Commander, U.S. Southern Command
In this roundtable discussion, Admiral Tidd shares his insights on the role of women in building peace, preventing conflict, and countering violent extremism. His remarks address the growing body of research establishing that peace and security efforts are more successful and sustainable if women participate, as highlighted in our new report, “How Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution Advances U.S. Interests.”
BIGIO: Thank you all for joining us this evening. And welcome, everyone, to the Council on Foreign Relations. My name is Jamille Bigio. I am a senior fellow with the Council’s Women and Foreign Policy program. Our program has worked for over ten years now to advance the conversation and research on how gender equality helps advance our broader foreign policy and security objectives.
I want to thank the Compton Foundation for its support for our work, as well as the Council’s Center for Preventive Action, which is co-sponsoring tonight’s event with us. Before we begin, I want to remind everyone that the discussion, as well as the question and answer period, will be on the record.
Today the Women and Foreign Policy Program is launching our report on how women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution advances U.S. interests. In it, we lay out the quantitative and qualitative evidence on the benefits of women’s participation to overall peace and security objectives. This builds on the U.S. government’s efforts - in successive Republican and Democratic administrations - to promote the role of women, and makes recommendations to the next administration on how it can continue to strengthen its peace and security work by promoting women’s participation.
The security challenges we face today range from recurrent armed conflicts, expanded terrorist and violent extremist networks, and mass displacement. We also see that our current peace and security responses are not proving effective. Nearly half of the conflict resolution agreements forged during the 1990s have failed within five years. We also saw that 90 percent of civil wars in the 2000s occurred in countries that had experienced civil war during the previous thirty years.
These kinds of statistics highlight the need to look at peace and security with a new lens. With that perspective, there’s greater importance in a growing research body that’s pointing to an approach that is often overlooked by our peace and security policies, and that is engaging women in conflict prevention and resolution. This evidence is found across the conflict continuum, from preventing conflicts and violent extremism, to peace negotiations, to rebuilding countries after conflict.
For example, one study found that substantial inclusion of women and civil society groups in a peace negotiation made the resulting peace agreement 64 percent less likely to fail. Another study found that women’s participation made peace agreements 35 percent more likely to last at least fifteen years. These kinds of findings should really inform our thinking about how investing in and advancing women’s participation can lead to better results in our peace and security work.
In today’s conversation, we’re going to focus on women’s participation in the security sector and in peacekeeping. To frame this, in 2015 only 3 percent of UN military peacekeepers and 10 percent of UN police personnel were women—substantially lower than the UN’s target of 20 percent. We also saw with 2015 that the U.S. officially opened all combat roles for women. At the same time, women comprise, in the U.S. military, around 15 percent of the active duty force. And while they’re 20 percent of the officer corps, they hold less than 10 percent of leadership positions.
Research indicates that women provide distinct contributions to improved security operations. As one example: we’ve seen that when female security officials assist in dispute resolutions, they are more likely than their male counterparts to deescalate tensions without the use of excessive force. Now, the implications of this are important: the participation of female security officials can enhance the community’s perception of the security force’s integrity, which helps rebuild the relationship between communities and security forces and helps security forces be more effective in achieving their security objectives.
As we talk more about the benefits of women’s participation in the security space, we couldn’t be joined by someone better-equipped to reflect on these issues than our speaker today. As commander of the U.S. Southern Command, Admiral Tidd is responsible for all Department of Defense security cooperation in the forty-five nations and territories of Central and South America and the Caribbean Sea. He has held command positions across the U.S. Navy, served on the White House National Security Council staff, and as assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So please join me in welcoming Admiral Tidd with us today. (Applause.)
TIDD: Jamille, thank you very much for the opportunity and the invitation to spend a little bit of time with you. It probably is worth mentioning just a little bit of why I find this topic particularly important for us to talk about, not just in the context of my current position as the commander of U.S. Southern Command, but to trace the arc of my military career. As a midshipman, I entered the Naval Academy. And it was during my time at the academy that the first women were admitted to our service academies. I don’t need to make a point of the fact that that was very badly handled, and we could have done a much better job.
