Securing Peace by Addressing Conflict-related Sexual Violence

Rodi Said/Reuters

This session will examine the devastating use of sexual violence against civilians by armed factions and extremist groups. Research shows that postconflict societies more effectively recover and rebuild when women participate in reconstruction efforts and their experiences in conflict—including wartime sexual violence—are addressed. Responding to conflict-related sexual violence includes promoting justice and accountability, training security forces in protection measures, investing in services for survivors, and including women in developing solutions to the factors that place them at risk.


Princeton N. Lyman, Senior Advisor to the President, United States Institute of Peace; Former U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, U.S. Department of State; Former Ralph Bunche Fellow for African Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations

Zainab Salbi, Founder, Women for Women International; Media Host, Zainab Salbi Project and Nida’a Show

Chris Jenks, Director of the Criminal Justice Clinic and Assistant Professor of Law, Dedman School of Law, Southern Methodist University


Kimberly Dozier, Global Affairs Analyst, CNN; Contributing Writer, Daily Beast

This symposium will convene experts on international security and U.S. foreign policy for an analysis of women's contributions to conflict prevention and resolution, including a focus on the global security threats posed by fragile states, violent extremism, and the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and of terror.

DOZIER: Hello, everyone. I’d like to invite you to sit down. We start promptly at the Council on Foreign Relations. Thank you very much. If you can make your way to your seats.

Welcome to the third session of today’s Council on Foreign Relations symposium on women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution. This session is titled “Securing Peace by Addressing Conflict-related Violence.” And with us we have Ambassador Lyman, Zainab Salbi, and Professor Chris Jenks. And I would like to open up with questions that you can each answer from your expertise.

Why is violence against women becoming such a standard tactic of modern-day conflict? Ambassador.

LYMAN: I think this is one of the most disturbing aspects of what’s going on in conflicts. You see it in South Sudan to a terrible extent. You see it in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo. You see it in—now in nomadic agricultural conflicts in Nigeria. It’s becoming almost standard.

And I think it’s because it has become an almost recognized tactic of war and because people who are organizing and mobilizing people are permitting it and even encouraging it, that it’s taking place.

The question is, where are the sources of resistance? Where are the sources of stopping it? And in my view, the traditional ways of countering it are not sufficient. We have to think of some new ways that I’d like to talk about subsequently.

DOZIER: So before we get to the new ways, why do you think, Zainab, it has become such a commonplace practice on the battlefield?

SALBI: I don’t think that it’s new actually. I think historically violence against women has been used in wars. That has been a historical practice that we only talk about it perhaps in contemporary ways in the modern time. But this has been used actually historically. I’m reading—and then—so that’s one thing, it historically has happened.

Second, you know, I’m reading, for example, a book on what happened in Berlin, you know, so the whole idea of what happened in Berlin and how many hundreds of thousands of German women were raped by Russian soldiers. The sanctioning by the leaderships, the sanctioning by the military of all of these historical wars.

So one is that we cannot call it then—it actually has always been. It’s only talked about publicly after the Bosnia war, where this is the first time in modern history where we—I think where we talk about it in a more public way.

But I think it’s important what—the changing moment for me was when I took a few American men and women, leaders actually in their own different field, to Congo, to work on the Congo war, to show them what—to expose them what’s happening to Congo and all of that. And it happened over two occasions, two separate occasions. And both of them was from Western white men, you know, who are colleagues and friends that I never expected the following statements from them. In the middle of the night, you know, you’re sitting and after a horrible and they said, I understand why these men rape. And both time it was very shocking for me because they actually were friends, and I knew them. And like, you don’t expect it from—in other words, it’s easier to say the Southern Sudanese or da, da, da. But then in Germany—OK, so that’s European culture and Russia. That a European culture. And then it gets even closer to home when these are friends who are saying in Congo that I understand why these men rape.


SALBI: You know, and they—you know, the two of them—and they said there’s an adrenaline that we have to—and you have to—you have to understand there’s an adrenaline in that moment, that it’s—it pushes you. And one of them—he says, the only reason I do not—and that doesn’t mean all men feel this way. You know, I—a lot of other men don’t feel this way, but this happened to me. And one of them, he said the only reason I don’t is because of the deterrent factor, that if I go for it in the moment of my life, that the deterrent of—the price I have to pay in my career and my wellbeing and my financials and my reputation is so high that that’s the only reason I don’t do it all the way.

The point is I don’t want to say—I am against pointing fingers at the moment—and the moment is really the fingers have to go inward for all of us. This is not a Third World issue. This is not a modern world issue. This is a war issue. And we have to address what’s—what entices—the psychological issue what entices, yes, aggression in that and what all of us actually allow it to happen and what military structures and what political structures that sort of allow it to happen without uproar and outrage. But it’s here.

DOZIER: But you also seem to be saying that we’re hearing about it more not because it’s a new tactic but because the media is no longer—the media of maybe the 1940s or 1950s—it’s speaking out—

SALBI: No, not the media. The women are speaking out.


SALBI: The women in Russia did not speak out—I mean, German women simply did not speak out. And they were told at that time that—do not speak out. Bangladeshi women, who were also raped by hundreds of thousands by Pakistani army in their independence war in the early ’70s, they also did not speak out.

The turning point happened when Bosnian women started speaking out. And they started speaking out, yes, because there’s a lot of big support from women’s rights communities, there was a lot of endorsements, there was a lot of coverage of it, and they stepped up. And religious organizations and community members in Bosnia at the time, Catholics and Muslims, went out and said these raped women are like any injured soldiers in the war.

So the society dealt with it in a different—in a different way. When the women started speaking up, it sort of opened up a new discussion.

DOZIER: Opened up the floodgates.

SALBI: But it’s not, you know, only the media. I think the women stepped up this time.

DOZIER: Chris.

JENKS: You know, I agree it’s—unfortunately it’s certainly not a new—not a new issue in warfare. But I think in trying to reduce it down to a singular why, we’re—that answer is going to be unsatisfying or incomplete. We have the benefit now of some sexual violence data that’s being compiled and being analyzed. And I think what that data has shown us is it counters some of our beliefs about both the causes and purposes maybe of why sexual violence occurs.

