End of War: Michelle Bachelet on Women and War

Friday, May 18, 2012

Michelle Bachelet (UN Women/Luis Vera)

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, the first Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, discusses the role of women and war--and whether having more women in power would lessen conflicts around the world. This is part of the ongoing series called End of War where we're asking: Is war inevitable?


Michelle Bachelet

Comments [28]

sweetmuseek from nj

Wake up ......The world is like a giant monopoly board. War is no longer the deciding factor just a self-distructive distraction and financial & human life drain, kept going by the elder war machine and those who don't know any other way. That generation will be gone within another 20 years. Now money is power and silently China has been buying up more than half of Americas natural resources, industries, important buildings and land. China, Russia and India are building up their gold reserves and encouraging their citizens to do the same, waiting for the day the dollar will no longer be the world standard. The monopoly game will end when China declares the United States of America...... the United States of China. We will wake up to our television sets to see our new leader directing all our government to be dismantled and each representative being released from their responsibilities, packing their bags to return home to seek employment elsewhere.

Jul. 01 2012 08:48 AM
David from Brooklyn

Two comments:
1) War will have to get so horrific (nuclear holocaust) that the human race will finally get the message on how to survive.
2) Development (perhaps as a result of the above) allowing our brain neurons to become rehabituated into promotion of peaceful and non aggressive reactions. I believe peaceful communities have existed in the far-distant past and have been able to reproduce themselves until militant outsiders intervened.

May. 18 2012 02:01 PM
Jeff Park Slope

Karen, you're probably right, it is insulting, but it these views are silly. I didn't mention Israel and Palestine, but since you brought it up, negotiation has gone on there for decades. It may succeed in the future if one of the parties agrees that the other has a right to exist as a nation. I can't recall the details about South Africa, I don't remember what actually caused the Afrikaners to end their rule, but I think violence played at least some role. I remember something about "necklaces" - burning tires on the neck, although this may have been black on black violence. Nixon did not end the cultural revolution or bring about freedom in China nor did he end the cold war with China, it still has not ended. He did produce a thaw though. And the lesson to be drawn is the importance of having military power that the adversary knows will be used if needed. Tibet has no power and will never be free as long as China has its communist government. I think it was Hitler, but it could have been Stalin that questioned the Pope's power by asking how many divisions he had. Can you imagine a world w/o a powerful US military? China (via N. Korea) in S. Korea, China in Japan and Taiwan, Iran in Saudi Arabia, Iraq still in Kuwait, the USSR still owning Eastern Europe as well as owning Western Europe, the list is endless.

May. 18 2012 12:24 PM
Balloon idea Shirley

Now this is a woman, Michelle B, UN woman whom I'd like a hug from in solidarity with women like me, who earn a living, while keeping in touch with politics, the science, arts via Brian Lehrer, Leonard Lopate, OWN TV, Jon Stewart, dogs cats and cows
Can a woman like me, do UN women deeds in my neighbourhood?

May. 18 2012 11:58 AM
Jeff Park Slope

Erica: World Government? Are you kidding? Who will be in charge? You, other good people like you? What if you don't like it? What would you do, what recourse would you have? You wouldn't be able to flee from Texas to NY, or from the US to Sweden, would you? How free would you be? If like most leftists you think that the US is not free and is corrupt, can you imagine what a world government would be like? If the EU can't effectively manage its differences, shouldn't that lead to some concern? How well is the UN working out? Iran, Syria, China, Russia leading the way towards freedom, democracy, religious freedom, woman's rights, gay rights. Lets give them actual power on the world stage, why don't we?

May. 18 2012 11:50 AM

In the US - how about having the Senate go coed. From each state- one senator is male and one is female. Really - not so difficult to do.

May. 18 2012 11:49 AM
Karen from NYC


Sorry, but "silliness" is insulting. That kind of response demonstrates precisely the attitude that I am criticism.

Negotiation has ended many conflicts previously thought irreconcilable. The conflict in Northern Ireland is an example. Sounds to me that you are primarily concerned with Israel/Palestine. Negotiation seems to me to be the sole way to end that conflict; otherwise decades of killing will continue.

