By Maureen Down, New York Times, March 22, 2011
(E)veryone is fascinated with the gender flip: the reluctant men — the generals, the secretary of defense, top male White House national security advisers — outmuscled by the fierce women around President Obama urging him to man up against the crazy Qaddafi.
How odd to see the diplomats as hawks and the military as doves.
“The girls took on the guys,” The Times’s White House reporter, Helene Cooper, said on “Meet the Press.”
Rush Limbaugh mocked the president and his club of “male liberals,” saying: “Of course the males were opposed. It’s the new castrati. ... They’re sissies!”
Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador and former Clinton administration adviser on Africa, was haunted by Rwanda. Samantha Power, a national security aide who wrote an award-winning book about genocide, was thinking of Bosnia. Gayle Smith, another senior national security aide, was an adviser to President Clinton on Africa after the Rwandan massacre. Hillary Clinton, a skeptic at first, paid attention to the other women (putting aside that tense moment during the ’08 primaries when Power called her “a monster”). She also may have had some pillow talk with Bill, whose regrets about Rwanda no doubt helped shape his recommendation for a no-fly zone over Libya.
Taking the first opportunity to secure their bona fides as "just as much warriors as the men" or just as capable of "taking the gloves off" these strong women, still untested and unproven in military leadership (oops...remember Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands?) have been "outed" as the forces that turned the president's mind from peaceful resistance to "no-fly" leadership.
Ironic, perhaps. And, this single piece of information will not make it any easier for the president to shore up the sagging commitment of the unwilling coalition, especially those in the Middle East (Quatar comes springing to mind: although signed up, she has yet to deliver a single piece of equipment, let alone a single plane).
Ironic, too in the common cause found by both the "women hawks" and Rush Limbaugh, who would use any derogatory name he could find to belittle the president, and "sissy" works just fine for all liberal men, including Obama.
Unfortunately, the women, perhaps, as Dowd suggests, motivated by previous unaddressed disasters (Rwanda for one) are not able to bring the current coalition into a command and control structure that seems ready and willing to take the lead, when the Americans try to hand it off. Furthermore, it was the male generals, those who know the unforgiving and relentless details of any military exercise, and the Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, who dragged their feet for as long as they could, in resistance to an unfocused, ill-defined, and vague if not totally missing exit strategy as defined by a successful mission.
Is the Libyan dictator in the sights of those Tomahawk missiles? Should he be? Would the mission leaders get their hands slapped by the U.N. if he were targeted? Should they for a mission creep that (oops!) crept beyond the original parameters?
And yet, if the Libyan dictator is not removed, and regime change is not accomplished, these female hawks could go down in history as being so far off base in their advice to the president as to eventually help make him a one-term president, not to mention leaving an open festering wound in Libya that is not cauterized for decades, with who knows what implications spinning through the pages of Wikeleaks also for decades.
And what would such developments do to other women who sought political power at the highest echelons?