Ann Jones on Making Peace

This a longish piece but well worth the effort.  The important lesson from this is not so much that women must be at the table in order to achieve best results but that civil society must be at the table in full measure.  As it stands, the women likely at the table will typically be inclined to talk for that civil society.  Thus the best solution today is to insist on the involvement of women because the chances of the men actually at the table having the correct sensibilities is pretty slim.

It took the lesson of world war two to redress the monstrous peace of 1918 and enlightened common sense then on the part of the Americans to gain a sane peace. Even then Russian jockeying was needed to complete the first step of restoring the defeated. 

Had attention been paid immediately to the protection of civil society, far wiser decisions would have been made earlier.  At least today, no one debates the need to restore such society as been the best guaranteer of success.

The UN connected the dots and put in the appropriate resolution.  Fear still keeps it from been used because the men involved can see no advantage that they can extract.

Ann Jones, Can Women Make Peace?

Posted by AnnJones at 8:00am, January 13, 2011.

Last week, Pentagon budget “cuts” were in the headlines, often almostluridly so -- “Pentagon Faces the Knife,” “Pentagon to Cut Spending by $78 Billion, Reduce Troop Strength,”“U.S. Aims to Cut Defense Budget and SlashTroops.”  Responding to the mood of the moment in Washington (“thefiscal pressures the country is facing”), Secretary of Defense Robert Gates andChairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen made those headlines bycalling a news conference to explain prospective “cuts” theywere proposing.  Summing the situation up, Mullen seconded Gates this way:“The secretary's right, we can't hold ourselves exempt from thebelt-tightening.”

Gates then appeared on the PBS NewsHour to explain the nature ofPentagon “belt-tightening,” while reminding anchor Jim Lehrer that last yearthe Pentagon announced plans to cap or cut “programs that, had they been builtto conclusion, would have cost the taxpayers about $330 billion.”  Thenewest $78 billion in cuts over five years was to be considered but an add-onto already supposedly staggering savings, which he described as “changes in theexpected dollars that we thought we were going to have when we prepared lastyear's budget.”  According to the Secretary of Defense, this massive setof cuts would, in fact, guarantee “modest growth” in the already monstrous Pentagon budget for at least thenext three years.

Keeping Mullen’s “belt-tightening” image in mind, what you have here,imagistically speaking, is an especially obese man cutting down on his ownfuture expectations for how much he’s planning to overeat, even as he continuesto increase what he’s actually eating.  In other words, this is actuallya belt-loosening operation.  (And by the way, theSecretary of Defense knows perfectly well that some of his “cuts,” announcedwith such flare, will never make it through a Congress where powerful Republicans, amongothers, prefer to exempt the national security budget fromserious cuts, or any cuts at all.)
Consider this indicative of the new thinking we can expect from Washington in a crisis.

 As new, in fact, as the announcement less than a week into 2011 -- the yearPresident Obama once targeted for a major drawdown of U.S. forces inAfghanistan -- that 1,400 more Marines were being sent into that country. It was a small but striking reminder that, as in 2009 and 2010, when it comesto the widening war in the region, the path of “more” (and more of the same)would invariably trump the idea of “less.”  This is the war-zone versionof “belt-tightening.”

Similarly, when the President decided to “shake up” his administration for a new era ofsplit-screen government in Washington, he called on a top JPMorgan Chase exec (also deeplyenmeshed in the military-industrial complex and Big Pharma) and a former Goldman Sachs advisor, both Clintonistas ofthe 1990s, to do the shaking.  This passes for “new blood” in our nation'scapital.  Think of it this way: if you fill the room with the same oldsame old, you’ll always end up with some version of the same old same old.

Today, just to shake things up a tad, TomDispatch offers some actualnew thinking of a sort you won’t find in Washington. It's from Ann Jones, a hands-on aid worker, TomDispatch regular, and remarkable writer.  Hereloquent new book, War Is Not Over When It’s Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruinsof War, will undoubtedly go largely unreviewed, because when wars “end”even as the destruction of women (and children) continues, it’s no longerreally news. 

