Midterm research paper Caldicott Essay


The world we live in is one of inequalities, oppression, domination and subjugation – be it involving issues of class, race, ethnicity, religion, and yes, gender and sexuality - Midterm research paper Caldicott Essay introduction. A critical review of human history as we know it reveals that such oppression and subjugation have been felt more by women all over the world in an on-going struggle for equality among the sexes. This struggle is no longer confined to the home, even to the confines of the nation-state as Feminism has strived to integrate gender into human understanding of how states behave in the international system.

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‘Gender’ here does not merely refer to the biological differences between men and women, but rather ‘encompasses social and cultural distinctions as well as the inequality in conventional roles between the two sexes’ (Genest, 2004, p. 261). The promotion of ‘gender neutrality’ is being increasingly recognized as of timely relevance in the study and theorizing of international relations. In recognition of the view that there are ‘two sides to every story’ so to speak, this paper highlights Feminism and its applications in analyzing international relations from the ‘female’ perspective, which for the longest time in largely patriarchal Western society has sadly been neglected and relegated to the wayside. The researcher deems Feminism as appealing in its offer of alternative frames of analyzing the existing global order more sensitive to typically ‘non-masculine’ notions, i.e. of peaceful resolution to conflict, non-aggression, the effects rather than merely the causes and strategies of war. And the work of Helen Caldicott proves a timely piece illustrating the strengths, as well as the weaknesses, of the feminist perspective.

In the contemporary international political scene, it appears that the Bush administration has taken a hard-line stance against ‘rogue states’ they claim to be developing nuclear weapons. Harsh rhetoric has been directed at Iran and North Korea among others the White House has branded as making up a new ‘axis of evil.’ Yet while the administration has frequently spoken against the dangers of nuclear proliferation the world over, it has and is still planning to spend millions of dollars developing and testing a new generation of American nuclear weapons technology to militarize outer space.

In this context, the researcher endeavors to analyze these recent developments through the feminist perspective, particularly in studying the work of one of the most articulate and passionate advocates of citizen action to remedy the nuclear and environmental crises, and who happens to be a woman, Dr. Helen Caldicott, in her work “The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s military-industrial complex.”



A.     About the Author – A Biographical Sketch

Acclaimed as the world’s leading spokesperson for the antinuclear movement, Dr. Helen Caldicott has devoted the last 35 years in an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age and the necessary changes in human behavior to stop environmental destruction. While living in the U.S. she founded the Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization of 23,000 doctors committed to educating their colleagues about the dangers of nuclear power, nuclear weapons and nuclear war, way back in 1978. She also founded the Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND) in the U.S. in 1980.

She established the Nuclear Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. last 2002 “to facilitate a far-reaching, effective, ongoing public education campaign in the mainstream media about the often-underestimated dangers of nuclear weapons and power programs and policies.” She was subsequently nominated for her efforts to the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2003 she received The Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom. Both the Smithsonian Institute and Ladies’ Home Journal have named her one of the “Most Influential Women of the Twentieth Century.”

Dr. Caldicott was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1938, and received her medical degree from the University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She founded the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital in 1975 and subsequently was an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Boston, Mass., until 1980 when she resigned to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war. In 1971, she played a major role in Australia’s opposition to French atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific, and by 1975 she had worked with Australian trade unions to educate their members about the medical dangers of the nuclear fuel cycle, with particular reference to uranium mining.

Dr. Caldicott has received 19 honorary doctoral degrees, has written for numerous publications and authored seven books, Nuclear Madness, Missile Envy, If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Heal the Earth and A Desperate Passion: An Autobiography, The New Nuclear Danger: George Bush’s Military Industrial Complex, and Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. She also has been the subject of several films, including Eight Minutes to Midnight, nominated for an Academy Award in 1981, If You Love This Planet, winning the Academy Award for best documentary in 1982, and Helen’s War: portrait of a dissident, which received the “Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Direction 2004” (Documentary) 2004, and the “Sydney Film Festival Dendy Award for Best Documentary,” 2004. At present, she lectures widely, dividing her time between Australia and the US.

B.     Theoretical Position

Taking into account that behavior comes with a precise position, i.e. roles assigned to or associated with men or women in a society, gender differences appear to be more troubling than other cross-cultural differences as they occur where the home and hearth are: “We enact and create our gender, and our inequality, with every move that we make” (Tannen as cited by Genest, 2004, p. 314). Moreover, gender is not only about women, but also about men and masculinity.

