Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that women should play larger roles in conflict resolution and military efforts around the globe and that “smart power” includes empathizing and showing respect, even for one’s enemies, as the United States confronts a host of challenges on the world stage.
“It’s important to underscore this overriding fact: women are not just victims of conflict — they are agents of peace and agents of change,” Mrs. Clinton said at an event at Georgetown University as part of an initiative exploring how countries can promote women into such leadership roles.
Mrs. Clinton, who is seen as an overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 if she runs, pointed to the Philippines, which had been locked in a decades-long conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government before a breakthrough earlier this year.
“Hope for peace was all but gone when two strong women, Teresita Quintos Deles and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, took over the negotiations,” she said. “They made inclusivity their mantra and thanks greatly to their efforts, finally a peace was brokered in a historic deal.”
“This is what we call smart power — using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security, leaving no one on the sidelines, showing respect, even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view, helping to define the problems, determine the solutions,” she continued. “That is what we believe in the 21st century will change — change the prospects for peace.”
She said she hoped Ukraine will receive support to rebuild its military forces and should make it “at least possible” for women to be in positions of military and civilian authority and activity in defending the country.
Mrs. Clinton, who has distanced herself in the past from the Obama administration’s handling of the civil war in Syria, said that country is a much more challenging environment in which to try to take such a broader view on women’s roles.
“Syria is now a multi-sided conflict — the continuing role of the Assad government, propped up by Iran and most particularly through Hezbollah, acting on behest of Iran in supporting Assad, military support, money and equipment still coming to Assad from Russia, and then this proliferation of non-state actors, many of which are extremist groups who unfortunately fall into the category of being regressive, retrograde,” she said.
“It’s not only now a fight against Assad — it is a fight to seize and hold territory and to establish their own governance, if you will, and there seems to be no role for women,” she continued.
She said part of what must occur to combat the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and put pressure on Syrian President Bassar al-Ashad is probably first and foremost “a protective, humanitarian approach toward women in Syria” who have borne the brunt of the conflict.
She did point to Kurdish Peshmerga units that have men and women fighting side-by-side in some cases.
“We should do what we can to support those women who truly are on the front lines in protecting their communities against this extremist threat from ISIS and others,” she said.