The Hillary Doctrine:Sex and American Foreign Policy, To the day that the Hillary Doctrine becomes “unremarkable”Monday, June 29th, 2015
by student contributor Laura Kilbury
On the 24th at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Valerie Hudon and Patricia Leidl discussed their new book, The Hillary Doctrine: Sex & American Foreign Policy, and its paramount importance for the United States in junction with national security priorities.
During her confirmation hearing to become secretary of state, Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in no uncertain terms, “I want to pledge to you that as secretary of state I view women’s issues as central to our foreign policy, not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser than all of the other issues that we have to confront.”
The “doctrine” comes from a proposition that Clinton made at the TEDWomen Conference in December 2010: “The subjugation of women is, therefore, a threat to the common security of our world and to the national security of our country.” In countries where women are chronically mistreated, or systematically excluded from leadership roles, there tends to be far greater state fragility, outbreaks and reoccurrences of conflict, and environments where extremists can flourish, including even terrorist organizations.
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 explained 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.
The first part of the book—based on interviews with government officials like Swanee Hunt, Andrew Natsios, Paula Dobriansky, and Melanne Verveer—consists of a helpful history of how women’s issues became prominent in U.S. foreign policymaking during the 1990s. This included milestones like UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the first resolution to address the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women, as well as the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution; the publication of the first U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security; and the difficulties and haphazard manner that the military and USAID have experienced in incorporating women’s issues into foreign operations.
The second section focuses on the theory and cases that explore whether the Hillary Doctrine is justified. Hudson discussed that her past research reveals the doctrine is in fact based on a solid premise. She presented the theoretical argument for what she and Leidl termed fempolitik, arguing that the realization that women’s security is closely linked to national security is a pillar of clear- eyed realpolitik. This then provides an argument that contends that 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, Leidl 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.
At the end of the event, Leidl and Hudson noted some of the top priorities moving forward in a “to do list” fashion. 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.
The authors then (with a confirming laugh in the room) eminently said that that the most important and elusive ingredient for implementing the Hillary Doctrine “can only come from the White House itself.” If a President Hillary Clinton is sworn into office on January 20, 2017, then there will be no more bureaucratic hurdles preventing the fuller implementation of the Hillary Doctrine. Would we learn if it isindeed a rhetoric, or the basis upon which U.S. foreign policy is developed and implemented?
At the end of the event, Hudson made a final and provoking note, “Here’s to the day the Hillary Doctrine becomes unremarkable.”
What will it mean in the future when it is the norm to look at our national security through a genderedlens? When placing women at the forefront of a national security agenda is the way to look at things that is when the Hillary Doctrine will persist.