The Nation: News Flash, Women Aren't All Pacifists Last week, as the U.N. debated the no-fly zone in Libya, three women were key in pushing for military intervention: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and human-rights adviser Samantha Power. Katha Pollitt of The Nation argues that their advice has been unfairly portrayed — especially when it shouldn't be a big deal at all.
NPR logo The Nation: News Flash, Women Aren't All Pacifists

The Nation: News Flash, Women Aren't All Pacifists

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, as human-rights adviser Samantha Power sits behind them during the United Nations General Assembly in September. All three women pushed for military intervention in Libya. Michael Nagle/Getty Images hide caption

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, as human-rights adviser Samantha Power sits behind them during the United Nations General Assembly in September. All three women pushed for military intervention in Libya.

Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Katha Pollitt is a longtime contributor to The Nation where her Subject to Debate column appears every other week.

It's been a long time since anyone seriously maintained that women in power, simply by virtue of their gender, are reliably less warlike than men — how could they be, given that men set up and control the system through which those women must rise? But apparently Nation blogger Robert Dreyfuss has just noticed this fact.

In a post entitled "Obama's Women Advisers Pushed War Against Libya" (originally titled "Obama's Women" tout court) he's shocked-shocked-shocked that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, human-rights adviser Samantha Power and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were keen on intervening militarily in Libya. The piece is dotted with arch and sexist language — the advisers are a "troika," a "trio" who "rode roughshod over the realists in the administration" (all men) and "pushed Obama to war." Now it's up to the henpecked president to "reign (sic) in his warrior women." Interestingly, the same trope — ballbreaking women ganging up on a weak president — is all over the right-wing blogosphere.

Whatever you think of the action against Gadhafi — count me as extremely apprehensive — it might just be that someone, even a woman, could support it for a reason other than sheer viciousness. The Clinton administration's inaction in the face of the Rwandan genocide was a formative experience for Power and Rice, and possibly for Hillary Clinton as well, given that President Clinton said his biggest regret was failing to prevent the genocide. Military action against Gadhafi may be a bad idea — another Iraq-like "cakewalk" — but people of good will can still see it as preferable to standing by as Gadhafi butchers the rebels, as he promised to do.

In any case, the fact that three women argued for it skillfully and won their point is not very interesting. So why stress it, except that it mobilizes a raft of misogynist tropes about castrating females, the dangers of petticoat government and the folly of expecting anything good to come out of gender equality? After all, can you imagine a piece in The Nation titled "Black President Opts for Bombs" or "Gadhafi, a Man, Threatens to Massacre Rebels, Most of Whom Are Also Men"?

Misogyny — it's the last acceptable prejudice of the left.