Continue forward to when I commanded a destroyer -- it was at a time when women were coming onboard our ships. And during my time in command, we brought women on board as officers, chief petty officers, as sailors onboard the ship. We have made progress. Still, it was not a perfect transition. It is a transition that continues to go on today. Our armed forces have integrated women, better in some cases, worse in other cases. But we have clearly found that we’re in a position right now where, from a purely pragmatic military position, the addition of women into our military forces makes us a better, more effective, more capable military.
And why do I say that? We will spend some time, and I look forward to the opportunity to talk about the role that women are playing specifically with a number of our partner nations in peacekeeping operations and the significant contributions that they’re making there. But I would also like to focus on the fact that it is not just in peacekeeping operations where women are making contributions. It is across a wide variety of fields in our armed forces, from the fields that previously had been considered fairly traditional roles that women played in the armed forces, to the hard end of the activities, to the combat operations, whether it be in our aviation, on board our ships, or more and more in the field.
I think that one of the most useful points in the history of how that was done was the very pragmatic decision made by our special operations forces, recognizing that they were failing in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan because they did not have the ability to access a significant portion of the populations where the source of the problems were occurring. And, for those of you who have not yet read Gayle Lemmon’s book, “Ashley’s War,” I strongly recommend it because it is, I think, a significant example that makes the case that women have earned the right to be part of our armed forces. They’ve earned the position. They make us a better armed forces in the roles that they have taken on. It’s not a role for every woman. It’s not a role for every man. But it’s a role that some women have demonstrated that they belong in.
So that’s why I’m eager to spend a little bit of time talking about what’s happening now. And I’ll be happy to discuss further some of the questions that you may have.
BIGIO: Thank you for that framing. Picking up one important point you’ve just made, how do you see the United States building on its experience of and the lessons from increasing the participation of women in the U.S. military? How does this inform in its engagement with partner militaries on this issue?
TIDD: From a very pragmatic perspective, how do we encourage the development of modern, capable, and effective militaries, particularly as we work with our partners throughout Latin America and the Caribbean? There are a couple of characteristics that—and I call these military imperatives -- if you want to be a capable military these are things that you must take on. And so I’ll start briefly touching on the first three, and then I’ll focus my time on the one I think we’re most interested in discussing.
For nearly twenty years now, U.S. Southern Command has had an Office of Human Rights. The Human Rights Initiative that has been instituted and piloted within Southern Command recognizes the foundational role of respect for human rights. Why is that important in our region? If we are able to work with partner militaries and help them to see that a respect for human rights is critical -- it allows them to gain legitimacy within their population and to earn the trust of the people that they exist to serve. So it allows them to more effectively do their job.
Another area that we focus on is the professionalization of noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps in the region. And again, that allows them to take on greater responsibilities. And we find that in the instances where there have been human rights violations, it’s usually because of an undisciplined junior military member within the armed forces. A professional NCO corps helps with that. We need an appreciation for this and an understanding across all the branches of the various armed forces, which is an area that we still struggle to implement as fully as we could.
In addition, there is a military imperative for how to appropriately employ a gender perspective in military operations. And again, we do this not because it is socially popular to do, but because this is how you become a more effective military, to recognize and tap into the very best talent across your entire population—not just the male portion—but your entire population. It allows a more complete, better, more professional military that is able to accomplish missions that a single-gender military is just not going to be able to accomplish.
So we work very closely to instill an appreciation in this. And what I’ve found in the discussions that I’ve had with my counterparts, the chiefs of defense of countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, is that in many respects they’re far ahead of us on this. They have recognized the importance of doing this, and they have taken steps to begin to bring women into their militaries, into their national police forces, and their security forces, at a greater and greater rate. And while they have not necessarily achieved the percentages outlined by the UN recommendations, they are still far and away above the average on a global basis.
What are we finding? When you look at countries like Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, and Argentina—countries that have decided to make peacekeeping operations an area where they want to be world leaders—they have the ability to form that critical centerpiece of a lot of the peacekeeping operations and instill a degree of discipline in those U.N. peacekeeping forces that we have seen that, when it’s absent, it leads to some terrible tragedies around the world. And so they have already recognized this. They have recognized the importance of bringing women in.
