A “Vital” American Interest: Afghan Women

“Afghanistan is vital to American interests.”  This statement, used to justify our war in Afghanistan, troubles me.  But not for the reason it troubles many.  For me I would rather the statement be more like “Afghanistan is vital to American interests and to humanity.”

My issue here is this:  Why should we only be considering American interests in determining whether we remain in Afghanistan or not?  Shouldn’t we consider the interests of the millions of Afghani citizens, who would be helpless victims of the Taliban should we leave?  Should these mostly women and children not be a factor in our consideration of whether or not we stay and fight to win?

I know, I have heard the argument that we can’t be everywhere, save everyone, and stop despotism all over the world.  But we are IN Afghanistan.  We are there, we have committed enormous amounts of blood and treasure, and the good Afghan people are counting on us now whether we like it or not.

Consider Afghan women.  When the Taliban took over in 1996, women who were professionals and doctors and teachers became beggars and prostitutes as they were no longer allowed to work.  They had no choice in who married them.  If they were even suspected of having illicit sex they were murdered.  If they were raped, they were murdered!  Their life expectancy was 44 years.  87% were illiterate.  70% lived in forced marriages.

In a complete turnaround, the 2004 Afghan Constitution gave full rights to women, equal to that of men. Schools for women were built, those female professionals who survived were allowed to return to work.  Marriage became a choice.  Millions of girls and women were liberated from the most awful form of oppression.  We Americans should take great pride in this.

Why would we not consider the plight of Afghan women when we determine whether or not we should stay?  Perhaps not as a determinative factor, but as a critically important one?  Do we somehow feel that these people are less human, less worthy of life, less important, than women in our country?  We tend to disconnect ourselves from the thoughts of what will happen to these women, but please take a minute now to envision it, and even imagine you are one of these women in Afghanistan today wondering if the American’s will withdraw.  Imagine you are one of these women fearing this.  Now imagine you are one of these women after the Americans withdraw.  Imagine the experience.  Put yourself inside it.

I often argued with friends that one of the key reasons we should remain in Iraq was to prevent the sure slaughter of millions of peaceful citizens in Iraq should we pull out as many urged that we do.  We would have had the death of many millions of people on our hands.  Due to the President’s steadfastness, and I’m sure having factored this humanity element into his decisions, we avoided this disaster.

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2 Responses to A “Vital” American Interest: Afghan Women

  1. steph says:

    Dan,

    I couldn’t agree more. Women are being oppressed all over the world, as they have been for centuries, but their treatment in the Middle East is particularly devastating. Educating and empowering these women will indisputably change America — and the world — for the better. Although their newly minted Constitution guarantees equality between men and women, religious and traditional law (Shariah Law) still governs. Women are still denied education, married without choice, and put to death for voicing their opinions. We have the ability to prevent these injustices. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of mistrust, rage and resentment toward Americans in Afghanistan (which albeit is often misguided due to a lifetime of anti-American propaganda, but is also at times entirely appropriate, in my opinion).

    For instance, check out the sentiments of this group, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan: http://www.rawa.org/index.php. ROWA is opposed to religious fundamentalism and fights for women’s rights. If you read a few of the articles, you will see they despise America’s presence in Afghanistan (e.g., http://www.rawa.org/events/sevenyear_e.htm and
    http://www.rawa.org/events/dec10-07_e.htm) Knowing how many Afghanis share this perspective makes this issue deeply complex.

    I am applying for a study abroad program in India & China this spring, both cultures where the status of women is slowly improving, but still oppressive (esp. in rural areas). I’m sure one key thing to be gained from studying these cultures will be a greater appreciation for the freedoms women enjoy in the U.S. that are often taken for granted.

    • vofreason says:

      Stephanie, as usual very insightful comments. I looked at ROWA and the rawa.org Web site and it is clearly a radical point of view. It views us as war criminals, occupiers, and in Afghanistan for our own financial gain and unprincipled self interest. Fortunately we know that is not the case. We also know, for certain, that were we to withdraw from Afghanistan that pretty much every woman we see on their Web site will be under the submission of the Taliban, many tortured, raped, and killed, and every one of them oppressed. This is not a complex issue from that perspective. There were (and are) many Iraqis who didn’t like us being in Iraq either. However, were we to have withdrawn when they called for it (and when Harry Reid, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Carl Levin, and Barack Obama called for it), millions including many of those who opposed our presence (but weren’t radical) would be dead. My view is we cannot let vocal but wrong-minded groups stop us from doing what’s right, particularly when we know what is right. Sometimes determining right and wrong is not easy, but in these 2 cases (Afghanistan and Iraq) we know that premature withdrawal would create a devastating toll in human life– mostly for women and children.

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