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Remember back in June when we wrote about Prof. Anne Marie Slaughter’s amazing article in the Atlantic about women and careers and the 21st century?

It sparked quite the debate, as it should, and Slaughter recently published a short follow-up piece in Foreign Policy: Why Family Is a Foreign-Policy Issue (FP, December 2012)

It’s actaully less a follow up and more a ‘broadening the issue’-piece and as we love an informed debate here at the Gates, I will take some time to add my thoughts on some of the issues, as well as suggest places you can read more on soft power, smart power and women in foreign policy.

(this is what happened: I was looking for a picture to go with this post. And “foreign policy” and “soft power” didn’t work as search tools, or rather, it didn’t bring my what i felt like putting in this space. So i thought “hmmm… a nice picture of the world would do.” I didn’t want a map though (insert West Wing joke for those of you who remember CJ’s encounter with the mad map people). I wanted… a GLOBE. And when you google that ladies and gentlemen, you get this as well. A beautiful shot of the Globe Theatre in London. And I love Shakespeare. Recall his line: “all the world’s a stage“. That works well with the discussion below of soft power. So there you are. This picture seems pretty perfect. Credits: ShakespearesGlobe)

Slaughter her puts forth her basic argument: Women add a significant and vital perspective to the political debate, and missing out on that (because the system structurally gerrymanders men) is bad for society and the world.

 Does it matter if the president has an all-testosterone team shaping America’s place in the world? I’m sure it does, and in ways that hinder the country’s ability to address the complex new challenges of our 21st-century planet. More than a decade after 19 men armed merely with box cutters and their own radical convictions struck at the heart of the most awesome military power in world history, we are only now beginning to focus on societies as well as on states as part of the core foreign-policy agenda. The world of states is still the world of high politics, hard power, realpolitik, and, largely, men. The world of societies is still too often the world of low politics, soft power, human rights, democracy, and development, and, largely, women.

Foreign Policy in November actually published a belated response to Slaughter’s second point (the reasons why fewer women reach the echelons of politics) by the magazine’s Rosa Brooks (You can have it all..once your kids are in college) . She echoes Slaughter’s points, adding new perspective and nuances. And again stresses the issue of soft power being given a more central role in foreign policy in order to advance stability and security. And Brooks knows what she’s writing about!

Slaughter’s piece can –  and should (considering her past job in Obama’s administration and her close ties to Clinton, who was her boss) be read in conjunction with Hillary Clinton’s manifesto (that’s me calling it that, the State Department called it a ‘fact sheet’) from March 2012: Promoting Gender Equality To Achieve Our National Security and Foreign Policy Objectives

In this slightly-longer-than-1-page overview, Clinton outlines a number of core issues and strategies, all tied into her famous “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights“- statement from 1995 (analysed wonderfully over at The Eloquent Women’s blog where you can find the link to the full speech):

Evidence shows that investments in women’s employment, health, and education are correlated with greater economic growth and more successful development outcomes. Engaging women as political and social actors can change policy choices and makes institutions more representative and better performing. And a growing body of evidence shows that women bring a range of unique experiences and contributions in decision-making on matters of peace and security that lead to improved outcomes in conflict prevention and resolution.

Clinton has certainly been driving that point home during her time as Secretary of State. We still don’t know if she’s running for president in 2016 (pundits, adversaries, adherents, commentators and bloggers were disagreeing on whether her address to the Saban conference in early December was a farewell to Washington and politics, or the first step in her presidential campaign. The remarks can be read here, the video watched here. And you can judge for yourself.)

But Clinton’s focus on soft power is hardly a fundamental shift in American foreign policy, since the debate on Soft Power (and SMART POWER – which needs to be addressed much more fully) has been simmering in the past decade.

I will suggest keeping it on mind though, as we move into the year 2013 and the various international crises erupting all over the globe. Thinking “bottom-up” and not just “top-down” when approaching a problem seems to me to be a fundamental strategy in designing a solution. And it is not just “a woman’s thing.”  It is a thinking person’s thing… Smart Power is also going to be a buzz word.

  • A good, short Foreign Policy article on soft power can be found here (Joseph S. Nye Jr: Think Again: Soft Power / 2006),
  • the British government has this study (Foreign policy: soft power and national security) – addressing public diplomacy too.
  • this book (Inderjeet Parmar & Inderjeet Parmar (eds.) Soft Power and US Foreign Policy: Theoretical, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives / 2010) is one I am looking forward to reading once I have actual free time on my hands!