Kerry F. Crawford. Wartime Sexual Violence: From Silence to Condemnation of a Weapon of War. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2017. 224 pp. $29.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-62616-466-6; $89.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-62616-465-9.
Reviewed by Tuba Inal (University West)
Published on H-Diplo (January, 2018)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach
In Wartime Sexual Violence: From Silence to Condemnation of a Weapon of War, Kerry F. Crawford tells a detailed account of the past twenty years when powerful states and intergovernmental organizations (IGO) moved from deliberate silence on the issue of wartime sexual violence to concrete policy response against it. By exploring the causal mechanisms, the individual, political, and normative motivations behind the international response to conflict-related sexual violence with focus on the specific actions and policy responses of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations Security Council (SC) as the “world’s normative and political gatekeepers” (p. 4), she reveals the process and implications of strategic framing in international relations (IR). This book will be of interest not only to people studying wartime sexual violence and the global response to it but also to scholars of international norms, institutions, and security studies in general.
Crawford starts with the puzzle of the sudden shift in international interest and reaction toward wartime sexual violence that started in the 1990s and was epitomized in several SC resolutions on the issue throughout the 2000s. She suggests that the answer cannot be (at least exclusively) found in the work of norm entrepreneurs’ advocacy built on a basis of “women’s human rights,” which has been the focus of previous scholarship. Rather, one needs to look at the strategic framing and securitization of the issue of wartime sexual violence within the “weapon of war” framework to understand the policy responses from strong states and IGOs. For exploring the process of strategic framing and its impact, she combines various theoretical approaches, although I would interpret her work as first and foremost a constructivist study. The assumption that states have strategic interests defined in terms of military security, which make them pay attention to issues that can be situated within a traditional security framework, is certainly a realist one. Crawford partially starts with this assumption in her arguments that once something is securitized through defining it as a weapon, it becomes a security issue for the states within the perimeters of immediate interests. In the case of sexual violence in armed conflict, therefore, the fact that states got behind the idea of preventing its use can be tied to their strategic interests not only in preventing this weapon’s use against their own populations but also in justifying their own military campaigns against adversaries who can be portrayed as barbaric due to their use of this weapon. These strategic interests, however, are precisely the things being constructed through the crafting of particular narratives. Crawford’s use of securitization theory to analyze the ways in which “advocates and policymakers broaden the scope of what are considered security issues” (p. 8), hence a priority for states, is extremely helpful to understand the social construction of state interests, security priorities, and perceptions of right and wrong through social interaction/strategic framing.
In the first chapter, this strategic framing process in the case of wartime sexual violence and the improvements in policy implementation and commitments are described. Crawford draws on the extensive constructivist literature on strategic framing of issues by transnational advocacy networks (TAN) to make them relatable and supportable by the target audience in order to establish her argument about the strategic construction of the weapon of war frame to convince states and IGOs that wartime sexual violence is not inevitable (but a strategically used weapon) and is not a domestic women’s rights issue (but a state security issue). The strategic framing of issues, therefore, includes making the audience believe that the issue is not only solvable but also in the interests of this audience to solve, leading to co-option of the securitized form of the issue by the actors within the states/IGOs along with a conceptual shift regarding their own interests. While framing by activists is done to serve a purpose, it may have unintended consequences. Framing through securitization is no exception, particularly because framing through securitization spreads the framing process into the state. Drawing from the insights of securitization theory, Crawford also explores the possibility that securitizing an issue may have side effects: it can lead to taking the issue out of the realm of democratic discussion; political actors insincerely using the issue (such as realist prediction of states using human rights issues as an excuse to further their own interests); or giving unwarranted voice on the issue to some actors because they are in a position of power to speak about security, ultimately leading to setbacks. For her, though, neither of these possibilities, in other words, TAN’s human rights-focused framing leading to normative shifts and policy change versus securitization leading to bastardization of the issue, tells the whole story when it comes to rape as a weapon of war frame. Instead, what happened is “embedded advocates—elite norm entrepreneurs and security framers—working from positions in powerful states have used the ‘weapon of war’ frame to appeal to their respective organizational and political audiences as well as national interests,” which resulted in important normative and policy change even if it has its shortcomings (p. 35). This concept of embedded advocates is one of the most important contributions of the book, revealing the role of individuals with access to the state in terms of explaining state behavior at “the intersection of strategic interests and normative concerns” (p. 183), or perhaps we should say in turning normative concerns into strategic interests.
Crawford looks at the results of these framing efforts through a scale that ranges from non-recognition of the issue to full normative change. When it comes to wartime rape, the emergence of the “weapon of war” frame occurred between 2000 and 2002 with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocates within the United Nations starting to use it (p. 47), which probably corresponds to somewhere between the third and the fourth stages on this scale, in order to push the initial commitment toward implementation by situating the issue, through securitization, within an area prioritized by states and IGOs.
