Flight of the Valkyries?

What Gender Does and Doesn’t Tell Us About Operation Odyssey Dawn

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama decided to send fighter planes to Libya in an effort to protect civilians from the predations of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi. In doing so, he sided with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs Samantha Power, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice over Counterterrorism Chief John Brennan, National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

As a result, commentators are falling over themselves to explain the “gender divide” among Obama’s staff, particularly the apparently astonishing fact that several key pro-intervention voices came from women. The Daily Beast’s John Avlon claimed that the bellicosity of female presidential advisers was historically unprecedented. Invoking the dual hawk-dove/woman-man dichotomy in The New York Times, Maureen Dowd called the presence of strong female politicians “mythological.” The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss, meanwhile, perhaps captured the pundits’ astonishment the best, writing, “We’d like to think that women in power would somehow be less pro-war, but...”

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