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
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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