Editor’s note: Welcome to another installment of our weekly War Books series! The premise is simple and straightforward. We invite a participant to recommend five books and tell us what sets each one apart. War Books is a resource for MWI readers who want to learn more about important subjects related to modern war and are looking for books to add to their reading lists.
This week’s installment from Bradford Wineman showcases five books on women, peace, and security.
Six years ago, President Donald Trump signed the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Act of 2017, legally codifying the United States government’s commitment to the principles originally presented in the historic United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 passed in 2000. As the US Institute for Peace explains, WPS is “a policy framework that recognizes that women must be critical actors in all efforts to achieve sustainable international peace and security. WPS promotes a gendered perspective and women’s equal and meaningful participation in peace processes, peacebuilding and security.” Both the Trump administration and that of President Joe Biden have recognized that the initiatives of WPS directly reflect the United States’ broader strategic goals of promoting security, prosperity, equality, and democratic values throughout the world and, therefore, have made its tenets a priority in connection to the pursuit of the nation’s interests.
While the 2017 legislation has affirmed a whole-of-government approach to this effort, the US military has taken great strides in incorporating WPS concepts in its strategies and operational planning. However, even after half a decade of implementation, WPS still has not fully entered the consciousness of American strategic thought. Many within the military are still now just becoming acquainted with its existence, much less its relevance. Nevertheless, there has been a growing effort within the higher echelons of the individual services and the combatant commands to operationalize WPS into policies, doctrine and even organizational structure. These books are recommended to both scholars and practitioners to offer a familiarization to WPS’s goals, frameworks and ideas while, more importantly, highlighting how this effort can provide the US military with greater advantages when seeking solutions to the challenges of an increasingly complex global environment.
Sex and World Peace, by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli
This book is the gold standard on the understanding of gender and conflict. A groundbreaking work, Sex and World Peace provides the contextual analysis of how broad cultural gender constructs in various societies eventually impact their institutionalization of violence and war. Using voluminous amounts of quantitative data, the authors present a convincing case for the intersection of women’s security with both international and domestic security. The impact of the empirical evidence presented here will forever change the perspective of any student of conflict, providing an appreciation of the totality of gender’s impact on the nation-state and violence.
Women, Peace and Security: An Introduction, by Joan Johnson-Freese
For those unfamiliar with WPS concepts, this book is the best place to start. It is designed to serve as a primer for readers looking to familiarize themselves with the background, context, and framework of WPS. It insightfully covers elements of WPS from theoretical frameworks to the gender dynamics and world politics, as well as focusing on issues such as the impact of war on civilian women and the role of women in both combat and peacekeeping. This book covers all the bases and provides great one-stop shopping for the WPS novice.
Women and Gender Perspectives in the Military: An International Comparison, edited by Robert Egnell and Mayesha Alam
This volume highlights the remarkable work in WPS being conducted by several of the United States’ allies and partners. The essays here showcase how nations like Canada, Sweden, Israel, South Africa, Australia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have all successfully integrated gender perspectives into their operational frameworks over the last several decades. Each of these nations has leveraged diversity in both participation and thought via WPS into its security efforts. In doing to so, they have created greater operational effectiveness by applying WPS constructs to better comprehend and attend to operational and security dilemmas. These examples from strategic partners can help US political and military leadership show what right looks like in demonstrating the usefulness of WPS.
Gender, War, and Conflict, by Laura Sjoberg
Another standout in this field, Professor Laura Sjoberg identifies the failures of both policymakers and military practitioners in excluding gender from their understanding of conflict. Her analysis appeals to those “seeking to understand the causes, dynamics and consequences of war and conflict” to actively factor in the role of women when shaping their approaches to using the military. Drawing on countless examples from both historical and recent conflicts, Sjoberg validates an inextricable connection between women and war as both the victims and appliers of violence. Much like Johnson-Freese’s book, this volume succeeds in having readers appreciate the breadth of WPS concepts across the spectrum of government policy and human conflict.
Women, Peace, and Security in Professional Military Education, edited by Lauren Mackenzie and Dana Perkins
Arguably the greatest traction that WPS has gained within the US military has been within its professional military education (PME) system. Institutions such as the National War College, Army War College, and Marine Corps University have made great strides not only in introducing WPS to their students but also in actively incorporating it into their curriculum. This work, edited by two PME instructors, explores the various methods in which PME schools have effectively integrated these concepts into lessons, case studies, and exercises to normalize WPS tenets into strategic and operational decision-making processes. These examples demonstrate how the military education system has been instrumental in demonstrating to the warfighter how WPS can serve as a value tool to pursue their increasingly challenging missions.
Bradford Wineman is a professor of military history at USMC Command & Staff College and codirector of the Marine Corps University Reynolds Scholars Program for Women, Peace and Security.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Image credit: Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem, US Army