Worse yet, she favors the “less” path in Afghanistan, where any pathheading vaguely in the direction of “peace” (a word now synonymous with“utopian dolt” or “bleeding heart idiot”) will automatically be waved aside ashopeless.  Since putting any money behind thinking about or testing outnew pathways towards peace in our world is inconceivable, we’ll never know what might work.  Youcan put $130 million taxpayer dollars into a newaircraft-fueling system at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or billions oftaxpayer dollars into the Pakistani military (defending a country inwhich the rich go notoriously untaxed), but not one cent for peace.  As for women, well, too bad.  (To catch Timothy MacBain'slatest TomCast audio interview in which Jones discusses why wars never end forwomen and girls, click here or, to download it to your iPod, here.) Tom

Why Peace Is the Business of Men (But Shouldn’t Be)

A Modest Proposal for the Immodest Brotherhood of Big Men

Looking for a way out of Afghanistan?  Maybe it’s timeto try something entirely new and totally different.  So how about puttinginto action, for the first time in recorded history, the most enlightened edictever passed by the United Nations Security Council: Resolution 1325?

Passed on October 31, 2000, more than a decade ago, that “landmark”resolution was hailed worldwide as a great “victory” for women andinternational peace and security. In a nutshell, SCR 1325 calls for women toparticipate equally and fully at decision-making levels in all processes ofconflict resolution, peacemaking, and reconstruction.  Without the activeparticipation of women in peacemaking every step of the way, the SecurityCouncil concluded, no just and durable peace could be achieved anywhere.

“Durable” was the key word.  Keep it in mind.

Most hot wars of recent memory, little andbig, have been resolved or nudged into remission through what is called apower-sharing agreement.  The big men from most or all of the warringparties -- and war is basically a guy thing, in case you hadn’t noticed --shoulder in to the negotiating table and carve up a country’s or region’smilitary, political, and financial pie.  Then they proclaim the resultingdeal “peace.”

But as I learned firsthand as an aid worker in one so-calledpost-conflict country after another, when the men in power stop shooting ateach other, they often escalate the war against civilians -- especially women and girls.  It seems to be hard formen to switch off violence, once they’ve gotten the hang of it.  From Liberia to Myanmar, rape, torture, mutilation,and murder continue unabated or even increase in frequency. In other words,from the standpoint of civilians, war is often not over when it’s “over,” andthe “peace” is no real peace at all.  Think of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the notorious “rape capital ofthe world,” where thousands upon thousands of women are gang-rapedagain and again although the country has officially been at “peace” since 2003.

In addition, power-sharing agreements among combatants tend to fray,and half of them unravel into open warfare again within a few years. Consider Liberia throughout the 1990s, Angola in 1992 and 1998, Cambodia in 1997, and Iraq in 2006-2007.  At thismoment, we are witnessing the breakdown of one power-sharing agreement in the Ivory Coast, and certainly the femicidalconsequences of another, made in 2001, in Afghanistan.

It is this repeated recourse to war and the unrelenting abuse andneglect of civilians during fleeting episodes of “peace” that prompted theSecurity Council to seek the key to more durable solutions. They recognized that men at the negotiating table still jockey for power andwealth -- notably control of a country’s natural resources -- while womenincluded at any level of negotiations commonly advocate for interests thatcoincide perfectly with those of civil society.  Women are concerned abouttheir children and consequently about shelter, clean water, sanitation, jobs,health care, education, and the like -- all those things that make life livablefor peaceable men, women, and children anywhere.

The conclusion is self-evident. Bring women to the table indecision-making roles in equal numbers with male participants and the nature ofpeace negotiations changes altogether.  And so does the result.  Orat least that’s what the Security Council expects. We can’t be sure because inmore than a decade since SCR 1325 was enacted, it has never been put to thetest.

At the time, at the exhilarating dawn of a new millennium, the wholeworld applauded SCR 1325 as a great achievement of the United Nations, pointingthe pathway to world peace.  Later, when men in war-torn countriesnegotiated peace, often with the guidance of the U.N., they forgot all aboutit.  Their excuse was that they had to act fast, speed being moreimportant than justice or durability or women.  At critical times likethat, don’t you know, women just get in the way.

