Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gender Gap or a Difference in Perspective?

Just over a week ago Christian Science Monitor staff writer Brad Knickerbocker explored what he called the “gender gap” in the current administration’s attitude toward a no fly zone in Libya. One might assume the article highlights men in government with an urge for power and military domination. After all, that has often been the stereotype.

However, Knickerbocker interestingly addresses the notion that it has been prominent women in the Obama Administration calling for the use of military force. He cites Secretary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and NSA aide Samantha Power as key examples.

Conversely, Secretary Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, and General Wesley Clark have expressed concern over involvement militarily. Specifically, Gen. Clark suggested that the U.S. should have learned from past mistakes of intervention, and this is a road not worth traveling.

While Knickerbocker brings an interesting observation to the surface, it seems that if one takes a closer look there is a deeper issue. Secretary Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen and General Wesley Clark all come at this issue with vast experience in the inner workings of the military. This is not to discredit the women mentioned above or suggest that they lack vast knowledge of the Department of Defense or national security, but it is meant to highlight differences in perspective.

Specifically, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already stretched and tested America’s military might. It was just last year that Admiral Mike Mullen suggested the military is often at the forefront of American foreign policy, but stressed that it is vital to recognize that the military does have its limits (Lubold). Secretary Gates uttered similar sentiments by suggesting the U.S. needs to focus on soft power as much as hard power and that involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly demonstrate that military strength and victories alone aren’t enough to get the job done (Miles).

Thus, it is makes one stop and wonder if many in the DOD are coming to terms with just how much the American military can truly handle. Perhaps they sense that reaching a breaking point is a reality. This is in no way meant to suggest that American men and women in uniform cannot handle the tasks before them. It is merely intended to ponder the notion of when enough is enough. At what point has the United States extended itself so much that it is spread too thin?

Perhaps these differences as noted by Knickerbocker relate back to the DOD wishing to take a step back from the forefront and allow the U.S. to refocus the means through which it centers its foreign policy.

Now that a no fly zone is in place, Secretary Gates has had confront his concerns about such action head on. Yet, it is interesting to see prominent DOD figures aiming to take the spotlight off their agency and place a greater emphasis on other facets of foreign policy like diplomacy.

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