Thursday, April 23, 2015

Want National Security? Focus on Women's Safety: A Discussion of the Hillary Doctrine

In the last seminar of the academic year, WAPPP welcomed Valerie Hudson to discuss research explored in her latest book, The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy. Hudson, the George H. W. Bush Chair of The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, is well known for her work on bare branches, the theory that violence is increasingly caused by skewed sex ratios within a society. She has long argued that the security of women is vital to the security of the nation, which - though largely accepted now - was considered a revolutionary concept at the time.

Research for the book began in 2010, and the content was largely written in 2013, after Hudson's co-author Patricia Leidl completed fieldwork in several countries. Hudson emphasized the role that qualitative data played in their research. Data on cultural norms, customs, practices and laws were missing from the current research, so Hudson and Leidl created a massive database to fill this niche.

One might wonder why the idea that women's security affects national security is called the Hillary Doctrine. Hudson explains that though Clinton was the third female Secretary of State, she was the first woman in that role who made women’s issue priorities for the Department. The book, though not about Secretary Clinton herself, explores the effects that her belief in this idea has had on American foreign policy.

Source: Associated Press
The book is presented in three parts. The first focuses on the history of how women came to matter in American foreign policy, starting with the Nixon administration. Hudson explained that Ambassador Swanee Hunt, who wrote the book's foreword, was instrumental in informing this portion of the research.

The second section focuses on the theory and cases that explore whether the Hillary Doctrine is justified. Hudson argues that her past research reveals the doctrine is in fact based on a solid premise. She presents the theoretical argument for what she terms fempolitik, arguing that the realization that women’s security is closely linked to national security is a pillar of clear-eyed realpolitik. She argues that male-female relationships are a foundational issue, while poverty, explosive violence, ill health and other widespread problems are the macro consequences of women's insecurity.

The third and last section of the book focuses on the implementation of the Hillary Doctrine from 2009-2013. Jen Klein, advisor to Secretary Clinton on global women’s issues, explained in an interview for the book that the State Department adopted four initial principles to guide their work on women. These principles stated that their work (1) would be non-partisan, (2) would not impose U.S. views or laws on others (indeed, the policies focused on the agenda enshrined in CEDAW, which the U.S. has not ratified), (3) must be based in evidence, even though the Department also thought it was the right thing to do, and (4) must demonstrate that the benefits created by such policies also apply to national security, not just women’s security. Though these principles were paired with strategic frameworks from major government organizations, Hudson explained that the disconnect between high-level policy and the actual work on the ground manifested itself in a fairly predictable fashion, citing some terribly ineffective initiatives.

Hudson closed by sharing some of the top items off the book’s “to do” list. These included using the bully pulpit to discuss women's issues, developing hard targets and performance benchmarks on women's inclusion, focusing on male accountability, and adding a jus ex bello element to the just war theory, one that focuses on the harms after war has ended that disproportionately affect women. She also emphasized the importance of Presidential will to work on this issue, quickly adding, “depending on who is elected the next President, maybe we won’t have a problem in the will department.” 

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