And so there’s not a—there’s certainly not a singular reason why groups or state militaries commit sexual assault. There are any—there’s variable factors, whether they’re tribal, whether it’s ethnic, whether it’s opportunistic sexual assault, whether it’s strategic, whether it’s actually as a weapon of war, whether it’s an attempt to terrorize or to subjugate a population.

So part of the challenge is sexual assault related to armed conflict occurs differently in different parts of the world and at the hands of different actors, which I think only adds to the challenge of how to respond to it when it has—when it occurs in these differing and variable ways.

DOZIER: So the data that you’re referring to that was collected—what was the most surprising aspect, that there was number of different reasons for sexual assault?

JENKS: I think to me the surprising parts—the surprising aspects of the data were that some of our—some of, I think, the long-held beliefs about the cause of sexual assault related to armed conflict are either—not that they’re inaccurate but that they’re incomplete and that there’s—

DOZIER: Such as?

JENKS: Beliefs that sexual assault in armed conflict is really just an extension of armed conflict is a form of—obviously is violence and that sexual assault is a violent act. And so the theory—one theory—one theory subscribes that with the increase of violence in armed conflict there’s going to be a corresponding increase in sexual assault, which is true in some conflicts and not in others.

I think there was—there’s a belief that sexual assault occurs more at the hands of non-state actors or perhaps in civil wars, which again is true in some conflicts but not in others. So I think it was the variable nature of—the variable nature of the sexual assault data is, I think, providing a lot of material for some social scientists to delve into causation and responses.

DOZIER: Yeah. Ambassador, you mentioned that there are some remedies out there that people are working on.

LYMAN: Well, look, let me—you know, some years ago, quite a few years ago, I was in Ethiopia talking to the late president—Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia. And it was on a different thing, and I was raising the question that in southern Ethiopia there was a practice of women being kidnapped and then raped and then forced into marriage. And I raised that issue with him. And he said, well, that would happen in Tigray, where he comes from, because the women are organized and they wouldn’t have let it happen.

Now, you know, that’s a revolutionary talking. But as I look at all we’ve done on trying to organize against this kind of violence, all the work we’ve done with women and women’s groups, it hasn’t worked. Take South Sudan, where you have very, very impressive women’s organization that’s been working on peace for a long time. It hasn’t stopped what has been horrific, horrific kinds of violence in this civil war.

And what we have to think about—and it’s a risky thing, but people have been writing about this—is thinking more of nonviolent movements. I mean movements like Gandhi movements, like Martin Luther King movements, where people risk themselves—and the previous discussion talked about how you protect people in this regard—but on the streets by the thousands to stop this kind of activity. I don’t see any other way in a society in which all sides are committing these types of violence in South Sudan where you can begin to stop it.

And where women are organized and nonviolent in major ways, they have an impact. In a very different context, when I was in South Africa and the negotiations were going on at the end of Apartheid and the ANC was in—negotiating with the government, et cetera, in the middle of it, the ANC women went on strike and caused a big demonstration, saying: Our liberation party is not including us enough. It stopped the negotiations in their tracks and became part of the process, not only in the constitution-making but have continued to play a major role in the politics of South Africa.

Organization, willingness to go out on the streets—I think we have to think more in terms of those movements, but they’re very risky.

DOZIER: I was going to say, but that’s a revolution within a revolutionary organization.

LYMAN: Yeah.

DOZIER: There’s a framework for protest.

LYMAN: Yeah, that’s true.

DOZIER: I mean, Zainab, can you see that working in other places where—Egypt—demonstrations are cracked down on?

LYMAN: Yeah, it’s risky.

SALBI: I mean, I completely agree. That’s—ideally that’s what we need to nourish for visionary leaders to sort of take that on. And it’s hugely risky. You know, so in Egypt, for example—all part of the world—for any woman, including, by the way, myself, who is a very strong, feminine, blah, blah, blah—but whenever—every time I step up and speak about a truth and the truth is a sensitive one, be it violence, be it rape, be it—all of these things—the price and the risk, you know, one has to pay as an individual is huge and significant.

JENKS: Yeah.

SALBI: So there are two sides of the story, in my opinion. One is we cannot underestimate—we actually—we don’t even—we don’t estimate it at all, the price a woman takes to step up and speak up. We celebrate her when he she is, but the price you go through on a personal level, on a family level is huge.

So one is we need to have more understanding and empathy and—understanding of what the price is so we can support that price not only through women’s organizations but through psychological support, family support, whatever it is.

The second part is that we do need more men—and I don’t only mean intellectual men in this panel, for example, who are nice and kind and wearing a bracelet supporting women and obviously supporting—I mean men in the military who are in sort of the aggressive posture, you know, that they need to also step up and speak up about it. The truth is in Congo, some of the accused—some reports a few years ago that came up about rape was committed by U.N. soldiers. And I don’t remember the U.N. being outraged about it. I don’t remember—they made some statements about it after a lot of scandals, but I don’t remember the men taking it on and saying no.

You know, so we are—that’s what we need to also—there are two sides of it. We need more men to step up in a more—in the aggressive side of saying this is wrong.

DOZIER: Speaking of—

LYMAN: Can I just add to that? Because I think it’s very important. What we haven’t seen enough of is U.N. peacekeeping missions protecting people who want to stand up. And we’ve had many instances, including very recently in South Sudan, where they have failed to do so.

DOZIER: And that brings up a question of how are people made to pay for these crimes and how is the legal system, the international legal system, doing—enforcing some sort of punishment.

Chris, that is your bailiwick.

JENKS: If I have one, yes. I do wonder, though, what work or what our expectations are of international criminal law, of international criminal justice, and if we frankly think of or want too much from international criminal law. So you have entities like the International Criminal Court, which are supposed to exercise complementary jurisdiction. So there are going to be a few number of cases. The bulk of the work—the bulk of the justice work must be done at a domestic—at a domestic level. So while the ICC plays an important role—


JENKS: —the International Criminal Court plays an important role, just this year, you know, announcing the conviction of the former vice president of the Congo, Bemba, for among other things sexual assaults committed in the Central African Republic, but that’s one case. That’s a case that took—that’s a case that from commission of offenses to judgment took over 13 years.

