One Good Book

When Women’s Rights Meet National Security

Big global problems are linked to gender inequality and the mistreatment of women in ways most people never imagine.

The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy, by Valerie M. Hudson & Patricia Leidl.
National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman
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Karyn Bruggeman
May 22, 2015, 12:36 a.m.

The Hil­lary Doc­trine: Sex and Amer­ic­an For­eign Policy by Valer­ie M. Hud­son and Pa­tri­cia Leidl Columbia Uni­versity Press, 2015

The Hil­lary Doc­trine: Sex and Amer­ic­an For­eign Policy, by Valer­ie M. Hud­son & Pa­tri­cia Leidl. (Columbia Uni­versity Press)WHAT IT’S ABOUT

As sec­ret­ary of state, Hil­lary Clin­ton as­ser­ted that “the sub­jug­a­tion of wo­men is a dir­ect threat to the se­cur­ity of the United States,” and made wo­men’s rights part of the na­tion’s for­eign policy frame­work. Hud­son and Leidl call this the “Hil­lary Doc­trine” and ask wheth­er the U.S. should still fol­low it now that Clin­ton is no longer at State. To an­swer this, they ex­am­ine the idea’s ori­gins, how it has in­flu­enced policy, how it has been em­ployed, and what its fu­ture might be. They con­clude that re­cast­ing the rights of wo­men and girls as cent­ral, not peri­pher­al, to demo­cracy and in­ter­na­tion­al peace and se­cur­ity holds the po­ten­tial to trans­form wo­men’s lives—and the world—but not without pas­sion­ate lead­er­ship.

TAR­GET D.C. AUDI­ENCE

Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry; in­ter­na­tion­al-de­vel­op­ment NGOs; read­ers in­ter­ested in un­der­stand­ing Clin­ton’s world­view and why she places such a heavy em­phas­is on wo­men and girls in for­eign and do­mest­ic policy.

BEST LINE

“Clin­ton is as­sert­ing that how wo­men are treated is not epi­phen­om­en­al to the se­cur­ity of a giv­en so­ci­ety—it is in­teg­ral. For ex­ample, why is the Pakistani Taliban so ter­ri­fied of the sight of a little girl at­tend­ing school—so frightened that they would shoot a mere child in the face, as they did to Malala Yousafzai? Something is go­ing on here; something very deep, very old, and very ugly.”

TO BE SURE

The au­thors are trans­par­ently pro-Clin­ton—they de­scribe her as a “true polit­ic­al star,” her 1995 Beijing speech as “elec­tri­fy­ing,” and her 2008 pres­id­en­tial bid as a show­case for a “power­ful, ac­com­plished, ex­per­i­enced” wo­man—and they are clearly root­ing for the Hil­lary Doc­trine to suc­ceed. They don’t gloss over con­tra­dic­tions or fail­ures, but they are gentle in their cri­ti­cisms both of the doc­trine as it has been em­ployed in prac­tice and its eponym.

ONE LEVEL DEEP­ER

Clin­ton skep­tics eager to at­tack her on for­eign policy should check out the sec­tions of the book that high­light the Hil­lary Doc­trine’s non­par­tis­an roots and lay out the quant­it­at­ive and em­pir­ic­al evid­ence that sup­ports its cent­ral pro­pos­i­tion. These in­clude the por­tion of Chapter 1 on George W. Bush’s “ag­gress­ive in­ter­pret­a­tion” of the the­ory be­hind the Hil­lary Doc­trine in Afgh­anistan, and the part of Chapter 2 that presents Hud­son’s ori­gin­al re­search around the idea that the level of vi­ol­ence against wo­men is the greatest pre­dict­or of peace­ful­ness with­in and between coun­tries.

THE BIG TAKEAWAY

Big glob­al prob­lems—from the threat of ter­ror­ism to rising crime rates among im­pov­er­ished young men in China and In­dia—are linked to gender in­equal­ity and the mis­treat­ment of wo­men in ways most people nev­er ima­gine.

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