As power is a key component in international studies to evaluate the behavior, relations and dynamics between states in the international setting, feminists take serious interest in the validity of the distribution of power among players in the international system, and in penetrating the current system which fails in promoting the interest and security of women in the world community (Genest, 2004). Caldicott successfully integrates the feminist perspective in analyzing the root and determining the nature of the real threats involving nuclear weapons. Her distinctly female approach, characterized by visions of peace, equity, social justice, and environmental balance (Genest 2004, p. 262), entail a relatively novel understanding of power politics. Gender need to be viewed as having ‘shaped and enabled processes of state formation, war and peace, and revolutions; it has informed international political economies; is pervasive in the practices of global governance; and it has shaped foreign policies’ (Genest, 2004, p. 350).

September 18, 2001, barely a week after the terror attacks on New York’s World Trade Center Twin Towers, Lockheed Martin, the country’s leading manufacturer of conventional weaponry, nuclear delivery systems, and national missile defense, echoed JFK’s famous call to “pay any price to assure the survival and the success of liberty” in a full-page ad in the New York Times. Observers were quick to act that the advertisement offered an unusually public display of the typically ‘invisible hand’ and muscle of the arms industry guiding American sentiment and government.
In her timely book, Caldicott scrutinizes the seeming indebtedness of the Bush Administration to the arms industry, warning the public of the inherent dangers in allowing weapons manufacturers to strongly influence, if not dictate foreign policy. She turns her critical eye to recounting the history of government collusion with industry, effectively showing how the merging of weapons firm in the 1980s created hugely powerful “death merchants” (Lockheed among others) who strongly lobby politicians and manipulate public opinion on behalf of their corporate interests.
At present, as unprecedented acts of terrorism spur on the American public’s willingness to grant its government the power to wage war, constant pressure from weapons manufacturers to use military force – and effectively, to buy more of their produce – poses the stunningly real threat of a nuclear war. Taking stock of her medical training, she enumerates the medical consequences of such a war, conclusively demonstrating the fantastical notion of nuclear survival, and chillingly, that nuclear victory is but an oxymoron.

C.     Discussion of Findings


For Caldicott (2004), there is now enough explosive power in the combined nuclear arsenals of the world to ‘overkill’ every person on Earth thirty-two times, maintaining the position that the world is even more dangerous than it was at the height of Reagan’s buildup of nuclear weapons and Star Wars dreams. The Pentagon now is targeting 3,000 sites for nuclear attack, up from 2,500 in 1989, and even though the Soviet Union is more than a decade in the grave, 2,260 of those targets are in Russia. She highlights that perhaps the most dangerous risk today, is that of accidental nuclear war, with the United States and Russia each having around 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, ready to be fired at an instant’s notice.

She sharply notes that despite the end of the Cold War, U.S. annual funding for nuclear weapons has increased ($3.8 billion to $5–6 billion per annum) and the U.S. military’s nuclear targeting list has expanded to include China and the ‘rogue states.’ The credibility of such claims however is undermined by her exaggerated, alarmist charge that the world is now even more dangerous than during Reagan’s Cold War presidency. Horrendous an accidental launch or terrorist strike with nuclear warheads would be, such scenarios would not threaten the survival of civilization as an all-out nuclear Armageddon between superpowers would.

This nuclear madness Caldicott claims to be fueled by weapons contractors, laboratories, and rightwing think tanks. Debunking the rhetoric of a defensive nuclear umbrella, she recognizes it as an offensive device aimed at achieving nuclear first-strike capability against Russia and China, a working nuclear shield above the United States as the equivalent of a sniper wearing a bulletproof vest. She makes many cogent criticisms against current and prior administrations’ nuclear policies and the excesses of the government-dominated military-industrial complex associated with nuclear weapons, i.e. finding new threats (such as North Korea) justifying missile defense and U.S. overseas military presence. She effectively argues that this aims to justify continuing U.S. military presence in East Asia in truth directed more toward a rising China rather than a starving North Korea.

D.    Counterfactuals


Caldicott poses intelligent questions on why the U.S. needs to meddle in other countries’ affairs, appropriately criticizing Bill Clinton for military interventions overseas more than any other president during the past twenty years, though this might not necessarily be to compensate for his sex scandal and lack of military service. Yet her critique from the left argues that such iron-fisted diplomacy goes hand-in-hand with “U.S. corporate globalization,” with the two however not necessarily going together – there is a tendency for her to confuse mercantilism at gunpoint with peaceful trade and financial transactions by private parties in the context of a seemingly ‘free’ but increasingly interdependent world.