The challenge that we have is it’s not something that is going to happen overnight. Unlike perhaps other parts of society within the uniformed police forces and the military forces, you can’t just snap your fingers and instantly create that critical middle level of experienced women who are able to lead with authority and credibility. That’s going to take time to grow them, but they are in the process of growing them. And I think that’s the important thing to recognize.
BIGIO: Yes, and as you said earlier, there are also experiences from how the U.S. integrated women into our military that we can share with our partners there.
TIDD: It’s interesting, in one of the partner nations that I was speaking with, the chief of defense—male chief of defense -- was very quick to point out that they recognized that because so much of the population lives in a very rural environment and where, frankly, the historical and the economic opportunities for women are pretty grim, joining the military offers women unique opportunities for them to gain an education, to travel and to take on positions of responsibility and leadership, and to begin to model the kind of behavior and become role models for other women throughout their society.
BIGIO: Coming back to your broader hat as commander of U.S. Southern Command, your focus is on addressing the complex and unpredictable security threats in the region. You’ve spoken of how you need to approach these threats with new solutions. How do you see the participation of women factoring into your approach? And how does U.S. Southern Command work in this area?
TIDD: For a long time when people think of the region of Latin America and the Caribbean -- because it is a region that really has not had significant state-on-state conflict for some time -- there’s a little bit of a tendency to either look beyond the region, or to look at it as, just where they have drugs. And SOUTHCOM, that’s just the folks who are doing drugs. And we recognize that there’s a lot more going on.
One of the efforts that we’ve made is to try to look strategically at the problems, and to recognize that there are a wide variety of illicit substances that are trafficked throughout the region, sometimes by criminal networks, sometimes by networks of terrorist supporters and sympathizers. But the characteristic they have in common are these networks. If we look at the network, and the network as the source of potential instability, that gives us an opportunity to be able to tackle it from a more strategic perspective.
Because networks exist and thread throughout society and the fabric of society, you have to look at the totality of society. That’s where it interrupts the family networks, it interrupts the social networks of communities. And so women being part of the security forces, part of the police forces, they have the unique ability to see and understand where those networks operate, and to be able to share that information in ways that if you depended exclusively on an all-male population for your security force, you just would never see that source of the problem.
Because they have an ability to see and understand and communicate and build trust ties with the community to a significant degree, they are able to elicit the kinds of information that’s required to be able to see the networks. And if you can see them, then you can begin to bring pressure to bear on them, and ultimately to be able to disrupt them. And so it’s just the recognition that it takes an entire fabric of society to create a network that we’ll be able to lay down on top of these illicit networks if we’re going to be able to deal with the security challenges in the region.
BIGIO: This very much echoes the U.S. military’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, that you were referencing at the start, of why female engagement teams came about in the first place, and how those helped advance the U.S. military’s work there.
TIDD: Yes, absolutely. And this is something that is probably a belated page from our law enforcement communities who recognized a long time ago that if you’re only talking to half the population, you only get half the picture. So many of our domestic police forces and law enforcement organizations brought women into them. And women have been in for a long enough period of time that they’ve risen up through the ranks to be able to exert, I think, significant leadership.
BIGIO: The other sector where there is attention to women’s participation and to increasing the numbers to advance the work, as you mentioned with law enforcement, is peacekeeping. And as you noted, Latin American countries are taking a real leadership role in this space, and it’s against the backdrop of broader international commitments that have been made. What do you see as the potential of Latin American countries to promote female participation in peacekeeping, and what are the ways that U.S. Southern Commander can support this effort through its broader peacekeeping support?
TIDD: As I mentioned before, I think one of the reasons that some of the military and the police forces have moved so aggressively to bring women into their security forces is because it improves their effectiveness. What they’re also beginning to recognize is, at a far disproportionate level, women suffer from the scourge of this kind of trafficking that we’re talking about—whether it’s trafficking in drugs or trafficking in women, trafficking in people, trafficking in sexual slavery—that preys inordinately heavily on women in the region.
Bringing other women into peacekeeping forces allows them to make contact and to have, perhaps, a better, truer perspective of exactly where those risks occur and where are the kinds of networks that may be preying on the vulnerable populations, and to be able to see it and to do something about it. Because of their ability to make contact with the communities where they’re conducting the peacekeeping activities, as your studies have pointed out, we are beginning to see that they are able to build trust across into the community. And by building trust in the community, it’s actually safe for the peacekeepers themselves, because the peacekeeping operations themselves are inherently very dangerous.