Civil disobedience brought about change in Egypt -- although the militarists may be back -- and India. Yes, democracy makes civil disobedience effective (that was my point about MLK). But a "women's" style -- looking for common ground, attempting to find leverage points -- is, in my experience, more effective that confrontations and threats. Kissinger and Nixon did business with China. Publicizing China's brutalities in Tibet, and bringing economic pressure on those responsible, may yet achieve results.

The apartheid regime in South Africa was not democratic; yet what brought it down, in the end, was not the ANC, but the writers, religious figures and ordinary people world-wide who employed non-violent methods to pressure that regime. Social and economic pressure, followed by negotiation, are powerful tools.

May. 18 2012 11:46 AM

Unfortunately in our urge to encourage growth at any price to support capital markets, women are destined to be breeders of workers to keep wages low so that corporations and investors, who feed on profits, may thrive. A more hopeful future would be one of slow reduction in all institutions that depend upon mindless labor and endless growth. Women are better suited to devise ways to balance family life, and national well-being, with a cautious eye on the future.

May. 18 2012 11:43 AM
Theresa from Brooklyn

Women, like, say, Margaret Thatcher?

May. 18 2012 11:40 AM
Erica from Brooklyn

War could end if it were made illegal by a world government and enforced by a world government. Currently this is not the case because the socio-political advantages of war are too enticing (not only by those countries waging and enduring such wars, but often there is something to gain by those who refuse to intervene). I believe more women in government could resist the idea of war as a means to a political or financial end and institute a global sanction on war.

May. 18 2012 11:40 AM
Jeff Park Slope

Karen: civil disobedience worked in the US because we are a democracy and are fundamentally good. It wouldn't have worked in the Soviet Union or its satellites (Hungary or Czechoslovakia when the USSR was at peak power; may have worked when the USSR was weaker - Poland) won't work in China, won't work in Syria or Saudi Arabia or Iran or N. Korea. So democratization may reduce armed conflict, but women in power won't. Sorry, but this is silliness.

May. 18 2012 11:36 AM
Donald Wade from Jackson Heights

Women can be just as bad as men. Remember Margaret Thatcher

May. 18 2012 11:34 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To JoeJ

"I hate to say it, but aren't most crimes and social ills committed by men? "

Yeah, so they can have the money to impress or keep their women.

May. 18 2012 11:31 AM

I hate to say it, but aren't most crimes and social ills committed by men?

May. 18 2012 11:28 AM

Simply balancing numbers will not work. The only way to create real change is a major shift in the demographics. At a maximum, men really only need to be about one eighth of the population for breeding purposes. They are really only good for cooking, hairdressing, arts and media work, including presenting radio shows (so Brian's job will be safe), but mostly men should be cared for at home to keep their irrational, violently hormonal behaviour controlled. When marijuana is legalized (which matriarchal government would automatically ensure) it will be easy to keep men happy, pacified and mostly sleeping. Look at lions: those girls have it worked out. And the most organized and successful societies on earth are ants and bees: both matriarchies, so you could argue it's a natural evolutionary development. Keep the male numbers small, keep them happy, well sexed and well fed, that's all the little ones need. End of war.

May. 18 2012 11:28 AM
Sydney from NYC

If a society elects more women, it's also an indicator of how supportive that society is of equality, etc.--perhaps leading to or indicative of stability, peace, etc.

Relatedly, here in the US, there are still chunks of the population that when asked if they would elect a qualified female candidate of their party to office they say "no."

May. 18 2012 11:27 AM
Karen from NYC

Responding to Jeff: Not every conflict can be settled through conciliation; but most of them can. Civil disobedience worked for Martin Luther King; it wouldn't have worked against Hitler. The point is to choose your battles.

Responding to "look at these aggressive women": my point is that non-aggressive women do not prevail in an environment dominated and defined by aggressive men. We need to change the leadership prototype.