Peace? Not a Chance

My special concern is Afghanistan,and I’m impatient. I’d like a speedy conclusion, too. It’s been nine yearssince I started doing aid work there, and in that time several of the youngAfghan women who were my colleagues and became my friends have died ofillnesses they would have survived in better times under the auspices of agovernment that cared about the welfare of its citizens. Even its womencitizens.

Yet now, whenever I present my modest proposal for the implementationof SCR 1325 to American big men -- thinkers, movers, and shakers -- who layclaim to expertise on Afghanistan,most of them strongly object.  They know the theory, they say, butpractice is something else again, and they are precluded from throwing theirweight behind SCR 1325 by delicate considerations of “cultural relativism.”Afghanistan, they remind me, is a “traditional” culture that regards women asless than human.  As Westerners, they say, we must be particularly carefulto respect that view.

Yet the eagerness of Western men to defer to this “tradition” seemsexcessive, and their tenderness for the sentiments of bearded men who couldn’tclear airport security in Iowa City strikes me as deliberately obtuse,especially since very few of the Afghan men who actually governed Afghanistanbetween 1919 and 1989 would have shared their sentiments.

Afghan culture is -- and is not -- traditional. Modern ideas, including the idea of equality between the sexes, have been atthe heart of internal Afghan cultural struggles for at least a century. In the 1920s, King Amanullah founded the first high school for girls and thefirst family court to adjudicate women’s complaints about their husbands; heproclaimed the equality of men and women, banned polygamy, cast away the burqa,and banished ultra-conservative Islamist mullahs as “bad and evil persons” whospread propaganda foreign to the moderate Sufi ideals of Afghanistan.  Hismodern ideas cost him his crown, but Afghans still remember Amanullah and hismodern, unveiled Queen Suraya for their brave endeavor to drag the country intothe modern world.

Thousands of Afghan citizens have shared King Amanullah’s modern views,expressed later by successive leaders, kings and communists alike.  But atleast since 1979, when the United States and Saudi Arabia joined Pakistan inpromoting the ideology and military skill of Islamist extremists who sought toreturn the country to the seventh-century world of the prophet, Afghanistan’sliberal modernists have taken flight for North America, Europe, and Australia.

Last summer in AfghanistanI talked with many progressive men and women who were running for parliament,hoping to push back against the inordinate power of the Afghan executive in theperson of President Hamid Karzai.  To them, he seems increasingly eager todo deals with the most extreme Islamists in opposition to all their progressivedreams for their country.

Yet in August, when President Karzai flagrantly stole the presidential election, President Obama telephoned tocongratulate him and the U.S.officially pronounced the fraudulent election results “good enough.”  Wemight ask: In this contest between entrenched Islamist extremists andprogressives who favor equality and democracy, why is the United Stateson the wrong side?  Why are we on the side of a mistaken notion of Afghan“tradition”?

Our Big Man in Kabul 

In 2001, the U.S.and by extension the entire international community cast their lot withHamid Karzai.  We put him in power after one of those power-sharingconferences in Bonn, Germany, to which, by the way, onlytwo Afghan women were invited. We paid hundreds of millions of dollars to stagetwo presidential elections, in 2004 and 2009, and looked the other way whileKarzai’s men stuffed the ballot boxes.  Now, it seems, we’re stuckwith him and his misogynist “traditions,” even though a growing number of Afghanistan watchers identify the Karzaigovernment as the single greatest problem the U.S. faces in its never-ending war.

We could have seen this coming if we had kept an eye on how PresidentKarzai treats women.  George W. Bush famously claimed to have “liberated” the women of Afghanistan,but he missed one: Hamid Karzai’s wife.  Although she is a gynecologistwith desperately needed skills, she is kept shut up at home.  To this day,the president’s wife remains the most prominent woman in Afghanistanstill living under house rules established by the Taliban. That little detail,by the way, should remind you of why you ought to care what happens to women:they are the canaries in the Afghan political coal mine.

And what has President Karzai done for the rest of the women of Afghanistan? Not a thing.