And so we find just as a matter of force protection, that by creating that trust in the community, understanding where the potential risks come from, where the threats due to peacekeepers come from, it’s safer and the operations themselves tend to be much more successful. So, I mean, we see that the role of women—in peacekeeping forces, whether it’s in police—UN police forces or in the military forces that are charged with attempting to enforce that peace or separate parties that are warring parties, is critical. And their understanding of what’s going on in the communities is critical.
BIGIO: And how does this fit in with how U.S. SOUTHCOM works with its partners on peacekeeping issues?
TIDD: We’ve got a wonderful partnership with U.S. State Department. Obviously they have leadership in a program for global peacekeeping operations initiative, and State funds, and our military forces implement the GPOI training of peacekeeping forces. So just this past year we trained over 3,500 peacekeepers to operate around the world. And over the past 12 fiscal years, we’ve trained in excess of 36,000 peacekeepers from Latin America and the Caribbean using GPOI funds. And that just allows us to continue to build the network of forces engaged in peacekeeping operations. We’ve got, again, terrific leadership being exerted by countries like Chile, establishing a peacekeeping institute. And we see that countries like Guatemala are beginning to make strides in this area. So we’re optimistic that we’ll see improvements.
BIGIO: And just to highlight here the relationship that, if we’re looking to increase the number of female peacekeepers, those have to draw from women in the security sectors in their countries. So it’s, again, looking at the pipeline point that you were speaking about: how countries integrate and invest in women’s leadership in the security sector is a needed step before we can increase the number of female peacekeepers.
TIDD: It takes time. And just as we have experienced within our own armed forces, every year, as more women come in and they continue to move up through the ranks, we’ll be at a point in some countries where I think we would expect to see a selection of women to positions at the general officer rank within police forces and security forces. But that takes time. And there are other countries where they may be ten to fifteen years away from that. And this is one of those things that if we rush it, it won’t succeed. It’s going to have to just take time and work its way up through.
But what I’m encouraged by is, in discussions with the male leaders of these countries— they’ve demonstrated significant understanding of the importance of bringing women in, and then moving them through so that they have positions of leadership and responsibility.
BIGIO: I wonder if you can reflect as well on the relationship between these issues and other security priorities that you have in the region. So, for example, about advancing protection for human rights, of combatting trafficking, which was clearly a key important issue. What is U.S. SOUTHCOM doing in these areas? And how does that relate to women’s participation?
TIDD: Well, again, that’s why it became useful for us to stop focusing on individual commodities or specific things that were being trafficked, like women and children, and instead focus on the networks themselves. And by focusing on the networks, stepping back and looking across, we—in the military parlance, we tend to—when we talk about networks we talk about detection, illumination, and then ultimately disruption. In much of the activities that occurs in this part of the world, that disruption piece, that find kind of finish piece is actually a law enforcement mission. And for the most part, it is partner nation law enforcement that is responsible for executing it because it occurs within the sovereign territory of the countries throughout the Americas.
Working, again, very, very closely with Department of State, INL in many instances, in the development and the training of law enforcement to give them the tools that they need to be able to effectively execute that law enforcement endgame. Where we try to contribute in the areas that we have some unique competencies is in the detection and the illumination piece, to try to build out this picture, that is really a transnational picture because these networks literally run not just from one end of the hemisphere to another, but they connect east and west to the continents in Africa and Europe and into the Pacific as well. But to be able to see where these networks are, how they operate, what the nodes are and the connection points.
And then working with our network of law enforcement, intelligence community, diplomats, militaries from all of our partner nations both in this region as well as much further afield, to be able to gather the information, build a coherent picture, and then to be able to share that picture with the partner nations through our embassies, working through the country teams, to be able to let these trained effective law enforcement organizations or, in some cases, because I think as you’re well-aware, some countries have significant problems due to corruption of their police forces, their militaries play a supporting role of backstopping their police forces until the police can get back on their feet.
