Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

The Lack of Women in Foreign Policy Circles: Causes and Consequences

Hillary Clinton was preceded by Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice at the State Department, but is this a glaring exception to a "good old boys" club? How prominent are women in the foreign policy establishment?

A recent article in Foreign Policy entitled City of Men highlights the “staggering absence” of women in the United States foreign policy community (including the State Department, Defense Department, the military, think tanks, and academia).   Some of the key findings from author Micah Zenko’s research are as follows:

* only 23% of international relations professors are women

* only 16% of the Pentagon’s 129 “senior defense officials” are women

* the percentage of female officers does not reach 20% in any U.S. military branch (ranging from 19% in the Air Force to 6% in the Marines)

* women make up 22% of the senior leaders at the State Department, 29% of ambassadors abroad, and 29% of senior foreign service positions at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

* women hold only 21% of the policy-related positions at foreign policy oriented think tanks

Why are women so woefully underrepresented at these institutions?  Zenko suggests three reasons: (1) women may be less interested in researching and writing about hard power, the predominant method used in foreign policy, (2) this gender imbalance reinforces itself as men (consciously or unconsciously) select other men for key positions and women feel uncomfortable in these male-dominated settings, and (3) women may be less willing or able to take on these extraordinarily time-intensive jobs given that they are frequently the ones bearing a disproportionate share of the burden in raising families.  An article by former U.S. foreign service officer Patricia Kushlis suggests reason #2 may be the primary culprit; she cites the experiences of a foreign service officer who found that “nice girls” were labeled overly pliable and assertive women were labeled pushy and unstable in their evaluation reports.  In a follow-up piece Zenko noted that several women told him the problem was not a lack of interest in hard power solutions, but in the “predominant Washington-centric focus” of America’s foreign policy community.  One of Zenko’s colleagues told him “Women are more likely to see the other side´s point of view,” and “Women see less of a zero-sum game.”

This brings us to the question of consequences.  How is the lack of women in key foreign policy positions–in the U.S. and elsewhere–affecting international relations?  Liberal feminism argues that women and men will behave generally the same when they reach the pinnacle of power (such scholars cite Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, and other assertive female leaders to debunk the notion that having women in charge would somehow make the world a more peaceful or understanding place).  But difference feminism argues there are real differences in the way men and women approach world politics.  Heather Hurlburt, executive director of the National Security Network, cites the work of Anne-Marie Slaughter to suggest that “our increasingly networked, horizontal world may privilege the brains and societal training that women — who are prepared to be relationship-builders and nurturers — receive.”   Hurlburt also notes that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reportedly built a “special circle of relationships with other women leaders” and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “hasn’t shied away from saying that her gender makes her more determined to speak out about war-time atrocities committed against women in Congo and more focused on how women’s equality and opportunity can lift up entire societies economically and politically.”

What do you think?  What difference would it make (if any) if women gained greater representation in the foreign policy establishment?  What is the solution to this gender imbalance, and how long would it take to achieve?

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Five Stories You Might Have Missed

With the Congress in recess, the U.S. political scene has been dominated by coverage of town hall debates over health care reform. In the debate, the British National Health System (NHS) has been trotted out as representative of the dangers of government-run health care, charges to which the British government has responded. The Financial Times on Friday offered a balanced comparison of the U.S. and British health care systems, which debunks the selective use of statistics in the current debate.

In news from outside the U.S. health care debate last week:

1. The Taliban has stepped up attacks in Afghanistan ahead of nation-wide elections scheduled for Thursday. On Saturday, the Taliban launched a suicide bomb attack against NATO’s heavily fortified Afghanistan headquarters in Kabul, killing eight and wounding nearly 100 people. With observers already worried about the ability of the Afghan government and international elections monitors to conduct a nation-wide poll in the country, observers fear that the Taliban may attempt to disrupt the elections. The relative period of peace which had preceded Saturday’s attack had led some to believe that the Taliban would allow the elections to take place.

Thursday’s poll will pit incumbent President Hamid Karzai against former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. Although many observers believed Karzai’s campaign enjoyed an insurmountable advantage, Abdullah’s campaign has managed to close the gap, and some are now forecasting the need for a run-off election in October. A runoff would be necessary if neither candidate manages to secure an absolute majority of the vote.
 
2. Palestinian authorities in Gaza engaged in a series of small battles against Jund Ansar Allah, on Friday. The shootouts resulted in at least 13 deaths and dozens wounded. The battles represented the latest—and perhaps most serious—challenge to the Hamas-led government in Gaza. Jund Ansar Allah is one of several small extremist groups pushing for the introduction of strict Sharia law in Gaza. Jund Ansar Allah, which claims ties to al-Qaeda, had labeled Gaza an Islamic emirate subject to theocratic law, a claim which Hamas rejects. For its part, the Hamas government has dismissed challenges to its leadership as “Zionist propaganda” sponsored by the Israeli government.