The second chapter is a case study on the US response to sexual violence in war, which, on the surface, does not seem to go beyond its use as a tool to justify wars and sanctions that serve US national interest in cases of the War on Terror and the Iraq War. Crawford uses two criteria demonstrating the extent to which the general approach can be classified as purely strategic or not: whether a state is willing to bear the costs of response or willing to institutionalize the means to respond to wartime sexual violence. Looking at the US response to sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), we see adoption of the weapon of war frame by the embedded advocates within the US government, such as Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton especially after 2003 when a House resolution talked about rape as a weapon of war. The US government, then, started dedicating resources to address the problem gaining momentum after 2006, which went far beyond rhetorical condemnation. The Senate’s response, with the help of personal commitment of certain senators and influential activists, after 2008, which was instrumental in guiding US leadership’s support for UN SC Resolution 1820 later, is an important turning point as well. Resolution 1888 followed thanks to the leadership of Hillary Clinton after which UN and US efforts increased dramatically as a result of the weapon of war frame, which resonated with security issues since sexual violence was seen by the American administration as “a persistent spoiler of security and good governance” leading to regional instability (p. 81). This advocacy, therefore, on the basis of a securitized weapon of war frame led to US commitment particularly between 2008 and 2014 in the form of both a willingness to bear the costs and a willingness to institutionalize the ways to battle it while it ended up causing limitations in terms of responding to sexual violence in conflicts where its use as a weapon is difficult to establish.
The UN SC resolutions on the issue, which emerged as a result of the various embedded advocates’ persistent work to convince unwilling states that it was a security issue within the mandate of the SC, constitute the topic discussed in chapter 3. The most striking parts of the process are the centrality of states in the drafting and lobbying of these resolutions (particularly 1820), leading them to be more state-centric than Resolution 1325 (drafted by the transnational civil society activists) and the significance of the news coming from the DRC in ultimately convincing the states to support the resolutions. Despite the weapon of war framing by embedded advocates turning sexual violence into a security issue and despite the state (especially the United States’) support behind Resolution 1820, states could only be persuaded by the massive scale and horror of the incidents in the DRC (with high resemblance to Yugoslavia and Rwanda) that could shock them into action. Therefore, Crawford’s analysis of both the US and UN responses makes it obvious that besides interest-based/security-based concerns (constructed on the basis of what “interest” and “security” are), normative pushes are required to trigger state and IGO action.
The unprecedented Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) by the United Kingdom and the role of the British Minister of Foreign Affairs William Hague in the dedication of considerable resources to address sexual violence especially within the UN SC as well as G-8 are covered in the fourth chapter. The PSVI mainly emphasized providing necessary resources for ending impunity for perpetrators since it is thought that this will change the cost-benefit structure for them in the strategic use of rape as a weapon. The embedded advocates in this case, such as Hague, frequently emphasized the weapon of war frame (the language of “establishing a new culture of deterrence” is particularly significant here resonating with the idea of deterrence in traditional security [p. 133]) while also comparing sexual violence with already delegitimized practices, such as slave trade within a moral/normative discourse attempting to “reconnect with the original aims of the women’s human rights movement” (p. 126). PSVI, therefore, could become an extension of the previous SC resolutions, trying to reinsert the women’s rights aspect of the issue into the space opened by the weapon of war frame. It, in fact, represents a turning point in this respect, going beyond the frame’s limitations while using its simplistic and securitized appeal to attract audiences. SC Resolution 2106, which was passed through UK leadership’s efforts, also reflects this move opening up the weapon of war frame to include other forms of sexual violence.
Assessing the overall impact/normative implications of the “weapon of war” frame in the last chapter, Crawford reaches a cautiously optimistic conclusion despite her acknowledgemnt that an internalized global norm against sexual violence is not there and the agenda still requires persistent work of advocates to push states and IGOs toward action. The critique of the weapon of war frame is taken very seriously. Some of the examples that demonstrate the flaws of the framework are particularly remarkable, such as the example of the abuse of boys by Afghani forces which is being completely overlooked by their American allies because it does not fit within the weapon of war frame. In the end, however, the securitization of sexual violence in war provided a door for advocates to enter the radar of security-minded states and IGOs and can still provide further ground to broaden their awareness on gender-based violence in general by helping to secure their attention.
The book is well organized and the case selections make sense since the development of the frame occurred through the actions of these particular actors, and looking at the development of their understandings and the contributions at the international level gives us the development of the frame in consecutive order, drawing a clear picture of the process. It is a refreshing read in terms of its detailed description of how ideas change and result in particular policy outcomes under the current international system and its revelation of the possible consequences of advocates “playing the game” to get state and IGO support for their causes.
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Tuba Inal. Review of Crawford, Kerry F., Wartime Sexual Violence: From Silence to Condemnation of a Weapon of War.
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