Women as Foreign Policy Leaders: National Security and Gender Politics in Superpower America by Sylvia Bashevkin

Date01 December 2019
Published date01 December 2019
Livermore’s conclusions are damning. After 9/11, the RCMP and CSIS sought
‘‘privileged positions as key US allies’’ and, under pressure to stop feared terrorist
attacks, ‘‘moved well past the limits of their experience and competence, into
complicated international issues for which they had few of the requisite skills
and knowledge’’ (251). Moreover, after 9/11, ‘‘they drew simplistic and erroneous
conclusions about Canadians and others in Canada,’’ and ‘‘[t]heir investigations
were non-existent or incomplete, based on suppositions or theories’’ (252).
Livermore’s litany of shortcomings includes: ‘‘inexperienced officers with little or
no training; poor supervision; unclear ground rules; inadequate reporting to senior
management or the ministerial level; poor analytical and drafting skills; incomplete
investigations; lack of cooperation with others; inadequate protocols on informa-
tion sharing; non-existent policies on interrogations abroad, and so forth’’ (254).
The consequences were costly, both in human terms and as measured by the mil-
lions of dollars in compensation paid to the targets of bungled anti-terrorism
The services might resist Livermore’s conclusions. They might assert that, had
we access to the secret information in their possession, we would reach different
views. They would also urge that some lessons were learned—the RCMP and CSIS
implemented new policies after the 2006 Arar commission of inquiry. And the
Justin Trudeau government has issued strong ministerial directions on informa-
tion-sharing with human-rights-abusing states. Still, pendulums swing, and insti-
tutional knowledge is a fragile thing. One might plausibly worry that the lessons of
the last decade are only dimly remembered and loosely internalized, especially in
resource-starved security services undergoing generational change.
This is precisely the right time, therefore, to be reminded of Canada’s post-9/11
record. The challenges Canada confronts in a newly unsettled world are consider-
able, and a repeat of the mistakes of the last decade would be even more costly. For
this reason alone, everyone participating in security and intelligence work or dis-
cussions should read Livermore’s work. They need not agree with every conclusion.
But we should all be attentive to cognitive baggage capable of daisy-chaining
today’s discussion between two men in a restaurant into tomorrow’s miscarriage
of justice.
Sylvia Bashevkin
Women as Foreign Policy Leaders: National Security and Gender Politics in Superpower America
Oxford University Press: Washington, DC, New York, 2018. 280 pp. $74.00 (cloth)
ISBN: 978-0-190875374
Reviewed by: Ste
´fanie von Hlatky (svh@queensu.ca), Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario,
Women are often eclipsed from foreign policy accounts, and when they are not,
they are portrayed as warrior princesses or beautiful souls, as Sylvia Bashevkin
notes in her latest book Women as Foreign Policy Leaders: National Security
614 International Journal 74(4)

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