Wednesday, October 17, 2012

State Department: Two Days After Benghazi, "Leaning Forward" on "Gender Mainstreaming"

    Egypt and Libya are the two most significant countries in Africa where U.S. foreign policy is currently focused.  In the aftermath of the riots at US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the State Department was scrambling to put together a sequence of events for the two incidents, deal with the fallout from the "apology" tweets and press release from the Embassy in Cairo, cope with the death of an ambassador and three other consulate personnel, determine the cause of the demonstrations and attacks, and handle the protests against the US that were spreading across the region.

    However, in the midst of the storm, the regularly scheduled business of the State Department continued, including participation in the Africa Center for Strategic Studies/AFRICOM Conference in Washington, D.C.  Patricia Haslach, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the State Department spoke at a luncheon at the conference on September 13, 2012, two days after the Benghazi attacks.  Here's how the State Department reported her remarks:

    The transcript of Ms. Haslach's remarks detail some laudable goals and worthy causes.  I will leave a full discussion of the merits of these efforts to others.  But "Gender Mainstreaming in the African Armed Forces" in a part of the world where women are often treated as less than second class, increasingly less than human as strict Islamists gain more power (e.g., Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood,) is more suggestive of Western-style political correctness than addressing the primary needs and rights of women and girls in those societies as they exist today.  In any case, the timing was hardly appropriate.  The following is an excerpt from Ms. Haslach's remarks:
Reflecting this nation’s commitment to [UN Security Council Resolution] 1325, in December 2011 President Obama signed an executive order launching the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. This plan provides a comprehensive roadmap for accelerating and institutionalizing efforts across the federal government to advance women’s participation in making and keeping peace. The goal is as simple as it is profound: to empower half the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity. 
Achieving this goal is critical to our national and global security. The prospects for preventing deadly conflicts and forging sustainable peace will be much brighter when women become equal partners in all aspects of peace-building and conflict prevention—when their lives are protected, their experiences considered, and their voices heard. 
After the President issued the executive order, Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said, “The fact that women have represented fewer than three percent of mediators and eight percent of negotiators to major peace processes since 1992 demonstrates that world leaders wage peace far too often with hands tied behind their backs.”
     As far as goals that are "critical to our national and global security," "gender mainstreaming" should be considerably down the list when the security of our diplomatic facilities worldwide has been called into question.  In view of the events of September 11th, perhaps the State Department would have been wise to take a rain check on this conference luncheon, or at least picked a more germane topic to address.  In any event, countries such as the United States may have the luxury of debating "women in combat" and Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the military.  But "gender mainstreaming"?  Too often in Africa, women (and men) are just trying to survive.

No comments:

Post a Comment