With women in uniform fighting – and dying – in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re long past the point where it’s extraordinary (although still argued about) to see women earning Purple Hearts and other combat decorations. They’ve been fighter pilots for years.
But as I read about the Obama administration’s evolution in support of military action against Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, I couldn’t help but notice an important distinction in the line up of senior officials.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said laying the groundwork for a no-fly zone would take “upwards of a week.” That was two days ago, and already the bombs from allied jets are falling on Libyan military targets. So are cruise missiles from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea.
But as Qaddafi’s army and air force kept pounding the rebels and the United Nations moved – faster than its typically glacial speed – to stop the Libyan dictator from killing more of his own people, it was senior women in the administration who pushed the process toward military intervention.
“The three women were pushing for American intervention to stop a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Libya,” according to the newspaper.
In op-ed columns in the nation’s leading newspaper, this gender gap was apparent too.
“To me, it seems we have no clear basis for action,” he wrote. “Whatever resources we dedicate for a no-fly zone would probably be too little, too late. We would once again be committing our military to force regime change in a Muslim land, even though we can't quite bring ourselves to say it. So let's recognize that the basic requirements for successful intervention simply don't exist, at least not yet: We don't have a clearly stated objective, legal authority, committed international support or adequate on-the-scene military capabilities, and Libya's politics hardly foreshadow a clear outcome.”
“We should have learned these lessons from our long history of intervention,” Gen. Clark concluded. “We don't need Libya to offer us a refresher course in past mistakes.”
“Now we have a chance to support a real new beginning in the Muslim world – a new beginning of accountable governments that can provide services and opportunities for their citizens in ways that could dramatically decrease support for terrorist groups and violent extremism,” she wrote. “It’s hard to imagine something more in our strategic interest.”
“Any use of force must be carefully and fully debated, but that debate has now been had,” wrote Dr. Slaughter, now a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. “It’s been raging for a week, during which almost every Arab country has come on board calling for a no-flight zone and Colonel Qaddafi continues to gain ground. It is time to act.”
One can make too much of any “gender gap” in military affairs in the Obama administration. But it’s worth noting.