Military Intelligence Soldier's Witness Account of Life at Guantánamo (New York: The Penguin Press, 2004), pp. 223228 ; See also, Dodds, Paisley, ‘Sex Used to Break Muslim Prisoners, Book Says’, Associated Press (28 January 2005) .

52 Kumar, Deepa, ‘War Propaganda and the (Ab)uses of Women: Media Constructions of the Jessica Lynch Story’, Feminist Media Studies, 4 (2004), pp. 302303 .

53 Masters, Cristina, ‘Femina Sacra: The “War on/of Terror”, Women and the Feminine’, Security Dialogue, 40 (2009), pp. 3637 .

54 Lt. ColonelBaker, Henderson, ‘Women in Combat: A Cultural Issue?’ (Carlisle Barracks: US Army War College Master's Thesis, 2006), p. 10 .

55 See the jarring contribution by Solaro to an otherwise critical edited volume: Solaro, Erin, ‘Women and the Profession of Arms’, in McKelvey, Tara (ed), One of the Guys: Women as Aggressors and Torturers (Emeryville: Seal Press, 2007), pp. 97110 ; also Solaro, Women; Williams, Kayla with Staub, Michael E., Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army (London: Phoenix Press, 2005) .

56 Sjoberg and Gentry, Mothers, Monsters.

57 Segal, Lynne, ‘Gender, War, and Militarism: Making and Questioning the Links’, Feminist Review, 88 (2008), p. 33 .

58 Lt. GeneralDubik, James, Best Practices in Counterinsurgency. Building Security Forces and Ministerial Capacity: Iraq as a Primer (Washington DC: Institute for the Study of War, 2009) .

59 Markel, Matthew W., ‘Building Partner Security Forces: Sometimes War Is the Answer’, The Joint Forces Quarterly, 42 (2006), p. 76 .

60 Carver, ‘Being a Man’, p. 456.

61 Rubin, Alissa and McManus, Doyle, ‘Why America Has Waged a Losing Battle on Fallouja’, Los Angeles Times (24 October 2004) .

62 Markel, ‘Building’.

63 ‘Lazy Iraqi Police get motivational speech’, available at: {} accessed on 21 December 2009.

64 Streets, Heather, Martial Races and Masculinity in the British Army 1857–1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), p. 173 .

65 McClintock, , Imperial Leather, p. 55 ; also see Levine, Philippa, Prostitution, Race and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire (New York: Routledge, 2003), p. 257 .

66 Levine, , Prostitution, p. 259 .

67 Ibid., pp. 263264 .

68 MacKey, Chris and Miller, Greg, The Interrogator's War: Inside the Secret War against Al Qaeda (London: John Murray, 2004), p. 186 ; also see Burke, Kevin, Civil Reconnaissance: Separating the Insurgent from the Population (Monterey: Naval Postgraduate School, 2007) .

69 Carver, ‘The Machine’, p. 78.

70 Also see, Snyder, R. Claire, Citizen-Soldiers and Manly Warriors: Military Service and Gender in the Civic Republican Tradition (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999) .

71 Sassaman, Nathan and Layden, Joe, Warrior King: The Triumph and Betrayal of an American Commander in Iraq (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2008) ; Ricks, Thomas E., ‘Fight Club: Excessive force nearly lost us the Iraq War. The brass who gave the orders still don't get it’, The Washington Monthly (Aug/Sep/Oct 2008) , available at: {} accessed on 3 April 2009.

72 US Army, FM3–24, p. 41.

73 Ibid.

74 Hills, ‘Hearts and Minds’, p. 5.

75 Abu-Lughod, Lila, ‘Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others’, American Anthropologist, 104 (2002), pp. 783790 ; Hirschkind, Charles and Mahmood, Saba, ‘Feminism, the Taliban, and the Politics of Counter-Insurgency’, Anthropological Quarterly, 75 (2002), pp. 107122 ; Shepherd, Laura, ‘Veiled References: Constructions of Gender in the Bush Administration Discourse on the Attacks on Afghanistan Post-9/11’, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 8 (2006), pp. 1941 .

76 Ferguson, Michaele, ‘“W” Stands for Women: Feminism and Security Rhetoric in the Post-9/11 Bush Administration’, Gender and Politics, 1 (2005), p. 18 ; also Denike, Margaret, ‘The Human Rights of Others: Sovereignty, Legitimacy, and “Just Causes” for the “War on Terror”’, Hypatia, 23 (2008), pp. 95121 .

77 Stack-O'Connor, ‘Picked Last’, p. 97.

78 Ackerman, ‘Women’.

79 Stannard, Matthew, ‘Montgomery McFate's Mission: Can one Anthropologist Possibly Steer the Course in Iraq?’, San Francisco Chronicle (29 April 2007) .

80 Kamps, Louisa, ‘Army Brat: How Did the Child of Peace-Loving Bay Area Parents Become the Superstar of National Security Circles?’, in Elle (2008), pp. 309311, 360362 .

81 US Army, FM3–24.

82 Ibid., FM3–07.

83 Andrew Exum, ‘Lady Sky’ (28 April 2008) available at: {} accessed on 21 December 2009.

84 Chayes, Sarah, The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan after the Taliban (London: Portobello Books, 2007), p. 107 .

85 See comment at 8:47 am at: {} accessed on 4 January 2010.

86 Haynes, Deborah, ‘Anti-war Briton Emma Sky is helping to reshape Iraq’, The Times (13 April 2009) .

87 Ricks, Thomas E., The Gamble: General Petraeus and the Untold Story of the American Surge in Iraq, 2006–2008 (London: Allen Lane, 2008), p. 147 .

88 Maddow, Rachel, ‘Interview with Sarah Chayes, Advisor to General Stanley McCrystal in Afghanistan’, MSNBC (29 July 2009) , available at: {} accessed on 2 September 2009.

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