Several of her assertions, e.g. “it is likely that some form of remediable [environmental] action will be required in a DU post-combat environment” and “no international law, treaty, regulation, or custom requires the United States to remediate Persian Gulf War battlefields” (Caldicott, 2004, p. 157), would be more solid if she cited primary instead of secondary sources. Her hypothesis that ‘right-wing think tanks’ controlled by corporate interests direct the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and other prominent international organizations (Caldicott, 2004, pp. 25–26) and exerts influence effectively controlling U.S. government agenda, particularly nuclear-security policy, as when she says Lockheed Martin “literally controls the fate of the Earth,” seem to be overstatements. Some of her analysis also lack any valid empirical basis, as when she probes the psychology of scientists designing nuclear bombs: “Perhaps at a subliminal level these scientists—almost exclusively men—are seeking an archetypal understanding of the experience of conception and delivery, otherwise unavailable to them. The ultimate destruction of the creation is, in their minds, analogous to creation itself.” (Caldicott, 2004, p. 16)

As to her use of the feminist paradigm, it has been criticized for the lack of a comprehensive theoretical construct in analyzing international relations, for being a prescriptive theory which fails to provide explanatory and theoretical tools to conduct thorough analyses, as well as whether feminists are also guilty of stereotyping in terms of using selective characterizations (Genest, 2004). Caldicott’s approach demonstrates that feminist theory is a’ multifaceted effort to change the course and conduct of international relations in a way that incorporates the unique character and contributions of women’ (Genest, 2004, p. 262). Emphasis is on the positive differences rather than negative competition between the sexes. Differences in women’s expertise and perspective on various issues bring vitality, expand possibilities and offer a new breadth of understanding to accepted norms and established theories of international affairs.

Critics however, contend that IR theory should explain and predict behavior on how the world operates, and gender may not provide a sufficient explanation for past and contemporary international politics (Genest, 2004, p. 266). Larger forces, such as human nature, disparities in wealth and power, claims of an anarchic world system, etc., shape behavior of international actors on the global stage, regardless of gender. Furthermore, when women have assumed leadership positions and confronted the same global problems i.e. that of terrorism and impending nuclear warfare, their actions have been similar to men’s.

From postmodernism, we are reminded that both feminist and constructivist theories point out that language, group identities and gender roles are social constructs mediated by human interaction and profoundly impacting human lives. As feminism questions the role of gender on the construction of views on global politics and international relations, it is important to note that theories are important not merely for the answers they provide but also for the questions they ask. Since traditional theories of International Relations (Realism, Liberalism and Class System theories) however, believe in the possibility of acquiring objective knowledge of the world by employing the scientific method in studying international relations, they question the lack of any clear alternative presented by feminism (and postmodernism in general) to replace the positivist underpinnings of mainstream IR theory.

For them, feminism and other postmodern approaches is merely a critique rather than a cogent theory of international relations, and finally its lack of objective truths lead many to wonder whether it is simply an anti-intellectual exercise leading to nowhere (Genest, 2004, pp. 266-267). The debate may rage on for the years to come but there is no denying that the postmodernist (and the feminist) image of global politics has become one of the major systemic theories of IR.



“The New Nuclear Danger” is a timely reading for a world troubled by state aggression, terrorism and conflict. Since September 11, it has become quite clear that the United States is headed for more military adventurism to fight the ‘global war on terror.’ Long-time nuclear activist Caldicott in her work bids us to critically examine the current state of affairs and not to be easily swayed by political rhetoric. The present military buildup is certainly not new yet will it effectively solve the bane of terrorism? Utilizing her ‘medical’ model, Caldicott emphasizes studying what she calls the “disease” before launching into a ‘remedy.’ She is obviously in her element as she lays bare the ties between the American nuclear arsenal and large profit-driven corporations. In impressive detail, she describes how hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on questionable defense projects and warns the public of the true danger awaiting the world in the wake of a nuclear build-up.

With her feminist perspective, Caldicott provides a refreshing take on power relations, and the role of gender in shaping human consciousness and social structures in much of Western society (Genest, 2004). Though it could not fully and most satisfactorily account for the problem of war and security plaguing humanity (no single theory by its own merits could successfully do so), it does poses profound questions to the reader on what is really at stake here – gender-based concepts and attitudes are social constructs are created and rooted in a male dominated system of power and control. Human affairs have been constructed to fit male conceptions of the world, life, and human interaction. Therefore, men are the primary players in these frameworks. Changes could only thus stem from the perspective and experience of women in society. The whole global community would benefit from greater equality throughout the system, as well as seriously considering nonviolent solutions to conflicts and alternatives to arms race and military exploits


List of References


Caldicott, Helen. The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s military-industrial complex. New York: The New Press, 2004.


Cusimano Love, Maryann. Beyond Sovereignty: Issues for a Global Agenda. 3rd ed. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.


Genest, Marc A. Conflict and Cooperation: Evolving Theories of International Relations. 2nd ed. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth, 2004.


Moser, C.  “Gender Planning in the Third World: Meeting Practical and Strategic Needs.” In Gender and International Relations, edited by R. Grant and K.  Newland, pp. 83-121. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991.


O’Byrne, Darren J. Human Rights: An Introduction. Harlow, England: Pearson Education, 2003.

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