3. The French Minister for Urban Regeneration, Fadela Amara, sparked a national debate last week when she called for a nation-wide ban on wearing the burka in France. Amara, a French national of Algerian decent, said that the burka represents “the oppression of women, their enslavement, their humiliation.” Banning the burka, she said, must be part of a broader effort to welcome moderate Islam while fighting the “gangrene, the cancer of radical Islam which completely distorts the message of Islam.” Amara’s comments are part of a broader debate in France. The national parliament in July established a committee to determine whether the wearing of the burka is “compatible with France’s republican tradition of equality between men and women,” and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in June said the burka “will not be welcome on the territory of the republic.” An estimated 5-10 percent of the French population is Muslim, though only a few thousand wear the burka.

4. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak last week attempted to re-open talks with North Korea, offering to negotiate troop reductions along the border between the two countries. The border between North and South Korea is among the most militarized in the world, with more than one million troops, including 30,000 U.S. troops, based in the area. However, in his offer, Lee reiterated the South Korean position that a comprehensive peace deal between the two countries would be predicated on North Korea abandoning its nuclear efforts, a proposition with the North has consistently rejected in the past.

5. Continuing her Africa tour with visits to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out on several of the continent’s hot spots. Last week, she urged political reconciliation in Kenya and offered support for Somali efforts to fight piracy and Islamic extremism, During her tour, she has not shied away from provoking controversy. In Nigeria, she criticized “the lack of transparency and accountability [which] has eroded the legitimacy of the government.” She also called for African governments to toughen their stance on Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Economic data out this week suggests that the end of the global recession may be nearing. The most recent jobless numbers out of the United States gave economists reason to celebrate, as the unemployment rate declined by 1/10 of a point, leading to a price rally on Wall Street. Germany, which has seen a sharp decline in gross domestic product (glossary) during the global recession, benefitted from an unexpected expansion of exports—7 percent in June. While other countries continue to struggle, including Russia and Iceland, many economists now believe we are seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

In other news from the previous week:

1. The trial of dozens of people, including a French national and two Iranians employed in the British and French embassies began in Iran on Saturday. The defendants are charged with espionage and “acting against national security” by taking part in and reporting on post-election protests to Western embassies. Under Iranian law, a conviction on either charge could be punished by death. Several of the defendants have confessed, but Western governments have dismissed the charges as “baseless” and contend the confessions were made under duress. The government of Iran accuses the United States and Britain of interfering in its internal affairs by “proving financial help to Iran’s opposition.” Meanwhile, the trial of 100 opposition leaders continued last week. The opposition leaders have condemned the trials as a spectacle, but the defendants face charges punishable by death. Opposition leaders continue to assert that the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad in June’s disputed presidential election was the result of electoral fraud. Nevertheless, Ahmadi-Nejad was sworn in on Monday.

2. A power struggle inside Taliban in Pakistan emerged over the weekend after the organization’s top leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Friday. Mehsud was a powerful figure in the Waziristan district of Pakistan, and Pakistani officials believe he was responsible for nearly all of the major terrorist attacks in Pakistan over the past two years, including the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the bombing of Marriot Hotel in Islamabad in 2008. Many analysts believe that Mehsud’s death will undermine the ability of the Taliban to operate in Pakistan. Already, political infighting in the Taliban in Pakistan’s leadership has led to the murder of one top leader by another, as Waliur Rehman, a leading contender to lead the organization, killed Hakimullah Mehsud, a rival for the same position. Pakistani intelligence now believes the organization is likely to splinter into several factions, each operating independently, but collectively much weaker than the original organization.

3. Former President Bill Clinton met with North Korean President Kim Jong-il this week, securing the release of two American journalists who had been sentenced to twelve years of hard labor for illegally entering the country. The meeting, which the White House maintains was not part of its official diplomatic efforts to address the challenges posed by the North Korean regime, was the highest level contact between the two countries in more than ten years. The Obama administration also reminded North Korea that, despite Clinton’s trip, that the United States will continue its efforts to increase diplomatic and financial pressure on the North Korean state unless it abandons efforts to secure nuclear weapons.

4. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her Africa tour this week, meeting with Kenyan officials on Wednesday. Clinton is hoping to apply pressure on the coalition government to move forward with political reforms intended to bring grater stability to the country and to prevent another flare up of the violence which rocked the country after February’s disputed presidential election.

