Review Essay

A Feminist Foreign Policy

Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices

In This Review

The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy
The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy
By Valerie M. Hudson and Patricia Leidl
Columbia University Press, 2015, 456 pp. Purchase

When Hillary Clinton’s career as a lawyer first drew media attention during the 1992 presidential campaign of her husband, Bill Clinton, she mused that she could have skipped law practice to stay at home and bake cookies. The comment led to a now-famous cookie bake-off between Clinton and Barbara Bush, which the upstart Arkansas governor’s wife handily won. Eighteen years later, as secretary of state in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, Clinton supported an ambitious effort to put energy-efficient, environmentally friendly cookstoves in the kitchens of 100 million poor women around the world. “By upgrading these dirty stoves, millions of lives could be saved and improved,” she proclaimed.

There are some women who surmount gender stereotypes but then do little to help others confront that challenge. Clinton is not one of them. Having faced sexism throughout her long career in public life, she has shown an uncommon determination to use her official positions and influence to promote opportunities for women in the United States and abroad.

The Hillary Doctrine is a painstaking examination of Clinton’s efforts to advance the status of women during her tenure as secretary of state, from 2009 to 2013. Its authors, Valerie Hudson, a professor of international affairs at Texas A&M University, and Patricia Leidl, a communications specialist, credit Clinton with bringing women from the periphery to the center of U.S. foreign-policy making by recognizing and institutionalizing the link between the status of women and the attainment of national security objectives.

Yet Clinton’s work remains unfinished. Although she managed to transform the way U.S. foreign-policy makers approach gender issues, measured in near hindsight, Clinton’s power, political acumen, and passion for the advancement of women yielded only modest tangible results abroad. Among the obstacles Clinton faced were the sclerosis of the U.S. policymaking bureaucracy and the opposition and indifference of foreign governments. Perhaps most difficult of all, however, was the challenge of determining in which cases to push for women’

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