So I—if we’re looking for international criminal law to provide some real general deterrence to would-be wrongdoers around the world, I think we’re asking—I think we’re asking too much or making unrealistic demands of the limited nature of international criminal law. I think our efforts are better served on domestic capacity-building, the infrastructure to hold military commanders in particular accountable.

DOZIER: But what you’re saying is that right now there’s no real cost for committing this kind of crime for most combatants across Africa, across the Middle East?

JENKS: I mean, a number of countries—a number of countries have—when faced with difficult prosecutions or investigations, they’ve requested the International Criminal Court essentially handle it for them.

DOZIER: And what is their rate of prosecuting those crimes?

JENKS: Well, again, the International Criminal Court—it was only structured to handle isolated and a few number of—a few number of cases. So the bulk—and its complementary jurisdiction—only—the bulk of accountability must but isn’t occurring at a domestic—you know, at a domestic level.

SALBI: I think there’s another layer here, which is—in my opinion is the elephant in the room. America and the Western world in recent time and particularly in this particular time has truly, in my opinion, lost credibility in different parts of the world. The Western values of the Western world has lost—it is no longer respected nor feared.

And so you have a time of—we are living in a time in which different nations no longer think of what America thing or the Western values or system thing is relevant.

DOZIER: So you mean when the State Department issues a statement saying that you have just violated human rights in X, Y, Z way.

SALBI: Really no one cares. Or if the New York Times write about X government or X military person, really that—and—this is not—I don’t—I know this is not in national politics, but we need to understand that this is a reality right now. And so you have a stage where we—where every country is sort of going inward, doesn’t care. That was a deterrent, how America felt, how the Western world felt, and—but that was a deterrent, a national deterrent.

Right now, that deterrent, in my opinion, is very weak if not gone. You know, people don’t care—different countries no longer care. I was just in the Middle East, and truly not many people care about this. And actually, they’re happy. They’re, like, oh, they’ll leave us alone.


SALBI: And if we tell people, oh, I write for—you know—they’re, like, we don’t care about what Americans think. So that makes it more—even more—two things, in my opinion. We are in a more dangerous space because the deterrent is very weak right now, you know, so we need—yes, what do you do for inside state actors and how do you empower and strengthen the civil society in that state, you know?

And second—and it’s actually no different than what Alaa said earlier—there needs to be an inward thinking. There needs to be modeling, an example made out of—in other words, America can no longer—no longer has a credibility to lecture other cultures—

DOZIER: Because of?

SALBI: It lost credibility. It lost credibility. It lost credibility—

DOZIER: The wars of Iraq or Afghanistan? What caused this loss of credibility?

SALBI: It lost credibility—no, it went from—actually I would say the First Gulf War was probably the turning point in which America came in a big force and power—and I’m not saying that as an Iraqi—but in a promise of this is what we do. And sort of that promise was not promised. It was just a war that destroyed a country and left. And so you have anger at America from the entire Middle East. And I don’t mean the Arab world. I’m talking about Southeast Asia, all of that, who are saying they came, they promised, and the country is destroyed right now. And this is coming from secularists, this is coming from elites. This is not coming from, you know, the poor religious people. This is really coming from secular elites who are saying we used to have honor and they took even the honor away for us.

So America lost credibility. This is just—and President-elect Trump increases that, you know, increases that sort of “he’s going to leave us alone; we don’t care.”

So we need to create two things, in my opinion, again, a self-reflection and modeling, a self-modeling of what America can do to address these issues that is happening in this country and an investment in state actors in different countries that they can take on the issue and own it.

DOZIER: Ambassador Lyman, I saw you nodding along with some of that.

LYMAN: I think this is extremely, extremely valuable. And I think the responsibility is going to have to shift and should shift much more to the countries and the societies around the world.

DOZIER: Which is actually something President-elect Trump has argued for.

LYMAN: And it’s not a bad thing either except that it’s going to take a lot of courageous work on the part of people. Look, in Africa, a large amount of civil society and government people came together and put out a document called “Africa in 2063.” If you read that document, it has everything beautiful in it. It’s democracy. It’s human rights. It’s everything.

Now, it represents the feelings of youth, of civil society, or governments, et cetera. Now the question is, how is that going to be made whole in Africa? And it’s going to be by people who are committed to it and working. To an extent, there are ways in which the United States and others can lend support to that process. But the responsibilities, I think, have to be there and have to be encouraged with a kind of modesty, if you will, or humility about how it’s going to be done, but not to walk away from those principles, not so say, well, it doesn’t matter anymore, because it does matter.

And encouraging people who really care about that in other societies is what we can do.

SALBI: Right.

DOZIER: Well, if the U.S. isn’t going to be the one that rounds up nations and civil society towards a particular goal in a region, then you’re left with the United Nations, I assume. And you all have at least been part of or seen U.N. attempts to address the issue that we’re here to talk about today, which is sexual violence against women. How have they done? And I say that, you know, also to open up—reopen the conversation about U.N. peacekeepers.

LYMAN: They’re doing better, OK. Just investigated and named people who were—who were perpetrators of gender-based violence in the Central African Republic. They actually named the soldiers. They said to their governments, you have to—it’s your job to prosecute them. They fired the force commander in South Sudan because they stood by while a hotel of aid workers was attacked and women raped, et cetera, although the Kenyans reacted by saying, well, then we’ll pull our troops out of the peacekeeping operation.

So it’s not an easy thing to do. So the U.N. is getting better, but—and it can be a voice of—an international voice of principles and et cetera. So I think they’re playing that role.

I wouldn’t count the U.S. out entirely because I think the U.S. still can play a very strong moral voice in raising this but not assuming that it’s our responsibility to make it happen.

DOZIER: I understand. I was raising that in the devil’s advocate frame of mind.

