Permissible Arms

For Your Sorrows

Posted in afghanistan, united states by Karaka on 4 August 2010

Some great posts at Attackerman yesterday. I wrote on a bank heist turned beheading, mikey mused on the ethics of Wikileaks, Adam framed the road out of Iraq, and Spencer checked in from Afghanistan.

On another note, last week Gulliver asked What’s the magnitude of human tragedy required to justify a financially and strategically bankrupting enterprise? It’s a great–and massively challenging–question, one I’ve wrestled with for a long time. And continue to wrestle with–there’s no easy answer. But this NYT article makes some of my points for me, I guess. Afghan Women Fear Loss of Modest Gains:

As Afghan and Western governments explore reconciliation with the Taliban, women fear that the peace they long for may come at the price of rights that have improved since the Taliban government was overthrown in 2001.

“Women do not want war, but none of them want the Taliban of 1996 again; no one wants to be imprisoned in the yards of their houses,” said Rahima Zarifi, the Women’s Ministry representative from the northern Baghlan Province.

Interviews around the country with at least two dozen female members of Parliament, government officials, activists, teachers and young girls suggest a nuanced reality — fighting constricts women’s freedoms nearly as much as a Taliban government, and conservative traditions already limit women’s rights in many places.

Women, however, express a range of fears about a Taliban return, from political to domestic — that they will be shut out of negotiations about any deals with the insurgents and that the Taliban’s return would drive up bride prices, making it more profitable for a family to force girls into marriage earlier.

It’s not that I think that NATO/ISAF is responsible for insuring these freedoms and rights; at least no more than any human has an obligation to see that the rights of other humans are secure. But we’re already there. There’s already an obligation to Afghanistan for destroying the power structure of their country (though everyone would agree, except the Taliban, that such destruction was for the good), to at least insure that another power structure is built and is self-supporting. If we’re already there, and we have to stay for awhile anyway, why not strive to push the new power structure to acknowledge and support the rights of women?

I’m aware that this is by necessity an abstract thought–there’s a great deal of context that has to be overlaid over this whole thought exercise. Does this human tragedy lever NATO/ISAF into staying beyond a point when it should reasonably stop? No, I don’t think so. But we haven’t reached that point yet. And there’s still much to be done.

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