Last month, as the recently liberated women of Kabul set aside their burqas and took to the streets to celebrate the end of Taliban control of their city, a very different kind of celebration was happening in Boston. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government was wrapping up an annual two-week colloquium called “Women Waging Peace.” The brainchild of former United Nations ambassador and Kennedy School professor Swanee Hunt, Women Waging Peace is “an effort to make it unthinkable that women should not be heavily represented in all stages of the peace process,” according to Hunt. Participants described women as “weavers,” “network-builders,” and “crafters of sustainable peace.” Even the conference logo was on message: it was the familiar female symbol bedecked with olive branches and soaring white doves.

But are women really natural born peacemakers? There are dangers in suggesting so, not the least of which is ascribing to women stereotypical qualities that in the past have hampered their advancement. Hunt and others pretend to avoid these rocky shoals of female essentialism arguing instead that women’s special peacemaking skills are based on personal experience rather than biology, but theirs is a distinction without a difference. A Kenyan delegate to the conference told CNN that “women want conflict resolved.” Another participant said that “we bring about life, and I don’t think it is our natural role to end life. If women ran countries,” she argued, “the situation would be much better. If women were in positions of power, war would be a less likely solution.”

What, then, would be a more likely solution to global conflict? Unfortunately, the women-as-peacemakers brigade offers a questionable recommendation: a peaceful, global “civil society”akin to that pursued by the United Nations and its satellite of non-governmental organizations. The idea should give pause; in the name of creating a civil society for women, for example, the UN has implemented questionable programs of “gender mainstreaming” that encourage the use of quotas and endorse radical western feminist theories of women’s oppression.

This vision of a civil society is nothing more than a feminized global village, one laboring under the assumption that communication and empathy will resolve conflict. At the Harvard conference, Swanee Hunt praised the efforts of a female Columbian activist who tracked a paramilitary leader through the jungle to ask him, “why are you doing this?” and suggested that we could learn from the example of the Palestinian woman who told an Israeli soldier, “look into my eyes.” A Tunisian human rights worker said of women worldwide, “we have found a common language that tells us nobody wins in a war, so why are conflicts still raging?”

Why indeed? The question itself is an example of stunning geopolitical naiveté, as is the notion that a “common language” exists among women that could be marshaled to prevent global conflict. Western feminism has long rallied ’round the idea that “sisterhood is global” — and inherently peaceful. It never has been. Nor should it be. September 11 proved that the pursuit of a global, peaceful, “civil society” based on common interests, experiences, and copious communication is merely a chimera. Lasting peace often requires the waging of war.

Christine Stolba is a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum.