Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In Foreign Policy, Women's Influence Grows

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In Foreign Policy, Women's Influence Grows

Article excerpt

"They're not . . . going to understand throw-weights or what is happening in Afghanistan or what is happening in human rights." Donald Regan, White House chief of staff, on women's attention to the Reagan-Gorbachev summit, 1985.

EIGHT YEARS AFTER Donald Regan's insult, women may be coming into their own in shaping the foreign policy of a world where throw-weights matter less than consensus-building.

The Cold War is over. Superpower confrontation and containment - the 50-year-old language of foreign policy - are archaic. Consensus and cooperation are the new vocabulary. Rather than a single archenemy, the U.S. looks out at a fragmented globe fertile with seeds of instability:

Starvation and war in Somalia. Ethnic hatred and war in Bosnia. Racial tensions and violence in South Africa. Hardship and near-coups in Russia.

In that chaotic setting, the old answers to foreign policy dilemmas seem less applicable.

"Women are uniquely positioned to ask new questions," said Ruth Adams, creator of the MacArthur Foundation's international programs on peace and national security.

"Women are a source of that new direction we're looking for in terms of foreign policy," said U.S. Rep. Connie Morella, R-Md., chairwoman of the Congressional Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus.

But some of the women who help shape President Bill Clinton's foreign policy are not so sure there's a gender perspective to foreign affairs. They're quick to stress that differences between them and their male colleagues are more a matter of style than substance.

"I would challenge the premise," said Nancy Soderberg, staff director of the National Security Council and one of the administration's senior foreign policy advisors. As women move into the power positions long held by men, she added: "You'll find they'll be equally aggressive and not so patient. I think women will act very similarly."

The notion that women may be coming into their own in foreign policy is gaining currency in Washington, fueled partly by a broader definition of foreign policy itself. Cold War Mentality

Traditional foreign policy, crystallized in the Cold War by the awesome weaponry of the nuclear age, tended to look at the world in military terms: Throw-weights, a calculation of a missile's killing power. Containment, from George Kennan's classic one-word summary of America's aim toward communism. Force models, the estimates of other countries' military might.

"The power, the pecking order, has been traditionally nuclear weapons," said Charles William Maynes, editor of Foreign Policy magazine. The "hardware" people, as Maynes called them, were at the top of the pecking order. Women were a rarity. Few had military experience. And until 1971, State Department regulations kicked them out of the foreign service when they married.

The exceptions were notable: Jeanne Kirkpatrick, ambassador to the United Nations and close adviser to President Ronald Reagan. Rozanne Ridgway, one of the State Department's highest ranking women in both the Reagan and Carter administrations. Condoleeza Rice, top Soviet expert in the Reagan administration.

Clinton promised to bring more women into policy-making roles, and women do seem somewhat more visible. Like Reagan, Clinton has named a woman, Madeleine K. Albright, as his U.N. ambassador. Among the top three posts of his National Security Council, one is held by a woman, Soderberg. A former foreign policy aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., Soderberg is often listed among the core group of Clinton's advisers.

At the State Department, Clinton has put women into four senior posts that had been held by men in the Reagan and Bush administrations, giving him a more diverse group of assistant secretaries. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.