[sixties-l] Masculinity As A Foreign Policy Issue

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 10/06/00

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    By Cynthia Enloe, Clark University
    (Editor's Note: Cynthia Enloe, widely respected for her analysis of
    gender and militarization issues, offers a feminist analysis of U.S.
    foreign policy. Excerpted below, this new policy brief is part of a new
    FPIF series on women and foreign policy, and can be found along with
    related briefs at:
    Many observers have remarked on the peculiar American contemporary
    political culture that equates military experience and/or military
    expertise with political leadership. It is this cultural inclination
    that has made it very risky for any American public figure to appear
    less "manly" than a uniformed senior military male officer. It is a
    culture--too often unchallenged by ordinary voters--that has given
    individuals with alleged military knowledge a disproportionate advantage
    in foreign policy debates.
    Such a masculinized and militarized culture pressures nervous civilian
    candidates into appearing "tough" on military issues. The thought of not
    embracing a parade of militarized policy positions--that increase the
    defense budget, make NATO the primary institution for building a new
    European security, expand Junior ROTC programs in high schools, insure
    American male soldiers' access to prostitutes overseas, invest in
    destabilizing antimissile technology, maintain crippling but politically
    ineffectual economic sanctions and bombing raids against Iraq, accept
    the Pentagon's flawed policy of "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue,"
    and finance a military-driven antidrug policy--would leave most American
    public officials (women and men) feeling uncomfortably vulnerable in the
    political culture that assigns high value to masculinized toughness. The
    result: a political competition to appear "tough" has produced U.S.
    foreign policies that severely limit the American capacity to play a
    useful role in creating a more genuinely secure international community.
    That is, America's conventional, masculinized political culture makes it
    unlikely that Washington policymakers will either come to grips with a
    realistic analysis of potential global threats or act to strengthen
    those multilateral institutions most effective in preventing and ending
    A feminist analysis turns the political spotlight on the conventional
    notion of manliness as a major factor shaping U.S. foreign policy
    choices. It demonstrates that popular gender presumptions are not just
    the stuff of sociology texts. Every official who has tried not to appear
    "soft" knows this. For example, early in his administration, Bill
    Clinton made known his abhorrence of landmines and his determination to
    ban them. But by 1998, he had caved in to military pressure and stated,
    instead, that the U.S. would not sign the widely endorsed international
    landmines treaty until the Defense Department came up with an
    Feminist questioning also produces a more realistic accounting of the
    consequences of macho policies. Despite slight increases in the number
    of women in policy positions, U.S. militarized policies in the post-cold
    war era have served to strengthen the privileged positions of men in
    decisionmaking, both in the United States and in other countries. For
    instance, the U.S. government is currently promoting NATO as the central
    bastion of Western security. Although it is true that there are now
    women soldiers in all NATO governments' armed forces (the Italians were
    the most recent to enlist women), NATO remains a masculinized political
    organization. The alliance's policies are hammered out by a virtually
    all-male elite in which the roles of masculinity are silently accepted,
    when they should be openly questioned. Thus, to the extent that the U.S.
    succeeds in pressing NATO to wield more political influence than the
    European Parliament (where women have won an increasing proportion of
    seats), not only American women but also European women will be shunted
    to the wings of the political stage.
    Consider what feminist analysis reveals about the consequences of
    militarizing antidrug policy. The American government's new
    billion-dollar-plus aid package to the Colombian military will, as its
    critics have noted [See FPIF brief "Colombia in Crisis," v 5, n 5],
    further intensify the civil war and human rights abuses. But less
    discussed is the fact that this policy will serve to marginalize women
    of all classes in Colombia's political life. This--the obsession of
    America's politicians and senior appointees with not appearing "soft" on
    drugs--militarizes drug prevention efforts and, in so doing, disempowers
    women both in the U.S. and in the drug producing countries. Women--both
    as grassroots urban activists in American cities and as mobilizers of a
    broad, cross-class peace movement in Colombia--have offered alternative
    analyses and solutions to the problems of drug addiction and drug trade.
    However, their valuable ideas are drowned out by the sounds of
    helicopter engines and M-16 rifles.
    This example illustrates a more general phenomenon. When any policy
    approach is militarized, one of the first things that happens is that
    women's voices are silenced. We find that when the U.S. touts any
    military institution as the best hope for stability, security, and
    development, the result is deeply gendered: the politics of masculinity
    are made to seem "natural," the male grasp on political influence is
    tightened, and most women's access to real political influence shrinks
    (Cynthia Enloe <cenloe@clarku.edu> is a leading feminist scholar and a
    professor of government and women's studies at Clark University. She is
    indebted to Carol Cohn, Mary Katzenstein, and Linda Yarr for their
    thoughtful readings and suggestions regarding this brief.)
    Sources for Further Information
    Center for Women's Global Leadership
    Douglass College, Rutgers University
    Email: cwgl@igc.org
    Website: <http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/>
    Committee on Women, Population and the Environment
    c/o Population and Development Program
    Hampshire College
    Email: cwpe@hampshire.edu
    Website: <http://www.cwpe.org/>
    Nationwide Women's Program
    American Friends Service Committee
    Email: <shamilton@afsc.org>
    Women in Conflict Zones
    Email: WICZNET@Yorku.CA
    Website: <http://www.yorku.ca/research/cfr/wicz/>
    Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
    Email: wedo@igc.org
    Website: <http://www.wedo.org/>
    Women In International Security
    CISSM/School of Public Affairs
    Email: <WIIS@umail.umd.edu>
    Web: http://www.puaf.umd.edu/wiis/
    World Wide Web
    International Campaign to Ban Landmines
    International Criminal Court (ICC) Caucus
    Youth and Military Online News

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