Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Women enlighten the foreign policy debate


Allison Smith hosted a CPAC series of discussions on Feminist Foreign Policy which aired last night. Former Canadian Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, articulated a reasoned view of broadening the issues included in foreign from the narrow “masculine” dominated “national security” issues to include education, health, work with dignity and protection of the environment.

Co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted, Elmira Bayrasli, shifted the conversation to “a foreign policy for the 21st century. Citing the many global threats, including global warming and climate change, terrorism, cyber security, epidemics, and the growing gap in income, along with the global deficit in girls education, Ms Bayrasli noted the name of her organization has been borrowed from Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State in the Clinton administration. Ms Albright has commented that, because the stereotypical conversation on foreign policy is conducted by men, the only way to bring other issues to the table is to “interrupt” these men, in order to educated them on the nuances and the larger dimensions of the changes needed as seen from a woman’s perspective.

This perspective, originated by Ms Albright, has considerable advantage over a “feminist” foreign policy, for the obvious simple reason that it confronts the reality on the ground of the need to “interrupt” the traditional conversation plus it embraces all people on the planet, men and women. As Ms Bayrasli noted, it will take all hands on deck to break through the wall of resistance that stands in front of such a significant and needed shift.

 As an example of the “tokenism” being paid in public statements by political leaders about including social development funds in the foreign policy envelop, a professor from Carleton University, cited the $70 million Trudeau has added to the military budget, while simultaneously cutting the foreign aid budget. It is the view of many that foreign aid, for the purpose of lifting up cultures, especially those in which women are barred from full participation in the life of the community, including the opportunity to start their own business, must be an integral component in foreign policy.

As the host reminded her viewers, research demonstrates that the education of women, and the support for their full integration into the economic life of the community lifts the prospects for everyone in that community. So, clearly, there is an economic benefit of considerable proportions to such a policy shift. In fact, whether we call it “feminist foreign policy” or a foreign policy for the 21st century, the move away from “hard power” as the primary instrument of foreign policy, toward a much broader and more deeply penetrating injection of aid seems to undergird this conversation.

Education, and health care, and environmental protections, and personal and community security.. as the main thrusts of an enlightened policy would clearly leave people like the current occupant of the Oval Office out of the game, and thereby also exclude the United States from the game.

So, obsessed with the innovative and creative initiatives of his predecessors, Obama and Clinton, in their foreign policy that he is likely unaware and unwilling to learn about all the work Ms Clinton did to fuse women’s issues with all her activities and policies in foreign policy. This president’s view is not merely blinded by his own psychotic hubris, it also leaves the world stage open to the Chinese, the Indian and the Russian governments to fill the vacuum left by the American truculent withdrawal.

The infusion of the female perspective into the foreign policy debate, through television talk shows, including the Sunday shows, is a primary objective of the Foreign Policy Interrupted organization. And they are seeing some limited success for their efforts. Reports indicate that the ratio of women participating in foreign policy discussion has risen from 14% to 22% in the last couple of years. Perhaps the reportedly large cadre of women candidates entering the mid-term elections for November 2018 will have a salutary impact on those numbers.

Two of the more prominent women who appear regularly on American television, Robin Wright and Anne Marie Slaughter, both have the learning, the experience and the “savoir faire” to commend themselves to the editor of any public affairs show dedicated to foreign policy, or the editors of any of the best print organs that focus on foreign policy. After serving as an editor for Thompson/Financial Post, and appearing on American television’s top shows, Chrystia Freedland, is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Canadian government, effectively responsible for two portfolios that command a single voice: foreign affairs and international trade.
It has been her steady hand, and voice, that has provided and sustained public confidence that Canada will not be victimized by the trump tariffs, threats to NAFTA, and general blowing hot air.

Already mentioned, Madeline Albright, has demonstrated her intellect, and her tough spine through both her stint as Secretary of State, and also in her latest book, Fascism, a warning. It would be difficult if not impossible to conceive of a single male counterpart meeting Ms Albright who would have the gall and the temerity to show her even a hint of disrespect.

Foremost, currently on the international stage, fortunately for all of us, and especially for the thousands of refugees landing in Europe, Angela Merkel, another scholar, this time in Chemistry, provides steady, moderate and courageous in Germany and through her in the European Union as it faces the impending Brexit negotiations and the fallout from those.

Another woman scholar, a doctorate in Russian studies, Condolezza Rice, has served as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under George W. Bush, and although the Iraq war is not a star in the galaxy of either Bush or Ms. Rice, nevertheless, she did provide some measure of gravitas and clear thinking to that administration. Similarly, Susan Rice, served Obama as National Security Advisor, and provided a maturity of perspective and integrity to each of his foreign interventions.

Nikki Haley, too, current American Ambassador to the United Nations, is a valuable foil for the machinations of her boss, as he continuously strives to bring chaos to each and every U.S. relationship with a foreign power.

There is a current full slate of competent, even exemplary women who have or are serving in the foreign policy and international relations field. And that choir will only grow in both size and competence as their numbers in the graduate schools of International Relations climbs. And if it takes “interruption” or outright defiance, our subtle diplomacy, women’s voices and perspective will become an integral part of the foreign policy of many nations…and the sooner the better.
Noticeable, in their absence, are both China and Russia, in the profile of women as leaders in foreign policy in both countries. India, too, seems to have reverted to a male-dominated role on the world stage, several years after the tenure of Indira Ghandi, as has Pakistan after the emergence of Benazir Bhutto…followed by her exile and murder.

Although she has not served in the state department, let us not forget that the only woman who has confronted the trump administration over the potential for compromise that Michael Flynn appeared to be under, was Sally Yates, then Deputy and Acting Attorney General successively. Her firing, while tragic, only demonstrates how deeply her submission to the White House impacted the occupant of the Oval Office. Her courage in bringing truth to power exemplifies the kind of spine so far invisible from the Republican members of Congress.

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