Best, Rebecca H. 2023. “Service above Self: Women Veterans in American Politics. By Erika Cornelius Smith. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2022. 248p. $32.95 Cloth”. Perspectives on Politics 21(2): 737-38.
Schroeder, Theresa, Rebecca H Best, and Jeremy M Teigen. 2023. “See G.I. Jane Run: The Rise of Female Military Veteran Candidates for Congress”. American Politics Research 51(4).

Veteran women are better represented in Congress than non-veteran women, but the reasons for this are unclear. Veteran women may be better represented because they run at higher rates and in more winnable races or because their military service leaves them uniquely qualified to overcome gender and partisan stereotypes. Voters often perceive women as lacking leadership ability and ill-suited to handling national security. However, female veterans have experience that may help them overcome gendered beliefs about their abilities. Using election data from the 2012–2020 U.S. congressional elections, we test whether veteran women gain greater voter support compared to non-veteran candidates and whether veteran women running as Democrats outperform male veteran Democrats. We find only limited evidence that military service wins more votes for candidates of either gender. Among Democrats, prior military service levels the playing field between male and female candidates, but veteran women only outperform veteran men in 2018.


Brannon, Elizabeth, and Rebecca Best. 2022. “Here for the Right Reasons: The Selection of Women as Peace Delegates.” International Studies Review 24(1).

Since the passing of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security more than two decades ago, there has been a global push to bolster the inclusion of women in these processes. When women are selected into peace delegations for the wrong reasons, they—like men—can hinder or stall progress. Yet, very little work has analyzed which women are included in peace processes, how they are selected, why they are selected, and how their individual experiences influence both their behavior and the outcomes of those processes. We identify four selection criteria used to select participants in negotiations: (1) reliability as assessed through either connections to elites or ideological purity; (2) qualifications such as experience in the armed forces, rebel forces, civil society, or academia; (3) personal appeal or ability to elicit sympathy based on factors such as victimhood, attractiveness, youth, or demographics; and (4) selection by a third party whose strength and size have allowed it to negotiate representation in the process. It is likely that in many cases, multiple motives and selection criteria are at play in the selection of individual women (or men). We consider how gender impacts the implementation of these criteria, drawing on a variety of peace processes, but especially the Havana Peace Talks between the Colombian government and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios Colombianos–Ejército del Pueblo. This framework sets the foundation for the development of three research agendas: the first relating to which women get a seat at the table, the second to how the individual backgrounds of the women selected into the peace process influence outcomes, and the third to issues of intersectionality and representation.


Best, Rebecca H, and Simanti Lahiri. 2021. “Hard choices, soft targets: Terror proscription and strategic targeting decisions of FTO.” International Interactions 47(6): 955-85.

Proscription lists are common counter-terror tools, yet their impact on terrorist violence is unclear. We find that proscription can be effective at constraining the violence of some types of groups, especially those that are young, secular, and without institutional support. However, proscription also can backfire from a counter-terrorist prospective, especially when applied to groups that are well-established, religious, and/or sponsored by states. Our analysis evaluates 534 terrorist groups, including sixty-six that were ultimately proscribed under the United States’ Foreign Terror Organization list. Unsurprisingly, we find that terrorist groups that attract proscription are more violent and better equipped to tap into international terror networks. While younger groups and nationalist groups are more vulnerable to proscription, older religious groups and those with state sponsors seem to be more violent after proscription. Proscription can be an effective tool for reducing terrorist attacks and lethality, but it is most effective against younger terror groups and states should exercise caution in its use as it may not have the desired effects on all types of groups.

Best, Rebecca H, Kyleanne Hunter, and Katherine Hendricks Thomas. 2021. “Fighting for a Seat at the Table: Women’s Military Service and Political Representation.” Journal of Veterans Studies 7(2).

Military service has long been seen as a path to political leadership and elevation of status in public life. Public opinion polls steadily show that the American people trust military veterans to be principled leaders and model public citizens. Combat veterans are held in particularly high regard as model and trustworthy citizens. For military women in the United States, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have ushered in a new era in combat arms participation. However, to the detriment of both women’s political and economic equality, gendered perceptions about military participation and the identity of combat veterans have been slow to change. Despite women’s participation in combat, they have been denied the elevated citizen status frequently enjoyed by their male peers with similar experiences. This bodes poorly for lasting peace and security. Research increasingly indicates that the involvement of women in public life leads to more peaceful and stable outcomes, and enduring peace and stability. While the US has been a leader in the adoption of official UN Resolutions that call for women’s equality in all facets of governance and the passage of the 2017 Women, Peace, and Security Act; women are still heavily under-represented in all levels of government.

