I write a series for my franchise, The Washington Independent, called "The Rise of the Counterinsurgents." It’s about this ascendant movement of defense theorist-practitioners who, natch, work on counterinsurgency. And I’ve noticed something that I was really surprised no one else was reporting, given how much attention counterinsurgency was getting: So many of the leading counterinsurgents are women.

That’s pretty amazing, when you think about it. Defense is a really male-dominated field, to understate matters. Yet women aren’t just equal partners in COIN. Often they’re leaders. It seemed worth a piece devoted to giving this development its due, and so here’s the seventh installment in "The Rise of the Counterinsurgents."

In a series of interviews, leading woman counterinsurgents, and some of their male colleagues, discussed how the unconventional approach to military operations calls for skills in academic and military fields that have become open to women in recent decades. Others contend that counterinsurgency’s impulse for collaborative leadership speaks to women’s "emotional IQ," in the words of one prominent woman counterinsurgent. Another explanation has to do with coincidence: the military’s post-Vietnam outreach to women has matured at the same time as counterinsurgency became an unexpected national imperative.

"It is not that women are ‘better’ at this stuff than men," Davidson said, "it is just that the problems associated with populations involve non-military skill sets and knowledge from fields where women have traditionally been better represented than they have been in the military."

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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