That’s the conclusion of a recent report issued by the Human RightsResearch and Advocacy Consortium (HRRAC), an association of prominent aid andindependent research groups in Afghanistan, including such highly respectednon-governmental organizations as Oxfam, CARE, and Save the Children. TheAfghan researchers who did the study conducted extensive interviews withprominent male religious scholars, male political leaders, and female leaderslocally, provincially, and nationally.

The report notes that President Karzai has supported increasinglyrepressive laws against women, most notoriously the “Taliban-style” ShiaPersonal Status Law, enacted in 2009, which not only legitimizes maritalrape but “prevents women from stepping out of their homes” without theirhusband’s consent, in effect depriving them of the right to make any decisionsabout their own lives. The report points out that this law denies women eventhe basic freedoms guaranteed to all citizens in the Afghan Constitution, whichwas passed in 2004 as part of a flurry of democratic reforms marking the startof Karzai’s first term as elected president.  The democratizing spasmpassed and President Karzai, sworn to defend that Constitution, failed to dothe job.

In fact, Karzai’s record on human rights, as the HRRAC report documents,is chiefly remarkable for what he has not done.  He holds extraordinarypower to make political appointments -- another indicator of the peculiarnature of this Afghan “democracy” our troops are fighting for -- and he has nowhad almost 10 years in office, ample time to lead even the most reluctanttraditional society toward more equitable social arrangements.  Yet today,but one cabinet ministry is held by a woman, the Ministry for Women’s Affairs,which incidentally is the sole government ministry that possesses only advisorypowers.  Karzai has appointed just one female provincial governor, and 33men.  (Is it by chance that Bamyan -- the province run by that woman -- isgenerally viewed as the most peaceful in the country?)  To head citygovernments nationwide, he has named only one female mayor.  And to theSupreme Court High Council he has appointed no woman at all.

Karzai’s claim that he can’t find qualified women is a flimsy -- andtraditional -- excuse. Many of his highest-ranking appointees to governmentoffices are notorious war criminals, men considered by the great majority ofAfghan citizens to have disqualified themselves from public office.  Thefailure of many of his male appointees to govern honestly and justly, or evento show up for work at all, is a rising complaint of NATO commanders who findupon delivery of “government in a box” that the box is pretty muchempty.

If fully qualified women are in short supply, having been confined anddeprived for years thanks to armed combat and the Taliban government, isn’tthat all the more reason for a president sworn to uphold equality to actquickly to insure broad opportunities for education, training, jobs, and thelike?  The HRRAC report sensibly recommends “broad sociopolitical reform”to provide “education and economic opportunities for real women’sleadership.”  Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, former minister of finance, formerpresident of Kabul University, and presidential contender, spoke in favor ofsuch a “sensible and regular process.”  As he noted, however, “Ourgovernment is not a sensible government.”

Flimsy, too, is the argument that Afghanistan’s cultural traditionseliminate women from public service.  Uzra Jafari, the mayor of Daikundi,reports that the city’s inhabitants did not believe a woman could be a mayor,but they soon “accepted that a woman can serve them better than a man.” “Social obstacles can be overcome,” she says, “but the main problem is thepolitical obstacles.  We have problems at the highest levels.”  Theproblem, in other words, is President Karzai, the only person in Afghanistan whohas the power to install women in political offices and yet refuses to doso.  In short, the president is far more “traditional” than most of thepeople.

Without the support of male leadership, women leaders (and theirfamilies) become easy targets for harassment, threats, intimidation, andassassination. When such threats come from the ultra-Islamist men who dominatethe Afghan parliament, they prevent women parliamentarians from uniting insupport of women and, in most cases, from speaking out as individuals forwomen’s rights.  Death threats have a remarkable silencing effect,disrupting the processes of governance, yet President Karzai has not once takena stand against the terrorist tactics of his cronies.

The Brotherhood of Men

Let’s acknowledge that there are limits to what the West can and cannotdo in the very different and more traditional culture of Afghanistan.  Judging by whatwe have already done, it seems to be perfectly all right for the West -- akathe U.S. -- to rain bombs upon this agrarian country, with its long traditionof moderate Sufism, and impose an ultraconservative Islamist government andfree market capitalism (even at the expense of indigenous agricultural markets)through the ministrations of thousands of highly paid private American“technical assistants.” But it is apparently not okay for any of thosemultitudinous, extravagantly paid American political and economic consultantsto tweak the silken sleeve of President Karzai’s chapan and say,“Hamid, my man, you’ve gotta get some more women in here.”  That would bedisrespectful of Afghan traditions.