Yeah, you—

SALBI: I think it’s changed—I mean, I—there is two discussions, is U.S. as Americans sitting in this room and what is our responsibility for this issue, and there is also how do we want to come across as Americans to other parts of the world. That role—there is a need to do that work in America as Americans because this is about America and what we want out of America, American values for Americans as well as for the rest of the world.

So that needs to continue indeed. But the discussion—the nature of the discussion, the nature of the conversation, is—has to change. And if we’re not going to take the step forward to change it ourselves, then it’s—that change is going to be forced on us because of that lack of credibility. Right now we’re making it a cultural issue. And when it’s a cultural issue—that is these, these, these people—we need to model it—

DOZIER: Oh, you’re—you mean we’re saying that this sexual violence is happening because those cultures are backward or behind or different.

SALBI: America right now needs to model inward, needs to model—like, that’s the leadership. It’s sort of step up and do things inward to inspire other leaders to do what it says as opposed to push and point the finger and say, you, you know, whatever that means. And I’m not giving concrete action. I mean, I just read this today in the news, for example. Veterans apologized to Native Americans in Standing Rocks (sic). Now that’s modeling. That’s a good modeling. You know, they—I was, like, now that is—because that’s what the world is saying, saying America keeps on lecturing us about ourselves, about human rights and women’s rights, but they’re not doing it for themselves, you know, they’re not reflecting that in the delegations they’re sending us, they’re not reflecting that in their own local politics, they are not reflecting—so we need to model as opposed to help right now.

DOZIER: Now, Chris, you’ve been modeling in terms of teaching some legal experts overseas how to carry out these sort of cases. Can you tell us about what sort of success rate you’ve had with that?

JENKS: Well, and return maybe to the earlier comments about loss of U.S. credibility, I assume you’re speaking maybe in a—in a moral sense. I’d be interested to know what form of credibility you think the U.S. lost. I wouldn’t disagree that there’s been some form of loss of moral credibility over the last 10 or 15 years, whether it’s the invasion of Iraq, whether it’s Abu Ghraib, or whether it’s Guantanamo.

I think it’s also important to ask what is it we expect of—from—you know, my—the lens I view things is the military. What is it we expect of the military? I do think that the U.S. military has tremendous credibility around the world if for no other reason it is the most effective fighting force in the world. Technology plays a role in that, but frankly it is training and it is leadership. And that is a message that I think has derivative benefits when we partner with other countries about what being a professional military is—what that means, what that looks like.

You know, one of the points that we try to communicate, whether it’s when I was in the service or, you know, now later is, you know, complying with the law of armed conflict is not a(n) operational hindrance; it is an operational multiplier. You will be a more effective fighting force if you have accountability and if you comply with the law of armed conflict.

So, I mean, I do think there is an aspect of U.S. credibility in terms of the effectiveness of the military that lends itself well to working with militaries around the world and in the process having some derivative benefits in terms of limiting sexual assault.

But I think we should also ask—but I’ve also been—I’ve also, as a member of DOD, been involved in some, I think, very well-intentioned but, I think, ill-suited tasks in the Congo and elsewhere in terms of institution-building, work that I think is better left to civil society, to nongovernmental organizations.

So part of it is, you know, in terms of assessing the tools that the U.S. has and the best way to leverage those tools, I’m not sure—at least vis-à-vis the military—we’re always coherent about that.

DOZIER: So you’re saying that you’ve tried to impart some of these skills but that it really needs to rise from within those countries rather than being lectured from outside.

JENKS: So, for example, in the—in the Congo, the U.S. is frankly the latest in a series of countries that have tried to work with the FARDC, the Congolese army. The U.S. approach, a little different, was we took one infantry battalion, so roughly 500 soldiers, and we said—we started basically—we’re starting over. What would you—what would happen if you were starting in the U.S. military? Well, you’d go through a medical exam, there’d be physicals, we would give you uniforms.

And so for two years, we trained this unit at U.S. taxpayer expense. We trained this unit. We clothed them. We fed them. We paid them—yes, paid them.

DOZIER: I assume you gave them ethics lectures.

JENKS: Throughout the—yeah, again, you’ve got all the training, you know, essentially that you would receive as a—as a U.S. Army soldier. At the end of that two years, we essentially returned them to Kinshasa, returned them to the Congolese—the Congolese government.

The day after the turnover date, the meals went from three to two, the soldiers were not paid the first month after we returned them to Congolese control. And by two months after this, soldiers in this trained unit were stealing livestock. And then several months later there was a couple of instances of sexual assault.

I think that was a well-intentioned effort, but I question—I question its efficacy, and I wonder if those resources might have been better spent in terms of civil society and other ways of capacity-building other than working with—you know, working with just one part of the military.

DOZIER: Before turning to audience questions, I want to ask one last question of Zainab. You grew up both in Iraq and America, and you have a talk show that interacts with women from the region. What do they say about this issue of sexual assault?

SALBI: Couple of things. I actually agree with you about what you said about the U.S. military, but people don’t separate America as U.S. military versus President Bush, versus President Obama, versus President-elect Trump. They don’t see it this way. When you’re in a country, you see America. And America is a holistic—they see a country. They really don’t care who is the president, who is—you know, they just see the country, so they see it as connected policies, you know.

Yes, I was just in Iraq in the front lines actually a month ago. And when I asked some fighters what they think about the U.S., they said we actually are grateful for their air bombs, airstrikes; they’ve helped us a lot in the progress against ISIS. So that’s—there is a respect for that, you know.

But then also people are very upset at the U.S. for the dismantling of the army, for policies about Iraq. So they don’t necessarily distinguish that.

And then I have to—you know, so that’s—you know, I just want to—and we have to look at that. We have to have it—again, I keep on saying it. This is an inward journey, in my opinion. And I say exactly the same when I am in the Middle East, you know, I—because in the Middle East they also say, U.S.—the U.S. should apologize to—and I also say—my message to—no, no, no, you don’t expect anything from the U.S.; you have to do the work yourself.

