Hillary: WarmongerPosted: March 6, 2011
The header on the cover is “Hillary’s War,” but on the website the cover story–written by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon–is called “The Hillary Doctrine.”
“Hillary’s War” is not what you think–it takes the common charge against Hillary as the warmonger to outmonger all the men before and after her and turns that canard on its ugly little head.
Hillary’s war is her campaign for all of us–her fight for women and girls. Because if women are left behind there can be no lasting progress. As the byline on the cover notes, Hillary is “shattering glass ceilings everywhere.”
Two other recent pieces/interviews of Hillary that are a must-read for anyone who follows Hillary, btw:
Hilarious to see Kathleen Parker’s whimpy whine that “Women make lousy men” appear as a footnote on the Newsweek cover next to Hillary’s beautiful, beaming face. It’s so revealing. While conservative hacks like Parker are still busy fighting that old battle of the sexes, Hillary and the rest of us in her fearsome army are trying to bring women and girls to the table for the benefit of us all.
So much of Hillary’s comments on Egypt in the last few months–as Barack Obama’s secretary of state–have come across as a pro-stability argument for the West at the cost of a people’s right to self-governance, especially when viewed through the limited backburner coverage we usually get of Hillary’s work from the mainstream media. But, Lemmon’s piece puts the pieces of the Hillary Clinton puzzle into perspective.
Hillary has always been about putting women and girls front and center. And, any time women are left behind, there really isn’t true self-governance by a large segment of that populace anyway.
In Hillary’s own words:
“I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century,” Clinton recently told NEWSWEEK during another rare moment relaxing on a couch in the comfortable sitting room of her offices on the State Department’s seventh floor, her legs propped up in front of her. “We see women and girls across the world who are oppressed and violated and demeaned and degraded and denied so much of what they are entitled to as our fellow human beings.”
Clinton is paying particular attention to whether women’s voices are heard within the local groups calling for and leading change in the Middle East. “You don’t see women in pictures coming from the demonstrations and the opposition in Libya,” she told NEWSWEEK late last week, adding that “the role and safety of women will remain one of our highest priorities.” As for Egypt, she said she was heartened by indications that women would be included in the formation of the new government. “We believe that women were in Tahrir Square, and they should be part of the decision-making process. If [the Egyptians] are truly going to have a democracy, they can’t leave out half the population.”
On Saturday, I linked to two pieces that discuss the issue of women and where they fit in in the New Egypt at length. One thing that really struck me while reading both pieces and in this Newsweek feature on Hillary is that there’s this intersection of top-down and bottom-up efforts going on when Hillary brings women’s voices to the international table. She’s building the structure from the top down, but in doing so, she’s not just putting policies into place, she’s also planting the seeds for women and like-minded men to continue the advocacy work from the bottom-up.
Another thing about Hillary that immediately struck me is that she’s more comfortable in her skin than ever, and it shows in the photo of her on the Newsweek cover. She is doing work of purpose–the unfinished work of the 21st century.
Hillary’s presence in Barack Obama’s Cabinet itself is a symbol that speaks volumes. I often think of this picture from when Obama nominated Hillary. To me that photo says it all: There can be no lasting progress if she is left behind.
It’s not just identity politics. Hillary has taken pains to translate the symbolic into the concrete. Or, what a Young Hillary Rodham called the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible. But more about that later.
In her Newsweek piece on Hillary, Lemmon writes:
Her campaign has begun to resonate in unlikely places. In the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, where women cannot travel without male permission or drive a car, a grandson of the Kingdom’s founding monarch (Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud) last month denounced the way women are “economically and socially marginalized” in Arab countries.
Is Newsweek’s newly hired Andrew Sullivan reading this? LOL. Getting the grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch to denounce the marginalization of women… not bad for an untalented, drab woman like Hillary, which is what Sullivan has always insisted about Hill.
