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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

CDI Namedropping

Spencer Ackerman has an article today at The Washington Independent called "Women Prominent in Defense Movement." Pictured up top are Sarah Sewall of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights and Michèle Flournoy of the Center for a New American Security. Ackerman describes Sewall, Flournoy, and several other women as
key figures in a loose but expanding circle of defense theorist-practitioners who study, advocate and implement counterinsurgency -- a method of warfare that emphasizes economy of force, intimate knowledge of host populations and politico-economic incentives to win that population's allegiance. At the risk of stating the obvious, they, and many of their colleagues, are women. While women are still underrepresented in the national-security apparatus -- and at the Pentagon specifically -- counterinsurgency, more than any other previous movement in defense circles, features women not just as equal partners, but leaders.

There's no one answer for why that is. In a series of interviews, leading woman counterinsurgents, and some of their male colleagues, discussed how the unconventional approach to military operations calls for skills in academic and military fields that have become open to women in recent decades. Others contend that counterinsurgency's impulse for collaborative leadership speaks to women's "emotional IQ," in the words of one prominent woman counterinsurgent. Another explanation has to do with coincidence: the military's post-Vietnam outreach to women has matured at the same time as counterinsurgency became an unexpected national imperative.
Sarah Sewall was an intern at the Center for Defense Information in 1983 -- something I know because she worked with a good friend of mine who was in the same position at the same time. My own internship at CDI occurred in summer 1985 -- just in time for CDI and likeminded groups to call for banning all nuclear explosions on the 40th anniversary of Hiroshima.

I mention my internship because it put me in the position to receive CDI's The Defense Monitor for many years. As a pack rat, I still have a stack of them. And on the back of each issue, CDI conveniently listed the names of interns.

Thus, I learned that Flournoy was an intern at CDI in fall 1985, just weeks after my work there ended.

Moreover, Flournoy interned that fall with Lee Feinstein -- who most recently served as Hillary Clinton's National Security Director.

I'm dropping all these names because they are clearly in line for important defense and/or foreign policy jobs in an Obama administration. Conceivably, the first female Secretary of Defense could be one of the women profiled in Ackerman's piece.

And yet, in the mid-1980s, virtually no one in Washington thought anyone at CDI would ever be in line for top government jobs.

Consider this take on CDI from the right-wing Heritage Foundation in 1979.

Given the turnaround, maybe there's hope for U.S. defense policy after all.

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