So it’s exactly the same message. Now—and in the Middle East it’s a different kind of resistance. I mean, I think—I actually feel everyone is resisting doing this work, you know, which is the hardest journey in my life, is to do it here. It’s easier to point at everything that is going wrong around us. It’s much harder to sort of look—reflect what are we doing wrong?

But in the Middle East, there is a resistance. Indeed, there is a resistance to—at least I face in my talk show—you know, to talking about the violence against women, to—not because they don’t want to—not because it’s a taboo to talk about it but because they don’t want to address the pain that is going on.

You know, so one of my biggest criticism of my show—and I did two shows on the rape of women by ISIS and what they have done and all of these things, and it did create—but it’s, like, you’re showing us our sadness, and we cannot handle that.

So they are psychologically in a stage of we want to—you know, we want to just think about aspiration, we want to just talk about how to—entrepreneurship, all of these things. So it’s—they only have the appetite for positive momentum and no appetite whatsoever, in my opinion, for, like, reflecting, no, this is happening in our own—in our own countries and by our own people.

You know, so it’s—these—it’s another challenge over there of sort of having to address. But that challenge can only be addressed when we just keep on pushing it and nourishing it in a process that does transform—Germany in World War II after the—Berlin, women stayed silent because they were also ashamed of talking. Right now Germany has risen up and talking about moral standards in different parts of the world, about women’s rights and otherwise, right. So that took years of progress, of investment, of nourishing, of voices, of all of that.

So, yes, in the Middle East, it’s—there’s resistance. There’s a lot of problem. There is no appetite. I did a story on one woman who got harassed in Tahrir Square in Egypt and molested viciously. And the audience members were angry at her. How dare you talk—to shame our men?

So there is tension, and there is—there is—

DOZIER: Victim blaming.

SALBI: It’s a really horrible—I mean, it’s also tension. And it’s okay to have this tension. We just need to push and support local voices to—until it evolves from within so they can own the change.

DOZIER: Which makes conversations like this all that much more important.

LYMAN: Just a quick comment. I don’t think the United States should abdicate its role on this regard, but I think we can do it in two ways: one, addressing the issues we have here. There’s a lot of discussion going on about sexual assault within our own military. And we can look to ways we’re trying to address it and be honest about it, the successes and failures.

There’s an enormous amount of spousal abuse in the United States. My daughter is a social worker who works on it. So I hear from her. And we cover a lot of that up, and we need to be more honest about that.

The more honest we are about it, the more we are able to talk about this as an international norm to deal with and encourage others to deal with it as well.

SALBI: Exactly.

DOZIER: Which goes back to get your own house in order before you lecture someone else.

SALBI: It’s inspiring—

LYMAN: Not before. At the same time.

DOZIER: At the same time.

SALBI: At the same time, but this is a different way of inspiring. This is inspiring new ways of leadership rather than imposing, you know, so it’s—that’s for me moral leadership.

DOZIER: So at this time I’d like to invite members to join our conversation with their questions. A reminder that this meeting is on the record. Please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. Please stand, then state your name and affiliation. And please limit yourself to one question and keep it concise to allow as many members as possible to speak.

Questions from the audience? Right here.

Q: Hello. Karin Ryan from the Carter Center in Atlanta. So in the previous session and in this session, we’ve talked about empowering or supporting local voices, local efforts. And I’m very pleased with the direction of this panel and the previous one, that we—this is the Council on Foreign Relations, we’re looking outward, but we have to be at this juncture looking inward as well.

So my question with sort of the landscape that we’re looking at, we’re looking at the expansion of, for example, special operations types conflict as opposed to big military operations—we’d like to see those draw down. Everyone agrees with that. But there’s—somehow there’s this sort of tacit agreement that we have to expand the special operations approaches and these sort of very kinetic operations in many, many places that could actually undermine the rule of law in places like Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, other places where you know, we think we have to go that direction because we’re fighting a dangerous enemy, terrorists, that we can all agree on a certain kernel of truth there.

But you know, as we’re going forward—and President Obama gave his final speech on his national security strategy, saying, OK, we’ve got to really defeat terrorism and this idea that drones and other sort of undercover operations are going to be sort of the modus going forward—can I ask how can we do that and not do harm to those very internal forces, the rule of law, the people who need in all these countries to really build the rule of law—can the United States be a force for human rights, a force for peace? How do we get this right? How are we going to get that right?

DOZIER: So let’s differentiate here to be accurate. You’re talking about not the vast amount of special operations missions which are done with the host government’s permission but the minority, which are run by the Joint Special Operations Command or the CIA, that are covert and clandestine and done without the permission of the government in which they’re operating?

Q: Well, there’s some—isn’t there some confusion in the middle? You know, sometimes there is overt permission. Sometimes there isn’t publicly acknowledged permission. And then the public of that country don’t know that there’s—so there’s a—there’s a problem—

DOZIER: OK, such as Pakistan—

Q: Pakistan, right.

DOZIER: —where the government has given the U.S. permission in many cases, yes.

Q: In many cases, but we don’t, right—so we don’t know which cases—

DOZIER: Unless you report on it, which I do. So—and then it’s up to us in the media to uncover that. But what do you think about those—the covert or clandestine operations that are done without a local government’s permission? Does that undermine our legitimacy in the United States to lecture people on ethics?

JENKS: I don’t know about the ethics, and I’m also not so sure that this happens as frequently as maybe is believed. I mean, the airstrikes in Iraq are with the consent of and the—you know, at the request of the Iraqi government, the Iraqi security forces.

Now, is the U.S.—is the U.S. conducting strikes in Syria without the Syrian government’s consent? Yes. Yes, it is, against—

DOZIER: But they’re publishing a list of all of the strikes every day.

JENKS: ISIS—I mean, it’s—you know, it’s against ISIS. And I mean, it’s certainly difficult to at the same time argue that yes, we’re conducting kinetic strikes as part of a rule-of-law campaign. So I grant you—I grant the—those are divergent paths.

DOZIER: But to the questioner’s point, let’s stick to the ones that are not acknowledged, the ones in Yemen—because both the CIA and the military carry out some of those strikes, so they don’t want to acknowledge either one. So I as a journalist can’t find out where the U.S. targeted inside Yemen.

