As we watch this president inflame nuclear tensions with North Korea, take steps that could lead to war with Iran, and increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan, it is clear that one of the most absurd ideas floated during the 2016 election was that Hillary Clinton would have been more hawkish on foreign policy than Donald Trump.
In order to combat that notion, I wrote about the way the former secretary of state had implemented a “feminist foreign policy” during her tenure with the Obama administration. What I didn’t address was how Trump’s misogyny would play a role in his approach to global affairs.
Does the status of women elsewhere in the world matter to U.S. national security? On Dec. 19, President Trump released his answer in the latest National Security Strategy (NSS), one of his first opportunities to outline what an “America First” foreign policy will look like.
While there are several notable changes from those released by previous administrations, one of the most striking is the sharp turn away from recent policies — backed by a significant amount of research — that treat the well-being of women around the globe as critical to peace and prosperity.
Matfess goes on to review the records of previous presidents when it comes to the ink they devoted to the well-being of women in their NSS. An interesting pattern emerges. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama went beyond verbiage to outline how their administrations would empower women as a path to peace and prosperity. But Trump joins previous Republican administrations in pretty much ignoring the issue. In reviewing Obama’s 2010 NSS, Matfess notes this:
This wording echoes findings from feminist academics who have found that “gender gaps” in the rights of women, their economic participation and the violence enacted upon them result in worse health outcomes and stalled economic growth. Further, they find that the higher the level of violence against women, the worse a nation-state’s relations with its neighboring countries and the less peacefully it will behave internationally. Nations with bigger gender gaps are more likely to be involved in inter- and intra-state conflict, and to use violence first in a conflict. How a nation treats women, in other words, indicates how it will treat its neighbors.
It is impossible to review the work of these two Democratic administrations without taking into account the role that Hillary Clinton (and Michelle Obama) played in making the connection between the treatment of women and national security. As a reminder, here is what Clinton said back in 1995 at the World Conference on Women:
If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace everywhere in the world, as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled, subjected to violence in and outside their homes—the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized.
As Obama’s Secretary of State, this is what she said in 2012 on International Women’s Day:
The United States is committed to making women and their advancement a cornerstone of our foreign policy not just because it’s the right thing to do. Investing in women and girls is good for societies, and it is also good for the future prosperity of countries. Women drive our economies. They build peace and prosperity and political stability for everyone—men and women, boys and girls. So let us recommit ourselves to a future of equality.
It should come as no surprise that none of that is important to Donald Trump. While Ivanka is supporting the development of a fund at the World Bank to finance women entrepreneurs, her father’s administration isn’t simply ignoring the role that supporting women plays in national security. He is doing things like eliminating funding for the United Nations Populations Fund.
UNFPA is on the front lines in more than 150 countries, often in places where the U.S. can’t be, providing critical services, such as voluntary family planning, midwife training, pre-natal care and safe delivery services, and working to end child marriage and female genital mutilation. UNFPA does not fund or perform abortions or forced sterilizations anywhere in the world. Instead, the agency offers voluntary family planning to prevent unintended pregnancies which, in turn, empowers girls and women to pursue an education, earn an income, and live more prosperous lives.
Needless to say, all of this would be developing very differently under a Clinton presidency. That’s old news by now, but the lesson is as relevant as ever—it’s never a good idea to elect a misogynist as president.