Women in the Line of Fire

Women in the Line of Fire: What You Should Know About Women in the Military is the first serious book to be published since 9/11 on the issue of women in the military, or in combat. I wrote this book from my first-hand observations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a journalist embedded with combat troops and civil affairs, interviews in the United States, and academic research. General Volney F. Warner, US Army, ret., a combat infantry veteran of Korea and Vietnam, provided the foreword: his granddaughter, First Lieutenant Laura Walker, was killed in action in Afghanistan.

Between September 2001 and March 2007, over 165,000 US servicewomen have gone to war as volunteer professionals. (I’ll update these numbers regularly.) This has given us a database about the performance of servicewomen as professional soldiers, rather than serving in disguise, as auxiliaries, or as the last defenders of family and home, that is unprecedented in world history. None of the disasters that the social conservatives so gleefully predicted since servicewomen began to be integrated into the Regular forces in the 1970s has happened. There have been no combat failures attributable to the presence of women, no epidemic of get-me-out-of-here pregnancies or flood of rapes, or continual orgies. The performance of servicewomen is no longer a matter of conjecture, and while all the sisters are not brave and strong, any more than all the brothers are virtuous, so many are, so much of the time, their performance has been more than adequate. Thousands have served in combat, winning Combat action Badges (Army), Combat Action Ribbons (Marine Corps), Bronze Stars with “V” (for valor) and the Silver Star.

This is a genuine triumph for the military and for America, but no one wants you to know about this. The Left often is virulently anti-Iraq War, anti-Bush, and anti-military, although this is starting to change. The Right, especially the cultural and religious right, loathes equality. The Pentagon, photo ops aside, has never been willing to admit how much the military depends upon women for anything, much less combat. Their increasing use of women in combat units and situations is more-or-less illegal, absolutely necessary, and part of the natural evolution of servicewomen from auxiliaries to professionals. And the media’s image of servicewomen is largely that of badly-led victims (Jessica Lynch), chick lit (Love My Rifle More Than You), and self-serving apologies (Janis Karpinski).

Yet Women in the Line of Fire is not a book about Iraq, subtext Women. It’s a book about being a woman and an American citizen in a dangerous time. The full equality of women under arms, and the end of all restrictions on their service, is now a matter of national security. It’s about, whatever you think of Iraq, women assuming their full responsibility as citizens for this country. In the hard years of war, terrorism and climate change to come, American women will be safer if we unapologetically assert our right and responsibility to participate fully in the common defense. (As women have learned to their sorrow from Afghanistan to Iraq to New Orleans, hiding does not protect us.) It’s also about establishing, as an increasing matter of American defense and foreign policy, that women live beneath the law as equals and citizens, rather than as chattel by a man’s leave: throughout the developing world, women are America’s natural allies in creating a world based upon the genuine freedom and mutual trust that are the preconditions of democracy.

From the back cover….




The time to drop all remaining restrictions on women’s full equality under arms is now. The Army needs it. The country needs it. And the women of America needs it. Although 15% of the miltiary is female, the Army and Marines still resist acknowledging what is already happening – women are fighting, and fighting well. Women in the Line of Fire is a battle cry for a new kind of armed force, one in which men and women serve as equals and with mutual respect.


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