On Thursday, Clinton met with Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the embattled president of Somalia. Clinton used the opportunity to reiterate U.S. support for the Ahmed government, pledging to provide more military and economic assistance as the government continues its battle against Islamist insurgents. Meanwhile, in neighboring Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki, who is believed to be a supporter of rebel groups in Somalia, dismissed U.S. efforts, saying that it is unrealistic to try and “imposing [a government] that doesn’t exist in reality.” Somalia has long topped Foreign Policy’s list of failed states. The lack of an effective central state has also made the country a haven for pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

5. A series of cyber-attacks aimed at social networking sites last week were believed to be directed at one individual—a blogger posting under the name of Cyxymu Livejournal. The denial-of-service attacks targeted several popular sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and the blogging site Livejournal. Cyxymu Livejournal is a critic of Russian policy in the Caucuses, particularly Georgia. According to some sources, the Russian government has used denial-of-service attacks in the past, targeting sites critical of the Russian government in Georgia, Estonia, and Eastern Europe. But if responsible for the most recent round of attacks, this could represent an expansion of the strategy. Leading credence to the theory is the fact that this week marked the one year anniversary of the Russian-Georgian War over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The First 100 Days: Obama’s New Foreign Policy

Presidents are often (unfairly) judged by their accomplishments in the first 100 days of a new administration.  Rarely are any real policies enacted during this period.  Far more important is the tone that the new administration sets.

In this respect, the new Obama administration is off to a solid start.

President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech—the full video and text of which is available through the BBC website—set the stage for a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy.  Obama’s address played up themes of liberalism and idealism, of collective defense and security.  In the speech, Obama observed,

that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

In terms of policy, we’ve seen some similar shifts away from the neoconservative realpolitik that dominated the Bush administration to a more liberal foreign policy already.  In his first 36 hours in office, Obama has already issued orders to close the detention facility at Guantánamo and suspend the use of military commissions.  For the new administration, this move is likely seen as part of a larger plan to improve the standing of the U.S. in the global community. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first day on the job was marked by similar overtures.  She noted that

I believe with all my heart this is a new era for America…We will make clear as we go forward that diplomacy and development are essential tools in achieving the long-term objectives of the United States.

But to be clear, the goal has not changed.  Obama’s speech was still clearly focused on the war on terror.  Obama still faces the same challenges Bush faced—global climate change, terrorism, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Israel, and a global economic crisis with the potential to rival the Great Depression—though  he may choose to deal with them differently.  Only time will tell if Obama’s foreign policy represents a return to the liberalism of Wilson and Roosevelt.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

President-elect Barack Obama is moving forward with his transition.  According to most observers, he’s been meticulous in his vetting but has taken a pragmatic rather than partisan approach in selecting his cabinet.  Many of the most important positions have not yet been filled, but speculation is that Tim Geithner will be named Treasury Secretary and Hillary Clinton will be named to State.  A number of names have also been floated for other key positions in the administration.

Here’s five stories you might have missed during the extensive speculation about Obama’s presidency:

1.  The French left appears to be in disarray after Saturday’s leadership contestMartine Aubry narrowly won the contest fort the position, but Segolene Royal, the party’s candidate in the last presidential election, refused to concede defeat and demanded an immediate revote.  Observers fear that the leadership contest could result in the collapse of the French Socialist party.

2.  The increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia is having a dramatic impact on global trade.  Last week, pirates seized a Saudi oil supertanker carrying an estimated $100 million worth of crude oil.  The attack was a high-profile illustration of the dangers associated with shipping near Somali waters.  But Somalia is located along the Suez-canal transit path, one of the world’s busiest canals and part of a key shipping route between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  Shipping companies are now re-routing traffic around the Cape of Good Hope in Southern Africa to avoid the pirate infested water, adding to the cost of shipping.

3.  President Bush and President-elect Obama advanced competing economic plans this week.  President Bush appealed to the global community to embrace free trade, expressing his disappointment in Congress its refusal to approve new free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea before adjourning.  President-elect Obama announced his intention to develop a new public works program, echoing Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program which helped to bring the United States out of the Great Depression.  The program would focus on job creation, particularly in the areas of construction and the green economy.

4.  The status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraqi signed last week faced its first real challenges, as thousands of protestors backed by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets on Friday in protest.  The rally of at least 10,000 peple demanded the immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.  However, al-Sadr’s group does not appear to have the ability to defeat the agreement. 

5.  Local elections on Sunday in Venezuela are projected to presenet a challenge to incumbent president Hugo Chavez.  The president’s party rode a tidal wave of support in 2004, when it won all but two governorships in the country.  But opinion polls suggest he could lose between six and nine seats, undermining the president’s ability to deepen his revolutionary transformation of Venezuela.