And so we work very, very closely with them. And that’s where this Human Rights Initiative that SOUTHCOM has been working on for so many years, is I think beginning to pay dividends. As another effort that we engage in, the Perry Center in Washington, is an academic institution that supports our activities, but works very, very closely in defense institution building, basically helping to develop professionalized security sector management, and to allow them to do planning that makes best use of limited resources and trains a cadre of civil servants who understand good governance, understand the rule of law, understand the role of supporting their populations and gaining legitimacy within their population.
BIGIO: I think that’s a really helpful point, to understand where the conversation around women’s participation and their protection from violence fits into the U.S. military engagement on defense institution building, on that professionalization effort.
TIDD: Absolutely. And it’s probably worth pointing out, the Perry Center, when they talk about the number of courses that they teach over the year, most of their students are actually civilian. They are for people working in the ministries. But about 25 percent of their students are women. And, again, providing opportunities and training for women to be able to take on positions of leadership within the policymaking side of their security ministries as well as on the uniformed military side.
BIGIO: And that’s a very practical tool that the U.S. government has – how it fills its training slots, how many of those go to women as one way in which the U.S. government can support and encourage female leadership in our partner nations.
TIDD: Absolutely correct.
BIGIO: So I’d like now to turn to the question and answer period of our discussion. We have some CFR staff with microphones. Please raise your placard if you’re interested in posing a question. I will then call on you. If you could stand up when you get the microphone, introduce yourself, and then pose your question.
Q: Thank you. I’m Cora Weiss.
I doubt that we would be having this conversation at all tonight if the Security Council had not unanimously adopted Security Council Resolution 1325 exactly sixteen years ago on women, peace, and security. So I want to ask you a question. You’ve both talked about women as if we’re all alike. We don’t talk about men that way. There are differences and distinctions. And, Admiral, you said that the admission of women makes a better and more capable military. I wonder if Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann were appointed to the government if it would make it a better and more capable government. So my question to you is, what has the participation of women in the military done to prevent the scourge of war, as the UN would say—for the prevention of violent conflict?
TIDD: So let me challenge that in the sense that I’m not sure it is the role of the uniformed military to be responsible for the prevention of armed conflict. Regretfully, historically, the armed forces get called in when armed conflict has not been prevented. Now, this may not necessarily be the answer that you’re looking for, but when we are able to draw upon the very best and the brightest minds—whether they are wearing uniforms and in the military side and charged with defending our way of life, defending our nation—I would like to have a team that’s made up of the most creative minds and individuals who are able to come up with the widest variety of solutions to very difficult military problem sets.
When you call on the military, somebody has decided it’s time to start breaking things. Ultimately, that’s what you expect us to be able to do with a high degree of skill. I would like to make sure that we have very creative solutions that may not be anticipated by our adversaries. Now, when we find ourselves, as we do today, with adversaries that do not even admit that women play a useful or valuable role within society, I think our integration of women in the military gives us an incredible advantage, by being able to draw on people who will come up with different solutions to difficult challenges.
My personal observation—it’s an anecdote; it’s not academically rigorous—but in the ship that I commanded, my most effective combat watch officer was a woman. She came up with solutions that others on the ship did not anticipate. I don’t know how she did it. I just know that she came up with the best, most devious and difficult-to-defeat solutions. So I want that as part of my team. I want the broadest possible universe of solutions.
That doesn’t really answer your question. Your question is how do you prevent combat. And I think that comes from making sure that your diplomatic corps, your intelligence community, and all of the other elements of your policymaking apparatus, again, draw upon the very best, the very brightest slice across the entire population, and is not confined just to a single portion of the population.
BIGIO: Thank you. We have a question here.
Q: Hi. Thank you. I’m Jen Leonard from International Crisis Group. We’re an NGO based in Washington, but we have offices in and near conflict zones around the world.
