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‘I Seethe Every Time I Think About It’: 2 Foreign Policy Dynamos Confront the Male World Order

In the newest installment of POLITICO’s 15 Conversations collection, Thomas-Greenfield talks with Smith, a former USAID administrator, President Joe Biden’s international Covid response coordinator and now head of the ONE Campaign, about how to ensure extra girls are concerned in crafting the way forward for the world — and why that might be higher for everybody.

Smith, for instance, thinks extra girls answerable for the international Covid response might have boosted its effectiveness. “I tend to think women are pretty good at process, and managing a global pandemic is a lot of process,” she says. “And I think that was missing.”

Still, Smith and Thomas-Greenfield are optimistic. Looking round the world at present — from Iran to the U.S. — they see girls changing into extra political, extra outspoken, and fewer prepared to tolerate repression. It would possibly take a while, however “I expect these young women to change the world,” says Thomas-Greenfield.

Held at POLITICO’s headquarters, this dialog has been edited for size. You can watch the video above and browse a full transcript under.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield So on Iran, it’s a query that we’ve been requested commonly: How can we be supportive of the girls of Iran? And my response to that query is they should hear from us. They want to listen to that we give them ethical assist, however we are able to’t push them into the streets. They’re being brave. They’re being courageous, however they’re being killed. And so our assist must be ethical assist, however it additionally must be in the space of accountability, like how can we maintain the morality police accountable? So we put a few of them beneath sanctions. I don’t know whether or not you assume that that’s an method we must always take. You’ve performed this sort of work earlier than.

Gayle Smith Sure. I assume the different factor that’s attention-grabbing about that is that Iran has been a international coverage problem for so long as I can keep in mind. And right here you lastly have one thing occurring which is basically political. I imply, in the small “p” sense, proper? It’s residents. It’s girls and ladies of all ages saying “enough,” like, “we’re not doing this.” And I assume that offers us a possibility, not simply, as you say, to face with them, however to ship a message that even in politics and in all these international locations, girls are a robust pressure.

I imply, you keep in mind, we each labored on Liberia for a very long time. That settlement that lastly happened that led to a girl changing into the president of Liberia (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf). Women had an entire lot to do with these negotiations.

But I assume normally politics, international coverage is talked about as if it’s simply males.

Thomas-Greenfield I love you mentioning Liberia. I served as the ambassador to Liberia, and I noticed these girls at work. And the males have been nonetheless issues in attempting to maneuver the nation ahead.

And as we take a look at the state of affairs round the world the place girls have been engaged, you see change, you see motion. And we’re seeing motion in Iran: It’s occurring. It’s occurring [also] behind the scenes. The authorities of Iran needs responsible the U.S., they wish to blame all people for what is occurring in Iran besides themselves. But we have to applaud these girls.

Smith I assume we do. And I assume we have to underscore the incontrovertible fact that they will blame whoever they need. [But] it’s completely apparent that that is the feminine residents of Iran. Nobody is telling them what to do.

They’ve taken the bull by the horns they usually’ve determined they’re going to plot their very own futures, and you may’t propagandize your self round or by means of that.

Thomas-Greenfield No, no.

Smith And it’s them. And I assume we have to preserve the highlight on them, however stand completely with them. It’s extraordinary.

Thomas-Greenfield It actually is.

Smith It’s one among the most inspirational issues occurring on the planet proper now.

Thomas-Greenfield And it’s so inspiring to different girls elsewhere in the world who’re experiencing related varieties of conditions. Afghanistan involves thoughts the place the Taliban are forcing girls to be accompanied by a person after they go in public, to utterly cowl themselves and never permitting them to go to high school. And these girls are demonstrating as nicely. We’re not seeing as a lot of it in the information as we’re seeing with Iran proper now. But Afghan girls are additionally being terribly courageous.

Smith Yeah, no, I noticed a narrative about Afghan ladies demonstrating that they wished to go to high school. And I imply, there’s a Washington politician who’s a giant defender of our international support funds who mentioned, “You know what the Taliban’s afraid of? Taliban’s afraid of a girl with education.”