Best, Rebecca, and Greg Vonnahme. 2021. “Military service and legislative agendas: A study of legislators in four states.” Armed Forces & Society 47(2): 367-85.

Candidates often highlight military experience on the campaign trail. Do they also govern differently? This study examines whether and how military experience is associated with state lawmaking. We examine legislative productivity, success rates, and the substantive content of legislation with a large original data set. The data include over 60,000 bills introduced in four state legislatures over a 10-year time span, coded for their substantive focus. It also includes information on characteristics of over 4,000 legislators. Our analysis of these data indicates that veterans do not differ in overall levels of productivity but do have common legislative agendas. Veterans’ shared legislative agendas are not narrowly confined to defense or security issues but vary depending on state context. This is, to our knowledge, the most extensive empirical analysis of the legislative behavior of veterans in a single study.


Hunter, Kyleanne, and Rebecca Best. 2020. “You Can’t Have Women in Peace Without Women in Conflict and Security.” Georgetown Security Studies Review 8(2): 5-18.

Since the passage of UN Resolution 1325 there has been a call for an increase of women in postconflict negotiations. Indeed, research shows that the presence of women in these negotiations improves prospects for lasting peace. However, there has yet to be a meaningful increase in women's participation in such negotiations. Similarly, despite an international focus on increasing women’s participation at all levels of government, women remain underrepresented in both elected and appointed positions. One area where women are increasingly present is as combatants - both in formal militaries and in rebel groups. In this article, we argue that the social gender norms related to women participating in combat are a key driver/reason of the lack of women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and government bodies. We introduce a model of cognitive-institutional reinforcement that shows how institutions designed to give former
combatants access to public life undermine women’s credibility and result in lost opportunities. We use evidence from Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs and veterans’ services to show how this model explains the continued lack of women’s participation.

Best, Rebecca. 2020. “Women and Conflict Studies.” Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science: https—www.


Traditionally, women have been viewed as having little agency in wars and conflicts. Women were thought neither to cause the wars nor to fight them. When women were considered at all by scholars of war, they were conceived of primarily as victims. As women gained the franchise and ultimately began to be elected into political office in advanced democracies, some scholars began to consider the foreign policy implications of this—that is, do women’s attitudes toward war and defense policy differ from those of men and do these views produce different outcomes at the ballot box? Furthermore, do women behave differently with regard to security issues once in national office? Does their presence change the way their male colleagues vote on these issues? In recent decades, scholarship emerging first from critical feminist theory and later from positivist political scientists has begun to look more explicitly for women’s roles, experiences, and influences on and in conflict. This work has led to the recognition that, even when victimized in war, women have agency, and to the parallel conclusion that men’s agency is not as complete as scholars, practitioners, and the public have often assumed. This bibliography provides an overview of the development of women and conflict literature as well as several prominent themes and questions within the literature. It is of necessity incomplete and interested scholars are encouraged to review related articles in Oxford Bibliographies in International Relations, such as “Feminist Security Studies” by Kristen P. Williams, and “Women and Peacemaking/Peacekeeping” by Sabrina Karim and Kyle Beardsley.



Best, Rebecca H. 2019. “[Re]Negotiating Citizenship through Military Service.” In Invisible Veterans: What happens when military women become civilians again. ABC-CLIO.

This chapter explores the link between military service and citizenship rights in republican societies and their application to women's military service.

Email me for a copy.

Best, Rebecca H, Sarah Shair-Rosenfield, and Reed M Wood. 2019. “Legislative Gender Diversity and the Resolution of Civil Conflict.” Political Research Quarterly 72(1): 215-28.

Policy makers and scholars have shown increased interest in gendered approaches to peacemaking, even as evidence of women’s impact on peace processes has remained unclear. In this paper, we explore the influence of gender diversity among decision-making elites on the outcome of ongoing civil conflicts. Specifically, we argue that increased female representation within the national legislature increases the likelihood that a conflict terminates in a negotiated settlement. However, the impact of legislative female representation on conflict termination is conditioned by the power of the legislature vis-à-vis the executive, suggesting that gender diversity exerts a greater impact in states with more authoritative legislatures. We evaluate our hypotheses using data on the manner of conflict termination and the proportion of women in national legislatures between 1945 and 2009. Our results show support for the central argument, suggesting that increasing female representation within legislative bodies increases the likelihood of war termination via negotiated settlement.