I don’t buy it.  What we’re up against is not just theintractable misogyny of President Karzai and other powerful mullahs and mujahideen,but the misogyny of power brokers in Washingtonas well. 

Take, for example, the second most popular objection I hear fromAmerican male experts on Afghanistanwhen I raise my modest proposal.  They call this one “pragmatic” or“realistic.”  Women can’t come to the negotiating table, they say, becausethe Taliban would never sit down with them.  In fact, Taliban, “ex-Taliban,”and Taliban sympathizers sit down with women every day in the AfghanParliament, as they have in occasional loya jirgas (deliberatingassemblies) since 2001.  Clearly, any Taliban who refuse altogether totalk with women disqualify themselves as peace negotiators and should have noplace at the table. But what’s stunning about the view of the American maleexperts is that it comes down on the other side, ceding to the most extremeTaliban misogynists the right to exclude from peace deliberations half thepopulation of the country. (Tell that to our women soldiers putting their liveson the line.)

Yet these days every so-called Afghanistanexpert in Washingtonhas a plan for the future of the country.  Some seem relatively reasonablewhile others are certifiably delusional, but what almost all of these documentshave in common is the absence of the word “women.” (There are a few tinybut notable exceptions.)

In the Loony Tunes category is former diplomat and National SecurityCouncil Deputy Robert D. Blackwill’s “Plan B in Afghanistan” appearing in ForeignAffairs, which calls for the U.S. military to flee the south, thuscreating a “de facto partition” of Afghanistan and incidentally abandoning --you guessed it -- “the women of those areas,” as well as anyone else in thesouth who wants “to resist the Taliban.”  This scenario may call to mindimages of helicopters departing the American embassy in Saigonin 1975, but Blackwill clings to his “strategy,” calling the grim fate of thoseleft behind “a tragic consequence of local realities that are impossible foroutsiders to change.”

In the relatively reasonable category is the plan of the Afghanistan Study Group: “A New WayForward: Rethinking U.S.Strategy in Afghanistan.” Its first recommendation says, “The U.S.should fast-track a peace process designed to decentralize power within Afghanistan andencourage a power-sharing balance among the principal parties.” Whoops!  No mention of women there.  And power sharing?  We knowwhere that’s headed.  Afghanistan, the undisputed small arms capital ofthe world, might easily spontaneously combust into civil war.

But what becomes of women?  Even Matthew Hoh, who resigned his position in 2009 as a political officerin the foreign service to protest U.S. policy in Afghanistan, and now heads theAfghanistan Study Group, can’t seem to imagine bringing women to thenegotiating table.  (He says he’s “working on it.”) Instead, the StudyGroup decides for women that “this strategy will best serve [their]interests.”  It declares that “the worst thing for women is for Afghanistan toremain paralyzed in a civil war in which there evolves no organically rootedsupport for their social advancement.”  Well, no.  Actually, theworst thing for women is to have a bunch of men -- and not even Afghan men atthat -- decide one more time what’s best for women.

I wonder if it’s significant that the Afghan Study Group, much like theBonn Conferencethat established the Karzai government in the first place, is essentially a guyclub.  I count three women among 49 men and the odd “center” or “council”(also undoubtedly consisting mostly of men).  When I asked Matthew Hoh whythere are so few women in the Study Group, he couldn’t help laughing.  Hesaid, “This is Washington. You go to any important meeting in Washington, it’s men.”

Maybe the heady atmosphere engendered by all those gatherings of suitsin close quarters was what inspired Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia toabandon all discretion recently and declare thatthe promise of equal protection in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitutiondoes not extend to protecting women against sex discrimination. If statesenact laws discriminating against women, he opined, such laws would not beunconstitutional. (You can be sure some legislators have gotten right towork on it.)