Thomas-Greenfield Yes. Yes. We’ve been partaking with different Muslim international locations to get them to have interaction with the Taliban. Indonesia, for instance, has been terribly proactive in partaking the Taliban on the way to tackle the points of ladies in the Quran, as a result of their interpretation shouldn’t be an interpretation that has been purchased into by so many different international locations as nicely.

Again, we are able to’t take the Taliban at their phrase. We have to evaluate them on their deeds. But we can’t let the strain up on them. And having the voice of the secretary normal, having the voice of different members, the voice of different member states, however having girls and ladies specific their very own needs for freedom and for an training. I assume it’s vital for the Taliban to listen to.

Smith It’s vital and it’s very laborious to show that off. You can arrest and you may shoot and you may suppress. But I assume as soon as that’s out of the field, you’re going to have an entire lot of people who find themselves going to be supporting, voting with, standing for these women and girls.

Thomas-Greenfield Absolutely.

Smith And I’m fairly certain the Taliban’s watching what’s occurring in Iran proper now as nicely.

Thomas-Greenfield They are watching that very, very intently. And they need to be.

You know, I assume folks round the world watch what is occurring in the United States. They look to us for instance of what they need. And often we disappoint them.

And we’re seeing that disappointment now. But we’re additionally exhibiting them that we are able to combat in opposition to these forces and lift our voices in opposition to these forces.

And I assume that evokes different girls round the world to see how girls in the United States work to deal with the related points that they’re dealing with in their very own international locations.

Smith I assume that’s proper. And I assume lots of people watch the United States, you’re completely proper. It’s additionally vital for us to be humble in that and concede the level that we’re imperfect. Which, by the manner, I assume helps us in discussions with different international locations.

Because if we are available and say, nicely, we’ve received all sorted …

Thomas-Greenfield “Yeah, look, we got it right, just do it our way.”

Smith … That doesn’t work so nicely. And I assume what we’re seeing is a few enormous obstacles, I assume some steps backward [in the U.S.] But at the similar time, increasingly more girls, curiously, I assume throughout generations, are organizing, changing into extra energetic of their communities, extra energetic politically in the United States.

More and extra girls candidates working from the native degree all the manner up. And I assume that’s a development that’s not going to cease.

I imply, and once more, I assume any time {that a} folks, whether or not it’s by advantage of gender or race or faith, is ready of getting its rights absolutely oppressed or chipped away at, they’re going to push again. They’re going to push again they usually’re going to prepare. And historical past reveals that and I assume that’s what we’re seeing in the U.S.

So I assume we’ve received to maintain that up and perceive that the struggles of ladies round the world, they’re all on the similar spectrum.

Thomas-Greenfield And they by no means go away utterly.

Smith No, no.

Thomas-Greenfield We continuously should preserve preventing. We should preserve elevating these points. We should preserve advocating for ladies’s rights, wherever they’re being pushed in opposition to wherever it occurs wherever in the world.

Smith And I assume we’ve received to remind folks that girls and ladies isn’t a aspect problem over right here. It’s half and parcel of the social material in the physique politic. And the minute we put it over on the aspect and say, let’s have a particular initiative.

Thomas-Greenfield We sideline them.

Smith We’re compounding the drawback.

Thomas-Greenfield So, Gayle, can I ask on Covid: How do you see us addressing these points as we take a look at the impression that it has had on girls? Did we take these sorts of points under consideration?

Smith No. I assume, sadly, the pandemic was politicized early on.

You know, the first early discussions was whose fault is that this? And that’s an vital problem, however that’s not typically your greatest start line while you’re taking a look at the starting of a world pandemic. I assume what we all know is that the well being impacts are nonetheless very, very a lot in play.

The financial impression on girls has been extraordinary. More girls have misplaced their jobs. More girls have suffered on the well being care entrance as a result of attendant well being care [systems] broke down and ladies economically have been harm particularly laborious, together with in low and center revenue international locations the place lots of girls are in the casual sector. So there was no aid, there was no assist, there was no backup.

