Authors Valerie M. Hudson and Patricia Leidl last year published a timely book: “The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy,” a volume examining the “proposition that the empowerment of women is a stabilizing force for domestic and international peace.”
For its March/April issue, Foreign Affairs magazine is running a deep review of the book under the headline “A Feminist Foreign Policy.” Clinton herself would be unlikely to quibble with the text of the review, considering that it includes these passages:
- “There are some women who surmount gender stereotypes but then do little to help others confront that challenge. Clinton is not one of them. Having faced sexism throughout her long career in public life, she has shown an uncommon determination to use her official positions and influence to promote opportunities for women in the United States and abroad.”
- “Although she managed to transform the way U.S. foreign-policy makers approach gender issues, measured in near hindsight, Clinton’s power, political acumen, and passion for the advancement of women yielded only modest tangible results abroad. Among the obstacles Clinton faced were the sclerosis of the U.S. policymaking bureaucracy and the opposition and indifference of foreign governments.”
- “Although Hudson and Leidl fault USAID bureaucrats for insisting on measurable, rapid results from development programs that are designed to work over decades, they commit a similar mistake by searching for demonstrable results from Clinton’s work only a few years after she first made women’s rights a U.S. priority.”
- “Women’s issues are worth permanent prioritization for all the reasons that Clinton has cited: women’s fates are inextricably intertwined with those of their societies, the mistreatment of women is often a harbinger of authoritarianism and militancy, and the United States’ national security is enhanced when women’s well-being is secured and their economic and social potential are unleashed.”
- None of this is to suggest that Clinton doesn’t deserve primary credit for raising women’s rights from a pet initiative to a policy issue that is taken seriously across the U.S. government. But even as she seeks the presidency and pursues the power to build on her earlier efforts, we should remember that it will fall to her successors to determine whether the slow and steady work of reshaping the position of the world’s women is sustained long enough—and executed well enough—to achieve Clinton’s lofty goals.”
The subtitle of the review is “Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices,” a rather stark and almost promotional variation on the title of Clinton’s 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices.”
Who put together this review? Suzanne Nossel, whom Foreign Affairs identifies as “executive director of PEN American Center and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations.” Foreign Affairs also identifies her as a “volunteer adviser on human rights issues to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” Wouldn’t that last credential strip Nossel of her credential to write a review of a book about Hillary Clinton?
We put that question to Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose. The reply:
We asked Suzanne Nossel to review the Hudson and Leidl book because of her deep personal knowledge and experience of the subject, which is the role of gender and women’s issues in American foreign policy in general and during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department in particular. As a former State Department official and current head of a rights-related NGO, she had, we believed, better standing than most to address the often competing moral and practical imperatives involved. While the piece was being edited, we learned that Nossel had an informal relationship with the Clinton campaign. We debated how to handle the situation and, after assessing that the level of involvement with the campaign was extremely minor, I decided to continue with the publication of the review, which we felt met our editorial standards on its own terms, while at the same time acknowledging the connection up front, so our readers had full information with which to judge its argument for themselves.
Yes, Foreign Affairs was upfront about the conflict. And yes, that’s one heck of a conflict.