Hillary puts the Mama-in-chief propaganda on both sides of the political spectrum in the US to shame, and Lemmon underscores this by bestowing Hillary with the following:
advocate in chief for women worldwide
I was really glad to see Newsweek note the following, as well, because predictably, it didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time:
As she noted in Qatar in January, two weeks before Egypt’s first “day of rage,” the Middle East’s old foundations were “sinking into the sand.”
Here’s a state.gov transcript link to what Hillary had said in Qatar. I’m only going to quote a short bit, so click the link if you’d like to read the larger context of her remarks — it’s very thoughtful and incredibly prophetic given the global events that unfolded right after she spoke:
But in too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere.
This wasn’t just two weeks before Egypt’s first day of rage–Hillary said this THE day before Ben Ali fled Tunisia.
That’s our Hillary–we can add cassandra-in-chief to the list of her titles.
Another key theme of Hillary’s work on behalf of women and girls emerges in Lemmon’s piece:
“This is a big deal for American values and for American foreign policy and our interests, but it is also a big deal for our security,” she told NEWSWEEK. “Because where women are disempowered and dehumanized, you are more likely to see not just antidemocratic forces, but extremism that leads to security challenges for us.”
Hillary has been saying this all along, of course:
Exhibit A: “What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well.” –First Lady HRC
Exhibit B: “the role and rights of women in today’s world is a critical core concern of foreign policy — it *is* national security.” –SecState HRC
Theresa Loar–who helped Hillary organize the Beijing delegation in 1995–tells Newsweek that she (Loar) got a call from the National Security Council after Hillary expressed interest in speaking at the conference. The NSC told Loar that her job was to make sure Hillary doesn’t go to China. Loar says her reaction at the time was to think “my job is to make sure it’s a rip-roaring success—and guess who is going to succeed?”
And, succeed Hillary did. Hillary’s 1995 speech was a call for all women to assume our rightful places in society and our political voices. When Kirsten Gillibrand took Hillary’s old Senate seat, I remember her describing Hillary’s speech as the clarion call that helped inspire her to become more politically involved. Similarly, the current Newsweek piece describes how Mu Sochua, a prominent Cambodian opposition leader, decided to enter politics the day she met Hillary in Beijing and heard her give that speech.
Theresa Loar also had this to say:
“I honestly think Hillary Clinton wakes up every day thinking about how to improve the lives of women and girls. And I don’t know another world leader who is doing that.”
There are some wonderful paragraphs in the Newsweek piece that talk about Hillary becoming the first secretary of state in two decades to visit Yemen. A tiny snippet:
It’s also a country where a man may marry a girl of 9, and so Clinton sought out the kind of people who rarely meet American secretaries of state—the students, community activists, and, most obviously, the women.
Anybody who has been following Hillary’s work as secretary of state or really her entire history knows this is no anomaly. Hillary has always been about using her voice to bring out the voices and the causes of the marginalized, and she’s made “townterviews” with students, activists, and women a staple of her diplomatic visits around the globe.
A great quote from
Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues and longtime partner with Hillary Clinton in her work for women Hillary Clinton:
“Politics is seen in most societies, including our own, I would add, as a largely male sport—unarmed combat—and women are very often ignored or pushed aside in an effort to gain or consolidate power,” she says. Her work aims to change that.
[Edit to correct. It was Hillary who said it, not Melanne. Right before that the Newsweek piece talked about how Melanne is at Hillary’s side.]
Hillary and Melanne and countless others fighting this “war” understand that the health of a society can be gauged by how well society treats its women.
Like I said earlier, this goes beyond identity politics. Hillary is not content to let the story just be about herself as an image and end there. Hillary wants to translate her star power and the movement she has created and make sure it is built into something that will outlast her and make lasting change for women, so that when she and Melanne and the rest of the Hillaryland crew aren’t there, the work will still continue:
For her part, Clinton says that her ambition now is to move the discussion beyond a reliance on her own celebrity. She must, she says, take her work on women’s behalf “out of the interpersonal and turn it into the international.” At the State Department, that goal is reflected in a new and sweeping strategic blueprint known as the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which establishes priorities over a four-year horizon. Women and girls are mentioned 133 times across the 220 pages of the final QDDR document.