And I assume, , perhaps if we’d had one other set of actors in the room when the pandemic was first declared, we might have come out with a special system. And I assume one space, had there been extra girls in the room, for instance. I are inclined to assume girls are fairly good at course of, and managing a world pandemic is lots of course of. How are we going to prepare this? How are we going to prepare that? Who’s going to take this accountability? Who’s going to take that accountability? And I assume that was lacking.

And after all, the largest factor is that the world was and stays fairly fragmented.

Thomas-Greenfield And while you take a look at the inequities, particularly in Africa, the place at the early phases, lower than 10 p.c of the inhabitants was vaccinated.

Smith It’s nonetheless low. And I assume, look, I am happy with what the United States did, and [what] I assume folks such as you and I have been in a position to do collectively when I went briefly again into the administration, by way of making vaccines out there.

But I assume, folks rising up throughout the world are going to have as one among their fundamental details taught at school that when there was a world pandemic, rich international locations had vaccination charges and entry that was in the vary of 70 p.c plus. And poor international locations have been in the vary of 14 to twenty p.c.

Thomas-Greenfield Yeah.

Smith If you concentrate on, for instance, how do you’re taking what we’ve seen about the position of ladies in peace constructing, in battle negotiations and so forth, how can we broaden that and type of construct it into the system? You know, one among my colleagues all the time says, in case you’re not at the desk, you’re on the menu.

Thomas-Greenfield Yes.

Smith I assume even once we conceive of peace negotiations, the fundamental political gamers are sometimes males. So we glance to males for the answer moderately than saying, who’re the main stakeholders in the final result of this?

Because the motivation, and males are stakeholders, males and boys are, however girls and ladies are massive stakeholders in the final result of a battle decision course of. So they should be there from the starting moderately than simply being the beneficiaries. But I assume we’ve received to flip it on its head.

Thomas-Greenfield Yeah, we have a tendency to take a look at them as victims.

Smith Yes.

Thomas-Greenfield Victims who should be addressed as an alternative of seeing them as members to addressing the issues of victimization that features everybody.

And to get that throughout has been terribly tough, though I assume we’ve made lots of progress. But I will let you know, even at present, I will stroll in a room and take a look at the desk, and there’s not a single girl sitting at the desk however me.

Smith Yeah.

Thomas-Greenfield And so I’ve discovered that I should — I can’t simply sit at the desk and never point out that.

Smith I think about you name it out fairly shortly while you sit down.

Thomas Greenfield Yeah, I name it out shortly. But what has been shocking to me is how uncomfortable the males are. They do it they usually know they need to have girls in the room. And while you increase it, they’re uncomfortable.

But they don’t make the resolution upfront that you will need to have their girls colleagues sitting at the desk with them. And so for folks such as you and I, who all the time have a seat at the desk, we’ve got to be voices of advocacy for the girls who aren’t at the desk.

Smith I assume that’s proper. And I assume the different factor is we’ve received to construct out the pipeline of ladies which are coming into the programs, whether or not it’s in the U.S. authorities, whether or not it’s in departments, ministries, decision-making our bodies round the world, as a result of too usually it’s the case that it’s males that have to resolve whether or not they need to embody another girls.

We have to get to the level the place it’s women and men, men and women, deciding whether or not they’ve received the proper delegation.

Right. But to do this, we’ve received to get extra girls in the system. And I assume you and I have been at the work we do for some time.

Thomas-Greenfield Yeah.

Smith And I assume in most international locations round the world, together with right here, we’ve seen, I assume, vital enchancment there. Not sufficient.

And I assume the place we’ve seen the least is in the laborious energy, nationwide safety, negotiations over struggle, these sorts of points. We’ve nonetheless received some severe work to do to get a greater steadiness.

Thomas-Greenfield And in political energy circles. So [Liberian] President Sirleaf has put collectively a mentoring program for younger girls engaged in politics. You know, from the way you run a marketing campaign to the way you handle a political place. And we’ve got to do extra of that, as a result of so many younger girls don’t get the mentoring, they don’t get the teaching. They’re not introduced into the circle at a younger age in order that they study it on the manner up. And so a lot of them aren’t ready for fulfillment.

