"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
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
"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
It's unclear how better visibility for women translates into
more of a policy-making role as the foreign policy issues change. …