JENKS: Right.

DOZIER: I can’t find out where the U.S. targeted inside Pakistan. I’ve got to get a local Pakistani fixer to tell me, and then I’ve got to try to confirm it.

JENKS: Right.

DOZIER: So does that undermine the U.S.’s legitimacy in lecturing on these other law-of-war issues?

JENKS: I think the U.S. is in a vulnerable position. My sense—my sense is the U.S. is conducting those strikes with the—with the permission of the local governments, which will not publicly acknowledge it, which places the U.S. in a difficult position. Does that lead to this perception or misperception that the strikes are being conducted without host nation consent? In the case of Pakistan where they’re publicly saying they did not consent while we now know through leaked information that they were, I think that it does.

But I don’t think necessarily that we should assume that these—that strikes are being conducted without host nation consent with the exception of some of the strikes against ISIS.

DOZIER: And of course those were WikiLeaks cables that revealed that senior Pakistani officials were aware of these strikes beforehand.

Zainab, how do people on the ground feel—

SALBI: Yeah, and I’m not a military expert whatsoever. I don’t even understand that language, what you’re talking about. It’s, like, OK, I’m trying to follow properly the Americans are following—probably they’re coordinating with Saudi Arabia on the bomb—(inaudible). But I don’t know. I really don’t.

But I do know and I’m really convinced this war against terrorism and particularly against ISIS and the likes will not be won through military way. It just won’t. This is an ideological issue, and it’s not about Islam whatsoever. Islam is used as a tool, as a language. It’s like, you know, I learned—as a Muslim, I learned how to express my love for God and the universe through Islamic words, but I could have done it through Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism, just whatever.

Islam is used as a language to express something. And that something is not about the religion, because when we make it about religion, we make it an existential issue with that religion and (other ?) we cannot control. It is about social, economic, and political issues indeed. I did—I just did a story—I have a news show on Huffington Post, and I just did a story about why people are being radicalized in France particularly. And you know, because I was, like, why, you know. And really I came out honestly sad and crying.

And what they said—the one thing I heard is, like, you’re ghettoizing Islam, you’re ghettoizing the issue of social issues, social marginalization, economic one, political one by calling it Islam, because in Islam you cannot do anything about it. But if we really address the root causes of why ISIS is emerging and why I guarantee you we will—we will get rid of them in Mosul, we will fight them, we will destroy them in Mosul—they will reemerge, another manifestation over and over.

And I’m not the only one who is saying that. They have been since Taliban, since all of that, since the Mujahedeen. We have had so many people saying the same thing. We are not addressing the root cause of it. And we keep on spending money on the military, which I’m not—I’m not an expert, so I cannot comment on that. I’m just saying this is not a military war. This is an economic, a social, a political war, and it does have something to do with America, very much, because people measure things not by military and bombing. They measure—my life, at the end of the day, am I getting a better life or not? No different why Americans voted for President—I need a job, I need a house, I need all of these things.

We will fight. We will win against Mosul. I guarantee you. But I went three hours from Baghdad to the front lines, and it’s leveled to the floor—towns, cities, villages, leveled. We win the war against terrorism by building this. And this is America’s job and all of our jobs, not only—I don’t want to point—it’s all—it’s Iraqis, it’s Arabs, it’s Muslims, it’s America, it’s Europe. We want to get rid of the refugee crisis? We build these villages and these towns. And it’s the same thing. And they will be destroyed. Then build it again. And they will be destroyed, and build it again until so many people are part of building it that it cannot be destroyed.

That is still a cheaper and a more prominent way of building peace than bombing frankly.

JENKS: I mean, I felt like earlier you were acknowledging the effectiveness of U.S. airstrikes, you know, in Mosul. You know, someone who served briefly in Mosul, I—you know, I look forward to its return to Iraqi control, the freedom of the Iraqis to no longer be under ISIS. I mean, the application of lethal force through—by the U.S. in the form of limited ground role and airstrikes presumably is going to lead to a quicker recapture, retaking of Mosul. And that’s a positive.

SALBI: And it will. As I said, I’m not a military expert. I’m saying the story does not end at the recapturing of Mosul. The story actually starts what happens—and because if we go—why did we lose Mosul to start with, we will understand these terrorists, which—by the way, Muslims—and I did not know that people did not know that—in Iraq, they think of ISIS as against Islam, Sunnis and Shias. They don’t think ISIS is only against America. They’re, like, oh, no, no, it’s against us.

You know, so why did we—so yes, military—use it to end this. But then we measure everything by this, and then we—chop, chop, it’s finished. It’s not finished. It’s not finished. The measurements of peace is not—and again, I can’t talk military because I’m not—but I know it’s about rebuilding. That’s how people are measuring success, not about the taking over of Mosul again. Inshallah, it will happen. But they will measure the real building of peace when it’s rebuilt, when their lives are rebuilt.

DOZIER: Ambassador.

LYMAN: Well, I was just going to say President Obama yesterday in his speech tried to indicate that, that it’s not going to be won militarily. There will be military aspects of it.

SALBI: There will.

LYMAN: But it’s not going to be won by military.


LYMAN: And I think he was trying to lay that out in ways that he hopes will influence future U.S. policy.

DOZIER: Next question.

Q: Hi. Alaa Murabit. I want to revisit the sexual violence in conflict.

DOZIER: Yes, thank you. (Laughter.)

Q: And so, historically speaking, I mean, sexual violence in conflict has actually been exceptionally common down to the medieval ages. It was a signifier of the extinction of the other group, so the annihilation, the genocide, because women’s bodies have often symbolized the borders of nation and the ethnicity of a people.

And so I think that in my personal opinion—and I—and I would like your reflection on this—it’s very difficult for that to change, especially when we sensationalize it in media. So our most popular television shows have conquest, meaning you conquest the women as well. It’s been a strategy of war, where if you rape the women and they bring your offspring, the offspring are less likely to fight against you.