Smith I assume If we had a greater gender steadiness in lots of these locations, processes would change, discussions would change.

Thomas-Greenfield And simply to provide you an instance, rape was by no means seen as a device of struggle. It was an motion that was taken. And now we all know that rape of ladies has turn into a device of struggle. And it’s girls that introduced that to the desk, in order that we are able to maintain folks accountable. You know, we’re holding them accountable for atrocities: But rape is a kind of atrocities.

Smith But, , a part of the cause I assume girls increase that, in my expertise — and I wish to be very cautious about making sweeping generalizations — I assume girls are extra comfy elevating uncomfortable points.

I have present in my work, in my private life, I’m in a gathering. I’m ready for a gathering. You’re at the airport. You’ve simply met anyone who’s on the delegation from one other nation. If you’ve received two or three girls sitting round, it takes about 4 to 7 minutes earlier than your dialog contains issues which are private or delicate, proper. We are used to, [and] we discuss these items all the time and, I assume, breaking by means of and elevating points which are taboo or that no one needs to speak about.

Putting rape on the desk as now an sadly more and more widespread act of struggle and political violence, naming what occurs to younger ladies who’re HIV optimistic as a result of they’ve been married younger or they don’t have any financial selection however to promote their very own our bodies. Putting these points on the desk, I are inclined to assume girls are extra inclined to lift them.

Thomas-Greenfield We do they usually’re not frivolous points.

There was this tendency that these have been aspect points.

Smith “These are your issues. These are soft issues. Oh, we really should do something for you, Linda, on that issue. We can have a special event.”

No, no, no, no. We have to put this at the middle of the desk.

You and I have a bonus as girls in lots of the environments we’ve labored in as a result of we’re tall. We say what we predict.

I spent lots of time in lots of struggle zones. I know your story of Rwanda, the place your life was in danger. So we don’t are typically afraid of something. And I assume if I was to say, what compromise have I made, I assume early in my profession — however not by a lot — there are in all probability some instances the place I want I had spoken up extra forcefully.

I imply I could have raised the level forcefully, however having been voted down or countered, I’m certain there have been some instances that I didn’t say, “No, sorry, we’re going to go another round.”

Thomas-Greenfield I was sitting in a room in the previous yr and I had an individual in that room say to me, “When you were selected for this position, we thought you were going to be a good girl.”

Smith Whoa!

Thomas-Greenfield Yeah, yeah. And I boiled over.

But I didn’t blow my high — and I’m offended at myself, at present, that I didn’t blow my high.

Smith Huh.

Thomas-Greenfield I thought, OK, they’re urgent my buttons. I’m not going to allow them to press my buttons.

Smith So, did you name them out, however calmly?

Thomas-Greenfield I ignored it. And I am seething to this second.

Smith Can you whisper to me who it’s and we might go get them.

Thomas-Greenfield I’ll let you know later, however I’m seething. I seethe each time I give it some thought. And I’ve been ready for the subsequent second — you by no means get a second probability to blow your high, I will say that.

And I’m sitting there and I’m like, if I blow my high, it’s going to be like an offended Black girl.

Smith Yep, yep.

Thomas-Greenfield So you’re not going to let your buttons be pushed. You’re going to indicate you’re an grownup right here and also you’re going to only ignore that.

Don’t try this: You ought to by no means ignore an insult.

Smith I assume you had the proper to be an offended Black girl in that occasion.

Thomas-Greenfield Never let anyone ignore an insult like that.

I didn’t ignore it, I imply actually. You know, and I guess my largest concern was when I blew my high, the entire constructing was going to explode. And I didn’t need that to occur.

I wished to have a peaceful response, however I couldn’t have a peaceful response as a result of I was so offended. And then after the truth, I stayed offended as a result of I didn’t discuss it.

Smith Well I, yeah, I’ve performed the similar factor generally of simply not saying something after which eager to go discover them.

Thomas-Greenfield Well, my factor was, I was considering that when Nancy Pelosi mentioned the different day that she wished to punch out a sure individual [then President Donald Trump], that’s precisely the manner I felt. Like, “I’m going to get up and just do this.” But I knew I couldn’t.