By institutionalizing a process that recognizes the importance of women’s involvement, Clinton hopes her successors will continue what she has started. Many of those on the front lines of implementing Clinton’s changes say they believe her message will stick. “Once you have built this track record, it is much harder to ignore it,” says Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as a chief architect of the QDDR process.
Others worry that without Hillary, the causes of women and girls will return to the backburner:
“There is a culture at State, and you have to break through that culture,” admits one former ambassador. “The guys who work on country-to-country relationships don’t think these issues are central.” Clinton’s efforts could easily stall or be reversed when she and Verveer leave, he adds, in part because each is so good at what she does. “I think the combination of those two personalities is crucial, and that’s why I can’t be at all sure it will last beyond this administration.”
Here’s how Hillary responds to that kind of concern:
Asked whether she worries her eventual departure from the State Department will endanger the future of her mission, Clinton admits to feeling a great weight of responsibility for all the women and girls she has met and the many millions of others like them. “It is why there are 133 references to women and girls in the QDDR,” she says, turning reflexively to the hard evidence. “It is why I mention the issue in every setting I am in, and why I mention it with every foreign leader I meet.
Whatever concessions Hillary has made to work from within the system, and however much I often disagree with the US foreign policy machine that she is very much apart of, Hillary is using her political capital to try her best to make space for ALL of us to keep talking well beyond her tenure at the State Department and open up the space even more and resolve a lot of those foreign policy impasses that have proven so far impenetrable. Hillary’s “war” and “doctrine” is bigger than Hillary, and always was.
That is what separates Hillary from the empty suits and skirts whose audacity and moxie stops where their images stop.
I still can’t wait for Hillary to get back to her advocacy roots and set up that foundation for women and girls. But, I’m also so very glad to hear that my intuition about Hillary and why she is so tireless in always bringing up women and girls has been correct and that it is all very much part of a strategy on her part to integrate women at every later of national security and foreign policy.
I don’t want to ruin the ending lines of the Newsweek piece for you, because it’s so good, you need to read it for yourself. I’ll leave you with this passage from the piece instead, which I found very moving as well:
Squeezed in elbow to elbow around a long wooden table in the State Department’s Jefferson Room was a virtual cabinet gathering, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. As host of the meeting, which began so promptly that several attendees sheepishly slid in late, Clinton asked each of the officials to share their team’s progress. She moved briskly around the table, then stopped to make a frank appeal. “One thing I would urge, if you do get a chance, is to visit a shelter, a site where trafficking victims have been rescued and are being rehabilitated,” she said to a room that had suddenly gone silent. “I recently was in Cambodia, and it is just so overwhelmingly heartbreaking and inspiring to see these young girls. One girl lost her eyes—to punish her, the owner of the brothel had stabbed her in the eye with a nail,” Clinton continued. “She was the most optimistic, cheerful young woman, just a tremendous spirit. What she wants to do when she grows up is help other victims of trafficking, so there is just an enormous amount of work to be done.”
The shelter Clinton referred to is run by the Cambodian activist Somaly Mam, who herself was forced into a brothel as a little girl. Mam credits Clinton’s visit with making her work rescuing young victims respectable in the eyes of her government. “She protects our lives,” Mam says simply, noting that during her visit Clinton took the time to talk with the girls and that many of the shelter’s children now keep photos of her on their walls. “Our people never paid attention. Hillary has opened their eyes, so now they have no choice; by her work she has saved many lives in Cambodia—our government is changing.”
This is change that will reverberate. I don’t have to “believe” in the idea of it. This is change I can see. Words translated into action.
It’s also worth noting that this “warmonger” on behalf of women’s rights was kept off the domestic stage in the US at a time when the right wing’s armageddon on women’s civil rights was taking foot. Just think if we had her to respond to Stupak and all the odious baby Stupaks it has spawned across the nation.