Thank you, both of you, very much. And I did get a chance to read the report. And so I wanted to draw from one of the recommendations that I saw, that gets a little bit beyond the very helpful conversation about the pipeline and women’s participation in uniform—whether it’s with partners or in the U.S. military. And that’s the interface that we as our military or our partners have with women organizations and leadership, and the role that you envisage yourself and your command playing in that interface. And I ask that, building on the prevention angle too. Yes, you’re about responding. You get called in when the prevention community, as large and broad as it is, has failed, in many respects. And so you do have, I would think, a vested interest in engaging in that prevention. So I’d really like to hear you reflect on that, including what you see as potential mechanisms or flexible authorities, et cetera, for the U.S. military to be engaging in the interagency to help make that happen with your natural partners which I would, again, go back to the diplomatic and the aid community. Thanks. I’ll stop there.
TIDD: Let me start by saying there are a couple of ways that—at least at the SOUTHCOM headquarters—we try to get exactly at that challenge. One, and this is something I don’t take credit for—actually, I think it was my predecessor’s predecessor, General Doug Fraser – he held regular meetings with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that were particularly focused on the human rights challenges, whether they be the global multinational human rights organizations or specific in individual countries with some of the NGOs.
Just to sit down and listen to them and understand from their perspective what the challenge is either across the region or within a specific country, and to see it through their eyes and understand better what some of the challenges are. My predecessor, John Kelly, continued that. I’ve done it as well, and had a number of these meetings. And again, it’s an opportunity for me to educate myself and to better understand their perspectives. So to make sure that, one, there’s a free flow of communications and that there’s an understanding from our international partners that we are interested in seeing and understanding and hearing particularly from perspectives that we might not otherwise get.
Now, the second aspect, and kind of what U.S. Southern Command is—it’s not unique, but I think it’s an area that we probably have spent a lot of time focusing on -- it’s a military headquarters, but it’s a military headquarters with a significant presence of essentially all elements of our security organization. For instance, I have two deputies at my headquarters. One is a military officer, an Army officer, but also a senior State Department official, ambassadorial level rank.
I would tell you exactly who it is right now, but I’m at a gap right now. One has left and I’m waiting for the other one to come in. And until that other—my civilian deputy shows up I shouldn’t announce who it is. But I’m very excited that she will be joining us very soon, and to make sure that I am very, very well plugged in with the Department of State at the senior level, to make sure that we understand the diplomatic aspects. But we also have senior representatives from across all of the law enforcement agencies, Department of Homeland Security, and a number of Coast Guard officers within my staff. So we really do make an effort to look from an interagency perspective.
A subordinate headquarters to SOUTHCOM is one that we hold up as the template for good interagency operational activity. And I know it’s fashionable to say that the interagency doesn’t work and that it’s not possible to function effectively. But down in Key West, Florida we have an organization called Joint Interagency Task Force South. The director is a Coast Guard rear admiral. The deputy director is a Navy rear admiral. But they also have one FBI and one Customs and Border Control deputy as well.
And it basically focuses on this problem of looking at the threat networks that right now are most specifically involved in illicit trafficking of drugs. But they are also looking at networks writ large engaged in all manner of illicit trafficking—whether it be trafficking in persons, weapons, cash, woods, golds, other sorts of materials throughout the region. So we try to look well-beyond just a purely military perspective, and ensure that we’re seeing it from the perspective of all of our partners. And as well, international partners. We have liaisons with a number of critical countries around the region.
BIGIO: Thank you. This one.
Q: Hi. Julie Kay. And thank you for your comments and your work on women’s participation.
I think we’re all very aware that we are entering into a new commander in chief in the next year, and perhaps one who, in all seriousness, does not value women’s participation perhaps in the same way this administration has. And I’m wondering what your thoughts are on how that will impact the work and the priorities of what you’ve been talking about this evening.
TIDD: I think one of the things to remember is that the military does administration transitions all the time. And every four years, a new group of people come in. And our job is to be able to work with whoever comes in, and to execute whatever the policies are that are made. So we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
BIGIO: OK. One more question here.
Q: Thanks, sir. Whitney Kassel from Palantir Technologies.
You’ve made two pretty compelling arguments, I think, for why female participation in these efforts is important—both that they allow security forces to engage with local communities more broadly and that it allows the U.S. military, and probably these partner militaries as well, to draw on a larger pool of candidates for critical decision making positions. There are a lot of people out there with some pretty fierce arguments for why this is a bad idea—usually around things like unit cohesion, sexual assault, distraction of forces particularly on the special operations side but really across, I think, infantry, ground forces, et cetera. What are your thoughts on those counterarguments? I’m sure there’s many others that I’m not thinking of. And what can the U.S. military and potentially partner militaries do to lessen the risk that those issues might pose?