And so with all of these social and historical reasons why rape is such a powerful and potent military strategy, it’s a tool in military, how do we, be it through, you know, laws or—what can we implement that changes that social construct? Like, what can we realistically and practically do that changes the conversation without addressing those underlying social and historical reason for the continued sexual violence against women?

DOZIER: Could you reintroduce yourself for some of our new arrivals?

Q: Oh, my name is Alaa Murabit. I’m the person you should come to talk to in the room. No, I’m kidding. (Laughter.) Exactly.

LYMAN: There are—we have over time established norms of war. We now outlaw the use of chemicals, although people may violate. We have outlawed the use of biological weapons. We’ve changed even since World War II, when bombing civilians was a tactic of war. And then we’ve outlawed purposeful bombing of civilians. It goes on. But at least now the norm is—what we have to do is change the norm that you’re talking about, that is, that this—we have to build a new norm that says this is not an acceptable way to wage war. And you do that in a lot of ways we were talking about earlier.

Partly it comes from strong resistance from the—from the people who are most affected. And I don’t mean just the women. I mean civil society in general that wants to change the way their countries are being exploited, if you will, by their leaders. And then it takes international norms. And you build that so that it becomes the exception more than the rule.

Yeah, people do use chemicals, but it creates a big outcry when you use chemicals. If people started to use anthrax tomorrow, it would create a tremendous reaction. That has to become the norm when it comes to gender-based violence in war, when it is unacceptable to societies and to governments.

SALBI: I would add—completely agree—I would add we need to address why a person rape. I want to understand the psychology of a soldier, and I want to understand what ends someone that you train, who probably was a good person in Congo when you trained, and in three months end up—this same person end up raping someone, you know. And I want to understand the pressure on them. I want to understand they are trained about, how they are talked about.

And I—you know, and because—we need to personalize this issue because I don’t think people are—you know, well, maybe some people are evil, but most people are not evil, you know. They are—they’re a product of circumstances. And I want to understand—personalize it for me as someone who was very scared when I saw a soldier. It doesn’t matter—it did not matter which soldier it was. I see the boots, I see the uniform, and get, like, frozen.

And I only—when I started reading books actually, it was the book, “The Good Soldier” by David Finkel, you know, personalized it, personalized the struggle of the American soldier in Iraq and the emotional—and all the movies that came out. And now—first of all, I cry on all these movies and books, and then—but I have good friends who were soldiers who I otherwise would never have talked with. But they—you personalize a person and you personalize his struggle and the emotional thing.

And I think we need—there is a civil society opposition, but we need to understand the psychological—I need to understand. I don’t understand enough to—we need to have that discussion as well as what leads someone to get to that stage and how can we work on the psychology of it to rewire that.

DOZIER: Chris, you talked about some data regarding what drives them to do it.

JENKS: Right. I mean, and—well, I’d say more the frequency and where it’s occurring and where it’s—where it’s not. I guess I would—I would push back—and maybe I’m not—maybe I’m using “normative” in a different way than you are. I mean, there’s unambiguously clear norms against sexual assault in armed conflict. You know, the data has shown that actually it’s—that in some 59 percent of the conflicts studied, that sexual assault was not a—considered a statistically significant event. So actually in a slight minority of the conflicts was it even—so that was one of the—kind of the counterintuitive—you know, that in armed conflict there would be this growth or increase in sexual assault.

Rather still counterintuitively to me on some level, there are some countries where you are statistically less likely to be the victim of sexual assault during armed conflict than you were in peacetime.


JENKS: For example, in Colombia, the statistics showed that there was a 50 percent increase or—I’m sorry, a 50 percent decrease of sexual assault in affected areas during the insurgency with the FARC. And that’s because I think we either discount or don’t want to openly discuss the fact that the prevalence—the prevalence of sexual assault at the hands of partners, family members, and acquaintances.

DOZIER: And they were off fighting, so they couldn’t be assaulting.

JENKS: I’m not sure if that’s the—

SALBI: Is it, or is it the—I’m curious. Did the FARC, for example, FARC leadership sort of—gave orders not to do it? I mean, I’m just curious because—

Q: It’s also that there were a lot of women in the FARC.

SALBI: That’s true. Yeah.

Q: So the inclusion of women—

DOZIER: The inclusion of women in the FARC.

Q: —in the FARC forces meant that there was decreased sexual violence in the populace.

JENKS: And the FARC is relatively unique amongst some of the organized armed groups in that there aren’t that many organized armed groups that have publicly expressed a commitment to follow international humanitarian law, to follow the Geneva Conventions, which—and I’m not saying that the FARC necessarily always did that, but the public pronouncements are relatively rare by organized armed groups.

DOZIER: Yeah, just to interject, there was another piece of news this week. The International Committee of the Red Cross released a poll that it has done. The last one it did was 1999. It showed that still the majority of people surveyed, 70,000 people, thought the laws of war were important but fewer than before. More people thought that abuse, torture, et cetera, was just part of war than almost 20 years ago.

So what is happening with the public that they don’t understand or think the laws of conflict are important?

JENKS: You know, I’ve been reading, you know, colleagues from the ICRC are very troubled by this—these statistics, although I’m not sure that they’re necessarily surprised. So—and something like 36 percent of the respondents indicated that it is OK or permissible in certain instances to torture when the international norm—there is no ambiguity, there is no—no torture, no—illegal, I don’t need to know the context, torture is per se—per se illegal.

Yet, you know, over a third of the respondents, some of whom—United States, France, China, Great Britain—indicated that no, actually there are instances where torture would be—would be acceptable.

Another interesting aspect I found of that study was the differing attitudes about the use of force in a populated area. And we—you know, having done some anecdotal work at the—at the Army JAG school, where you would break—you’d break a class into three groups, and unbeknownst to them, they’re getting the exact same fact pattern, only—the only difference in the fact pattern is, you know, this table here has got a fact pattern with made-up notional countries but it’s the same things going on in the civil war in the notional countries. This middle table here, this group, is divided up and has a fact pattern that’s based on, say, Iraq or Afghanistan. And then our other group—it’s Columbus, Ohio. Again, same fact patterns.

