Toward a New Foreign Policy

By Enloe, Cynthia | Foreign Policy in Focus, October 9, 2000 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Foreign Policy


Enloe, Cynthia, Foreign Policy in Focus


Asking feminist questions openly, making them an explicit part of serious foreign policy discussion, is likely to produce a much more clear-eyed understanding of what is driving any given issue debate and what are the probable outcomes of one policy choice over another. Precisely because the United States currently has such an impact on the internal political workings of so many other countries, we need to start taking a hard look at American political culture. If this globalizing culture continues to elevate a masculinized "toughness" to the status of an enshrined good, military needs will continue to be assigned top political priority, and it will be impossible for the U.S. to create a more imaginative, more internationally useful foreign policy.

Cultures are not immutable. Americans, in fact, are forever lecturing other societies--Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, France--on how they should remake their cultures. U.S. citizens, however, have been loath to lift up the rock of political convention to peer underneath at the masculinized presumptions and worries that shape American foreign policies.

What would be the most immediate steps toward unravelling the masculinized U.S. foreign policy knot? A first step would be to muster the political will to congressionally ratify the International Criminal Court treaty, the antilandmines treaty, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A second step would be for Democrats and Republicans to halt their reckless game of "chicken" regarding both the antimissile defense system and increases in U.S. military spending. A third step would entail daring to own up to the consequences of making the military Colombia's most potent institution and opting, instead, to join European countries in supporting Colombia's peace process and adopting anti-narcotics policies that treat drugs largely as a medical and social problem rather than a military problem. …

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