TIDD: I don’t want to come across as glib, because you highlight the fundamental challenge that we face across all of society. And we need your help to build the body of research to refute these arguments. Until then, it boils down to leadership and understanding that if we are going to build an effective team, regardless of what kind of team it is, it requires treating the members of that team with dignity and respect. And I would argue that has less to do with gender and more to do with leadership. Good leadership is good leadership. Bad leadership is bad leadership. Leadership challenges are in front of us regardless of the gender makeup of the team that we’re trying to put together.
So I know that if we’re going to go into combat, I want to make sure that we can draw upon the best, most motivated, qualified members that are out there. That’s not to say that every single position across all of the security enterprise—and I don’t mean strictly just uniformed military, but across the entire enterprise—not everyone is going to be qualified for every single position. I’ll be the first to admit, I could not qualify for a whole host of critical positions. But there are people who can. And so we have proven that there are highly motivated, very capable, skilled men and women who are able to qualify for some of the most difficult and challenging positions that we have. And I would like to make sure that we’re picking the best qualified that are out there and move beyond that.
BIGIO: OK. Thank you.
Q: Thank you very much. I very much appreciate many of your comments, which indicate that the security aspects are very important in the light of things related to trafficking and so forth. My name is Betty Reardon, and I work with women who are attempting to implement 1325. One of our colleagues last fall organized a very productive meeting with the security sector, in which fairly high ranking officers from police forces and military from various countries came together to discuss 1325, and how women’s civil society organizations and the security sector could work together toward that goal of implementing 1325 by having women participate in all levels of security policy making within the military, and outside of the military, and throughout that system. And I wonder what your thoughts might be on how civil society organizations with these goals might facilitate some of the things that you’re trying to do toward a more effective role for women in various phases of security. Thank you.
TIDD: I’m not sure that I’m qualified to provide an observation on that. I’ve always been on the policy execution side of things. And I have not—I guess from my time working on the National Security Council staff under a previous administration. It’s challenging. I recognize that. But I think that we just get on with it. I mean, there’s nothing magical about the concepts outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. It’s just we got to keep working at it.
BIGIO: You spoke as well of the command’s relationship with civil society organizations in Central and South America. What the opportunities in that relationship, where there are ways that either women’s organizations or organizations that are broadly focused on professionalization, on increasing the pool and making forces more effective, that can tap into some of these?
TIDD: So I talk about these military imperatives. And there are two of them that I will blend here. One of them is making sure that we appropriately recognize a gender perspective in military operations, and also the professionalization of the noncommissioned officer corps, that critical middle management. So one of the things that I’m doing is bringing onboard a gender advisor. I’m not bringing a policy advisor. What I’m bringing in is a U.S. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer, who’s going to be joining us. Her experience has been as a cultural support team (CST) member with special operations forces serving in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and then, more recently, training the CSTs to be able to conduct those operations.
She is a senior noncommissioned officer. She is also somebody who has been proving day in, day out that she can more than hold her own in a group of people who have notoriously high standards of being part of the team. And she’s accepted as part of the team. In my book, that’s good enough for me. So I want her to help hold me accountable for paying attention to these issues, and also going downrange and working with our NCO development program, being able to talk to the senior noncommissioned officers of our partner nations downrange. And, if she encounters any of these individuals who, for whatever reason, may have a belief that women don’t belong in combat units, I will encourage her to inform them otherwise.
BIGIO: In front, please.
Q: Hi. I’m Sarah O’Hagan with the International Rescue Committee.
In your own backyard, in Southern Command, the long-standing success of the FARC, in terms of the incredible integration—social integration of that militia and that revolutionary force, which is tied into political ideology—whether we, the United States and our partner militaries, have studied that. And if so, what lessons you have learned from it.
