3.20.2010

WOMEN'S RIGHTS AS A SECURITY ISSUE

From On the Ground, by Nicholas Kristof:

"Hillary Clinton has been pushing hard to reframe women’s rights from 'soft issue' to 'security issue.' Obviously that’s partly because soft issues are shunted aside, while the security issues are discussed in the Situation Room and get billions of dollars thrown at them. In an interview with Andrea Mitchell released today, Clinton put it this way:


" 'I think that if you look at this century and you look at the instability, the conflicts that we have in so many places in the world, there’s a direct relationship between the subjugation and oppression of women and extremism. It is therefore in our interest to stand up for the rights of women. Because by doing so, we enhance our own security.'
"I think she’s dead right on that, of course. It’s a point that Sheryl and I made in Half the Sky, citing a fair amount of research. Indeed, I think a pretty good argument can be made that the reason the Islamic world is disproportionately turbulent and has 'bloody fringes,' as Samuel Huntington put it, doesn’t have to do with the Koran or religion in any direct way. Rather, it has to do with the fact that women are more likely to be marginalized in such countries. And when women are repressed, you have high birth rates — and hence a destabilizing youth bulge — and the country takes on the atmosphere of a boy’s locker room or an armed camp. Some American sociologists have argued that the American West was so violent in the 19th century precisely because there were so many young men and so few women.

"In the last few days, Hillary Clinton has been making these arguments right and left (although she has also made them in past years; this isn’t new for her). This is her most coherent speech on the topic; it’s very good and powerful, delivered to the U.N. I just wish that Bob Gates and David Petraeus were giving the same speech. When the Pentagon lists women’s rights as a security issue, that’s the historic milestone we need!"