But I might have used my voice.

Smith Here’s the factor, are you able to, no, you’ll be able to’t — punching anyone wouldn’t have been good.

But I assume there’s this message to girls that you simply’re speculated to be an excellent woman, proper.

If males in senior positions beneath stress lose their mood often, it’s disagreeable, however it’s typically tolerated. And if girls do, it’s perceived in another way.

I’m optimistic in the setting that we’ve lived in — the coverage, type of Washington, type of worldwide affairs world — for a few causes.

One is that I discover younger girls, typically, or at the very least a lot of them with whom I work, it wouldn’t happen to them to not blow up. Right. Because they haven’t had 30, 40 years of being anticipated to be an excellent woman, of that type of mantra being on the market.

But the different factor is, I see lots of completely different conduct in younger males. And I assume that’s part of it, as a result of it’s not simply girls strolling in the room and asserting themselves: It’s males altering. And to be honest, there are rather a lot which have, however I’ve seen an actual shift amongst folks rather a lot youthful than we’re. It provides me some hope.

Thomas-Greenfield Yeah. I actually really feel hopeful as a result of what I see is that these girls aren’t compelled to make decisions that we needed to make.

Smith Yes.

Thomas-Greenfield They don’t should make decisions. They simply do it. And they’ve so many choices that we didn’t have. And they comprehend it they usually’re empowered. And I am very, very hopeful.

I anticipate these younger girls to alter the world. That my little four-year-old granddaughter, who says “I can do it,” goes to make a distinction in the world.

Smith Yeah, it’s having the confidence to know you are able to do it versus having to be advised that you may.

Thomas-Greenfield Yes.

Smith If there’s anyone I was going to thank, actually on this world of Washington, it will be Madeleine Albright.

You know, Madeleine Albright, secretary of state, ambassador to the U.N., she’s Madeleine Albright. But she was additionally a really common regular human being, girl, mom. Right. She’s very accessible.

Thomas-Greenfield Grandmother.

Smith And grandmother and aunt. But she was additionally a mentor, pal and supporter to actually a whole bunch of individuals in the international coverage group, and particularly girls. She’s a — Madeleine Albright was a gem.

Thomas-Greenfield So my very same individual, I was simply serious about her.

I take into consideration her all the time as a result of I’m sitting in that chair the place she sat as the first girl from the U.S. to serve in that place.

She mentioned to me when I began the job that she had the “G7” [women’s network at the U.N.] — I inform this story all the time — and I was so excited when I received to New York and I got here again and I mentioned, “Madeleine, you know, I started my G5, but I’m so disappointed. I have two fewer women than you had on the Security Council.” And she mentioned, “Linda, there were only seven women in the entire U.N. member state system. I was the only woman on the Security Council.”

I needed to acknowledge that we’ve got made some progress. We nonetheless have lots of progress to go. But Madeleine Albright is an icon.

She is an instance to all of us. And not simply to girls, to males. The day she died, I was in the General Assembly, standing up at the podium, holding again tears, and each single speaker who got here after me talked about Madeleine Albright. The Indonesian [ambassador] mentioned he went into his international service due to Madeleine Albright. She taught so many different everlasting representatives at the Security Council. I’ve met a number of presidents who took her courses [at Georgetown University] after they have been youthful.

So she is a job mannequin to the world. It’s not simply to girls, however it’s the complete world. So I am so proud that I’m sitting in a chair that she sat in and that I have her — as an alternative of carrying pins, which I would like to put on however I’m not as trendy as she is — however I actually do really feel like I have her sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear each single day.

Smith Well, you’re going to be on the shoulders of lots of younger girls going ahead.

Thomas-Greenfield Well, that’s my hope. And I know you’re.

Smith Thanks, L.T.G.

Thomas-Greenfield Thank you a lot, Gayle. It’s fantastic to be sitting right here with you and also you’re my position mannequin.

Smith Oh, and also you’re mine.

Thomas-Greenfield Thank you.

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