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Time to let Trump lead on women, peace and security

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In 2014, ISIS terrorists captured Nadia Murad, enslaved her, raped her, tortured her and killed seven members of her family in a single day. She escaped and became an advocate for the thousands of other Yazidi women suffering similar fates.

When Canadian journalist Lyse Doucet asked her at an event at Georgetown University this week whether things were getting better for women in the world, she said bluntly, “No.”

{mosads}In awkward contradiction, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the audience of undergraduates that our lives are better, just at an “inflection point.” We women face a backlash, she said, evoking common antipathy for President Donald Trump, and that what we need to move forward are laws, international organizations and “standard-setting.”


Nadia Murad did not need standard-setting when she was abducted into sexual slavery. She needed the United States and its allies to wipe ISIS off the face of the earth. The 7,000 other women captured with her need to be rescued and restored their freedom.   

The stark contrast between what elite women want and what most of the world’s women need bodes ill for future of the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017. Advocates should not let the new law’s implementation get bogged down by Clinton’s resistance movement, but should let the Trump administration shape it to the needs of its intended constituents such as Nadia.     

This will take discipline.

Congress rejected previous iterations of the legislation because they contained the Obama-Clinton version of the agenda. That version, embodied in a national action plan, mandated such things as transgender training for all officers in U.S. war colleges and claimed that abortion rights are part of the laws of war, a stratagem to undermine the Helms Amendment which bans taxpayer funding of abortions overseas. The authors of that plan are now pressing the administration to resuscitate it as its new strategy.

But when advocates got the agenda enacted into law, they not only lost on those divisive issues, they also raised the agenda to a higher level of public scrutiny. The law that passed simply aims to protect women and children in conflict and to get them to the table for conflict prevention, mitigation and reconciliation. It requires that the administration write an implementation strategy within the year.

Advocates should welcome the seriousness, and parsimony, that the Trump strategy can, and should, bring to the agenda.

This will not be easy for the agenda’s champions within the administration, either. The Women, Peace and Security Act literally imports the eponymous United Nations Security Council agenda into American foreign policy. That will turn off conservative foreign policy experts. Likewise, human rights skeptics will dismiss the strategy. That will be a mistake.

Contrary to what some pundits say, human rights always have been a part of U.S. foreign policy goals. The mixed motives behind U.S. intervention in conflict — national interest, international law and universal values — vary depending upon the administration, but they are ever present. One reason is that we need coalition partners who in turn use their own alchemy of mixed motives to persuade their publics to back us.  

It is fortuitous for Nadia, for the agenda, and even for the president’s feminist detractors who must relinquish the agenda, that it is the Trump administration who will implement it.  

Fighting to make the Women, Peace and Security strategy resemble the Obama-Clinton-era plan will only marginalize it. Allowing the administration breathing space to mainstream the agenda into U.S. national security objectives gives it a chance to help the many women who remain in captivity, and those women and girls still at risk of capture and enslavement.

Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D., is a Gulf War veteran and the author of “Waging War to Make Peace: U.S. Intervention in Global Conflicts.” She is senior vice president for research at the Center for Family and Human Rights in Washington.

Tags Donald Trump Foreign policy of the United States Hillary Clinton ISIS Nadia Murad Politics of the United States War crimes Yazidis

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