So legally, frankly, the answers should be—the answer on firing artillery or dropping the bomb should be the same with the same fact pattern. But what we saw, not surprisingly—and I think the survey kind of bears that out—is people are much more receptive to the use of force over there, somewhere else, not when, you know, the impacts would be felt, you know, in a very real—in a very real way yourself.


SALBI: Yes. Well, but I have—I want to ask something else. We are in changing times. And so that’s for me—that report was very scary because then it allows—it’s giving more—it sort of verified at least my experiences in the Middle East, you know, whether—it’s different countries; I don’t want to name any—who are using torture and mass imprisonments and all of these things as tactics, and they no longer have deterrent, that deterrent of fear of, oh my God, would America cut its supplies from us or its support of us or anything like that.

So this is changing times. And this reveals that changing time. So it makes me very, very worried. And that means for me is that we have to be very vigilant, so keep the outspokenness. We cannot shy away from that, but we also have to be changing our tactics and our way of communication.

DOZIER: Of reaching people.

SALBI: Of how we reach and how we model and how we inspire and how we keep the line for moral leadership, you know, so it’s—we cannot—and the most dangerous thing all of us can do now is to keep the way we have always talked and always dealt with other countries in the same way, because the time has changed indeed. And we need to change and reflect and sort of incorporate that change in how we actually adjust our own methodologies to that change.

DOZIER: I’d like to take one more question. This side of the room, lady in tan. And please speak into the microphone because there’s this wonderful CFR podcast that you can download on iTunes afterward to re-listen to this again. The voices are best captured on the microphone.

But please introduce yourself.

Q: Kathy Slobogin, formerly with Al Jazeera America.

The panelists talked a lot about, I guess, sort of de-normalizing sexual assault in war but not too much about actual pragmatic ways to do that. And I was wondering whether you all have any knowledge of whether models like what was used in Rwanda or South Africa, reconciliation model where the victim confronts the accused and there’s sort of a restorative justice model there, whether that holds any promise or is being used in any of these countries.

DOZIER: Ambassador.

LYMAN: Well, after the fact when you get—when you have a process, a reconciliation process, where people are willing—able to talk about what happened, I think those processes are important. The value of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was that it forced the country to have a single history, that is, to recognize things that happened that part of the population, the white population, didn’t want to believe happened. In Rwanda, through the local courts and the other systems, people were able to talk about and face people. And I think those things are important. I think they help.

But they come after the fact. And what I’m upset about is that in the midst of conflict like South Sudan, we aren’t able to stop what is a tremendous amount of brutality and dehumanization of opponents and the inability of civil society, of women’s groups, of others to be able to organize and resist and stand up to that at great risk.

But what’s happening is all so terrible. And it just takes me to one other point, is when you’re fashioning peace processes, getting that question of reconciliation and accountability into the process is very difficult. And you take the South Sudan peace process. On paper, all those things are in there. But asking the contending parties to implement them is unreal. And being able to give agency and power to people who are not the ones committing the crimes is a challenge for mediation that we have not yet succeeded in doing.

SALBI: Brilliant. Brilliant. I want to say something—again in addition—because I really agree with what you’re saying. These two models came—they were very indigenous models. And they were criticized as a matter of fact, not the South African but the Rwandese were criticized for their own Gacaca courts, you know, and by some human rights organizations in this country as a matter of fact.

You know, so—you know, but they were indigenous models. They emerged out of local leaderships. And it was—it demonstrated how do we support or not support local leaderships emerging in these directions, you know. And it doesn’t apply all the time.

So I’m not answering these things. I’m only—what I know is I worked in different conflicts for all of my life. The conflicts such as Bosnia—let’s say Bosnia and let’s say South Africa and different countries. The conflicts where the people owned their own solution—always they stood up on their feet. You know, vulnerably standing up and falling, but stood up and—they owned it.

The conflicts in which the international community came and fixed it, they still just—they are yet to stand up on their feet. And Bosnia is a very good example. The international community came and took it over and administrated, and it’s still—and to today I get asked by, you know, Serbian members of the Bosnian society—it’s, like, we don’t think we did this. And to today there is a question about the genocide and the atrocities that happened. They never owned their—there was an—you know, International Criminal Court, but they never owned it.

Iraqis never owned their process. They killed Saddam so fast without a complete trial at least. Maybe the culture is not into truth and reconciliation, but at least a full trial—it was such a shortcut of a kill that—and to today Iraqis debate whether he committed all the atrocities he has done or not.

So I really believe you can support South Africa, you can support Rwanda, but let’s emerge—let’s nourish and give space to here, the local leaderships and the emerging new voices from the youth and from the women to stand up. You know, when we’re negotiating with only the killers, peace becomes only about the ending of fighting rather than the building of peace.

DOZIER: Chris, to wrap us up, does that match your experience?

JENKS: I mean, it does, although there’s certainly more up on the dais and in the audience with considerably more experience in some of the truth and reconciliation processes and transitional justice.

I—you know, I do note, you know, that in Colombia, which has been held out by the U.N. secretary general, you had, I think, more inclusion of women voices and you also have—while there is an amnesty program, the one offense that is not subject to amnesty is—you know, is rape.

I would like our focus obviously to be more on prevention than in response, but my experience is frankly more on the response side, although at some point I think responses can lead to prevention in the—in the future. I think the majority of sexual assault in armed conflict is committed by state armed forces. And the vast majority of those instances, one or both of the following are occurring. You have a poorly trained armed force, poorly trained, poorly led, and/or a lack of disciplinary measures. So I think working on either or both of those prongs in terms of a professionalization, a training of the military, of the leaders, and having responsive accountability and disciplinary measures, you know, at the domestic level could over time, frankly, lead to a decrease in at least the armed forces’ committing of sexual assault.

DOZIER: Well, with that I would like to thank the panelists for a brave discussion and thank the members for questions. (Applause.)

(Off mic)—get your lunch and come back in so we can begin the third session on time in about 15 minutes. Thank you very much.


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