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The Keys to the Foreign-Policy Kingdom

Author: Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow
April 14, 2014
Foreign Policy

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The recent emergence of the Twitter hashtag #WhereAreTheWomen is a helpful reminder that the U.S. foreign policy and national security communities remain characterized by similar-looking people repeating variations of a similar conventional wisdom. The distinct impression that one has is that there is a marked underrepresentation of not just women, but also minorities, non-Americans, younger analysts and scholars, and generally people who alter the status quo or provide alternative approaches. Many often describe the perpetrators of this situation pejoratively with the monolithic shorthand of: "the media," "the academy," "think tanks," or -- worst of all -- "D.C." While these descriptors are accurate, they are also misleading, because they diffuse any responsibility for the current state of these communities.

In reality, it is individuals, or very small groups of individuals, who decide each day who is heard, seen, or read. They are effectively the gatekeepers of the institutions and outlets for mainstream foreign-policy research and commentary. This includes managing editors of opinion pages for newspapers or web outlets, booking producers of television talk shows, book editors, think-tank fellows convening roundtables and workshops, directors of programs at foreign-policy institutions, program officers at grant-giving institutions, deans and professors in the academy, and so on. They have tremendous power and influence, as well as competing professional obligations and a finite time to complete them. When considering the causes of, and looking for solutions to, the problem of underrepresented voices in the foreign policy and national security fields keep these four factors about gatekeepers in mind

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