That opinion puts Justice Scalia cozily in bed with former ChiefJustice Shinwari, President Karzai’s first appointee to head the Supreme Courtof the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who interpreted Article 22 of theAfghan Constitution, which calls for men and women to have equal rights andresponsibilities before the law, to mean that men have rights and women haveresponsibilities to their husbands. (Could this mean that the United States is a traditionalculture, too?)

Women leaders in Afghanistancomplain that their government does not see them as “human,” but merely usesthem as tokens or symbols, presumably to appease those international donors whostill rattle on about human rights.  George W. Bush used Afghan women thatway.  Obama doesn’t mention them.  Here in the U.S. you take your choice betweencynical exploitation, utter neglect, and outright discrimination.

In Afghanistan,Karzai names a High Peace Council to negotiate with the Taliban.  Sixtymen.  The usual suspects: warlords, Wahhabis, mujahideen,long-bearded and long in the tooth, but fighting for power to the bitterend. Thomas Ruttig of the Afghan Analysts Network reports thatamong them are 53 men linked to armed factions in the civil wars of the 1980sand 1990s including 13 linked to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami, currentlyallied with the Taliban.  An additional 12 members of the High PeaceCouncil held positions in the Taliban’s Emirate government between 1996 and2001.

Under some international pressure, Karzai belatedly added 10 women, theonly members of the High Peace Council with no ties to armed militias past orpresent; they represent the interests of civil society, which is to say thepeople who might actually like to live in peace for a change and do their utmostto sustain it.  The U.S.signed off on this lopsided Council.  So did Hillary Clinton, a woman who,as Secretary of State, has solemnlypromised again and again never to abandon the women of Afghanistan,though she never remembers to invite them to a conference where internationaland Afghan men decide the future of their country.

Okay, so my modest proposal doesn’t stand a chance.  The deck isstacked against the participation of women, both there and here.  Even Idon’t expect men in power to take seriously the serious proposition that womenmust be equally and fully involved in peacemaking or you don’t get durablepeace.  Too many men, both Afghan and American, are doing very nicelythank you with the present traditional arrangements of our cultures.  So,searching blindly for some eventual exit and burdened by their misbegottennotions of "peace," U.S.and NATO officials busy themselves repeatedly transporting to Kabul, at vast expense, a single high-rankingTaliban mullah to negotiate secret peace and power-sharing deals with PresidentKarzai.  American officials tout these man-to-man negotiations as evidencethat U.S. strategy is finally working, until the “mullah” turns out to be an imposter playing a profitablelittle joke on the powers that be.  Afghan women, who already suffer theeffects of rising Taliban power, are not laughing.

Consider this.  We’re not just talking about women’s rightshere.  Women’s rights are human rights.  Women exercising their humanrights are simply women engaging in those things that men the world over takefor granted: going to school, going to work, walking around.  But in Afghanistantoday -- here’s where tradition comes in again -- almost every woman and girlexercising her rights does so with the support of the man or men who let herout of the house: father, husband, brothers, uncles, sons.  Exclude womenfrom their rightful equal decision-making part in the peacemaking process andyou also betray the men who stand behind them, men who are by self-definitioncommitted to the dream of a more egalitarian and democratic future for theircountry.

The sad news from Afghanistanis that a great many progressives have already figured out their own exitstrategy. Like generations of Afghans before them, they will become part of oneof the world’s largest diasporas from a single country.  Ironically, I’llbet many of those progressive Afghan men will bring their families to the United States,where women appear to be free and it’s comforting to imagine that misogyny isdead.

Ann Jones is the author most recently of War Is Not Over When It’s Over: Women Speak Out from the Ruinsof War (Metropolitan 2010) on the way war affects women from Africa tothe Middle East and Asia.  She wroteabout the struggles of Afghan women in Kabul in Winter (Metropolitan 2006). Sheis currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study atHarvard.To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast audio interview in which Jonesdiscusses why wars never end for women and girls, click here or, to download it to your iPod, here

[Note on further reading: The HRRAC report on “Women and PoliticalLeadership” can be found online in .pdf format by clicking here.]
Copyright 2011 Ann Jones

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