May. 18 2012 11:24 AM
bill from nyc

Why don't you ask her about how and why she asked the U.S. to help her spy on the Mapuche population and how can you trot her out here as an end ot war person after she has caused so much harm to so many people?

May. 18 2012 11:21 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY


"....Anyhow, while whether or not more women in control will be the end of war is debatable, but one thing it isn't: it will be the end of men. One or two studs for every dozen women is all that will be required. The rest can be aborted."

Hahahaha, WHAT is the matter with you? Jeez.

May. 18 2012 11:21 AM
Karen from NYC

I'm an attorney -- a litigator. It is clear to me, after over 20 years in law, that male litigators take women litigators seriously only if they adopt an aggressive, contentious male style. It is also clear, however, that an aggressive, contentious style does not settle cases, but merely prolongs conflict and, not incidentally, increases fees. One of my first cases dragged on for over two years -- not long in law, but a long time -- because the opposing counsel prevented the two principals, plaintiff and defendant, from sitting down together to discuss their differences. The male attorney for whom I worked, who was considered "soft" by his colleagues, insisted that, if the two adversaries sat down together, the case could be settled.

Finally, he got the meeting -- and the case settled. The lack of respect with which my boss was treated by his "male" colleagues should have tipped me off right then that, to succeed as a litigator, one had to play the boys' game. Results didn't count -- unless you counted profits for the lawyer - so much as did conforming to the the aggressive culture that prevailed.

Litigators say "litigation is war." You can't overgeneralize -- there are men like my former boss, and women barracudas -- but my view is that the conciliatory route is most often taken by women and is, in the final analysis, the most effective way to end disputes.

May. 18 2012 11:21 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

All the generalities voiced by Madame Bachelet about the different approaches by men & women may be true -- except when it comes to divorce and child custody.

That's when women wage all-out war and hold out for unconditional surrender! All in the name of pyrrhic victories...

May. 18 2012 11:18 AM
Jeff Park Slope

I has written before on this - if you want to avoid war, you need to be willing to surrender to evil. Ghandi wanted the Jews and the English to surrender to the Nazis. Would that have been a beneficial outcome? Would a woman have been able to negotiate with them to end their hostile acts and their aggression or just to surrender? Mr. Neville Chamberlain negotiated (a male as far as I know) and that didn't work out so well. Why do you keep discussing this nonsense?

May. 18 2012 11:16 AM
reality is complex

Except in Rawanda, where a woman was a ringleader in the genocide.

May. 18 2012 11:16 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Well, history does not necessarily bear out that contention to date. Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi and Margaret Thatcher all lead their nations in war. In fact, women leaders are under greater pressure to prove that they are capable of defending their countries.

However there is one possibility. If all countries drafted women into the military and explicitly barred men from the military, it might work.

Anyhow, while whether or not more women in control will be the end of war is debatable, but one thing it isn't: it will be the end of men. One or two studs for every dozen women is all that will be required. The rest can be aborted.

May. 18 2012 11:15 AM
Julian from Manhattan

Margaret Thatcher (The Falklands), Golda Meier, and Indira Gandhi (Suppression/massacre of Sikhs, and relations to Pakistan) are examples of female leaders who did not choose counciliation.

May. 18 2012 11:15 AM
Priya from Brooklyn

Is there a reason why Latin American countries have moved towards female leaders (in recent years) while here in the US we are very slow to accept women in roles of power.

Also, if I remember correctly, she was a single mother. How did that experience shape her professionally?

May. 18 2012 11:14 AM
bill from nyc

Why don't you ask her about the espionage scandal she was involved in while she was in office brian? Why don't you ask her about eh misuse of money she was involved in for sports and employment programs that were diverted to her campaign fund?

May. 18 2012 11:10 AM
bill from nyc

Why don't you ask her when Chille will give back Peruvian land, Arica and Tarapaca, it has been occupying by force of arms? Why don't you ask her when Chille will give back the land it stole from Bolivia which has had horrible consequences for the people of Bolivia? Try asking a real question for once instead of doing these Bravo Siera fluff pieces?

May. 18 2012 10:57 AM

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