TIDD: I think that’s a great question. And whether we’ve studied it, I would ask, as part of the academic background of the work that went into your study, I think that’s an area that probably is ripe for further development. And I’d be very interested in—because you’re right. And it’s not the first ideological movement, but it’s one that I’m not sure it values any of its individuals. It values the collective. And that’s not exactly the value system that our country is based on. And what we need to find is the appropriate way to value the individual roles and contributions of all of the members of our society, as opposed to suppressing them down to a collective that really almost negates gender. I think we’ve got to find a way to celebrate the differences.
Q: I’m Celina Realuyo from the National Defense University Perry Center.
TIDD: It’s good to see you again.
Q: Thank you. On the FARC, just to add onto that, we’ve actually studied why that is. And more importantly, I think we’ve had a very historic weekend, which was—in non-U.S. election news, I just want to point out, we’ve actually had a major breakthrough. The FARC and the Colombians have actually agreed to a new set of terms.
But going forward, perhaps also, sir, you want to explain—which is the longest assistance program that we’ve had, that’s both military, development, and diplomatic—what the new role is going to be of the U.S. military in supporting the transition post-conflict—which does include, by the way, the reintegration of the women, who are extremely critical in any post-conflict, who will be the ones who care for the next generation. Then more important, how do you see that? We have about—I think we’re at 15 percent now in Colombia of both the police as well as the military. And they’ve asked for our assistance. But perhaps you could help us see what the next steps are of this process.
TIDD: I think the next step is to continue the path that we are on. And the relationship, the partnership that we have with Colombia I think is a hallmark of a successful USG partnership with a willing and capable country that has been struggling with a civil war for fifty years. As has been pointed out, we know that the Colombian people, the people themselves, are looking for peace. And we are enormously supportive of the Colombian people to arrive at a peace that will end this civil war. That certainly is what they’ve struggled for. But I think they’re very close to it.
There is this critical recognition that for it to be enduring, it must incorporate women into that reconciliation process, because that’s the whole fabric of society that comes into play. And so they have—the Colombian government and obviously the armed forces—which in Colombia that includes both their police force and their military—have recognized this, and have placed women in a significant role to ensure that the reintegration and reconciliation process includes all of the society, men and women, for it to succeed.
BIGIO: And a question here.
Q: I’m Julia Bacha with Just Vision.
And because the FARC example was mentioned, I wanted to ask if either of you is familiar with a contradictory of the FARC—which is a study that Victor Asal has done on the role of gender ideology and whether social movements, political movements, adopt nonviolence or violence. And he found that movements that believe in the role of women in public life are a lot more likely—almost double more likely—to adopt nonviolent resistance versus violent resistance in situations of conflict. And so just wanted to bring that out, so that we’re not left with the example that the one inclusive movement is a violent one. Overall, it seems the research shows that movements that believe in the inclusion of women are actually more likely to use nonviolence to achieve their political and social aims.
TIDD: I learned of it because of the study that the Council on Foreign Relations has released. But I think that that’s very encouraging. And I think it’s an area that is ultimately one that bears further study, and so that we can see how that might be applied from an actual—how do you operationalize the insights gained from that study?
BIGIO: Wonderful. Well, let me just note that there has been reference to UN Security Council Resolution 1325. There’s a series of resolutions that the UN has made talking about how women’s participation and their protection from violence as security issues. There are now over sixty countries that have policies on this issue, and commitments to promote women’s participation and protection from violence. NATO has made commitments and has its own formal center—the Nordic Center on Gender and Military Operations—that has put together some very strong tools that look at practically how to train and operationalize these kinds of commitments in military operations.
We see now a broad suite of policies and partners across the international community committed to promoting women’s participation in peace and security, including leaders like yourself and organizations like U.S. Southern Command, and many of your partners in the region. As we think about the next steps in this space, it’s important to note that there are many voices across the world that have made commitments and are doing work and are looking for ways to partner with civil society organizations, with the UN, with NATO, with the U.S. government and others to continue to increase women’s participation and their protection from violence. There’s really a lot of experience and research to draw on, and more areas to invest in here.
Admiral Tidd, your reflections I think have been incredibly helpful as we think about what this means in the space of how the U.S. military works, what its partners are doing in the region. So please join me in thanking the admiral for his reflections. (Applause.)
TIDD: Thanks very much.
BIGIO: Thank you.
TIDD: I appreciate it. Thank you.