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Understanding Security

What is security?
What is war?

War has many faces. It is a political game of chess, conceptual strategic balancing with nameless pawns, and a way of asserting dominance. But it is also the personal ache of separation, the fear that accompanies the chaos and fog of a firefight, and the deep wounds that families and communities torn by conflict suffer. The lens through which strategic leaders understand the definition and facets of war matter because they shape the path chosen and can impact the lives of millions.

As a nation, when considering war, we legitimize the perspective of a wartime president in the White House, the military brass displaying rows of ribbons, and the well-educated policymakers who speak of strategic grounds gained and troops deployed. But on the other side of the equation is a mother dreaming of a more stable world for her children, and a woman hoping to navigate safely to work. Also set apart is the pilot who notices the faces of families as she flies overhead, and the platoon leader who sees a child who makes him long to hold his own back home.

Which perspective represents understanding war? Which is more valid? And do our leaders and decision-making processes value both?

Jeannette Gaudry Haynie and Kyleanne Hunter

How we define security and how we define war can shape everything.

Ask questions every chance you get. Whose war matters? The decorated military leader? The men (and few women) in business suits who hold leadership positions? Or the platoon leader who sees the faces of his own children in the eyes of local kids? The pilot who suspects that local operations are affecting families in unseen ways – the way hers would be if the tables were turned?

To understand security and to understand war – to the extent that we can – we must be curious about whose war and whose security is presented as legitimate…and whose is deemed irrelevant.

What are we reading about security and war?

Globalization and Militarism: Feminists Make the Link by Cynthia Enloe, PhD (2007)
What is the What by Dave Eggers (2007)
“Whose Security? Practical Examples of Gender Perspectives in Military Operations” by the Nordic Center for Gender in Military Operations (2015)
Bridge to Fiasco: How Language Imprisons American Strategy by Tim Feist (2017)
War and the Treacheries of Taxonomy by Tim Feist (2016)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1994)
Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam by H.R. McMaster (1998)
Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger (1994)
Fields of Fire by James Webb (1978)
Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at the Chosin Reservoir by Joseph Owen (1997)
Sovereign Masculinity: Gender Lessons from the War on Terror by Bonnie Mann (2013)
With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge (1981)
Chickenhawk by Robert Mason (1983)
A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan (1988)
Bombshell: Women and Terrorism by Mia Bloom (2011)
The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh (1990)
The Nightingale’s Song by Robert Timberg (1995)
Love My Rifle More than You by Kayla Williams (2005)
War and Gender by Joshua Goldstein (2001)
Gender, War, and Conflict by Laura Sjoberg (2014)
Women’s Work: The Story of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition by Kate Fearon (1999)
Nimo’s War, Emma’s War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War by Cynthia Enloe (2010)
Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here by Karina Bennoune (2015)
Sex and World Peace by Valerie Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad Emmett (2012)