Thursday, April 02, 2009

Women in Afghanistan

Taylor Marsh has a strange position about the Afghanistan War. Back in January I posted about a post of hers calling for the Obama administration to make establishment of equal rights for women a major goal of the war there. She seemed to be oblivious to the fact that adopting such a goal would be a major expansion of the mission. And of the historical experience of the Soviets there, in which their requirements of schools for girls and the like became a major issue for the extremist Muslim terrorists brave mujaheddin freedom fighters the United States was actively supporting.

Today she's posting about a genuine outrage, President Karzai ‘Legalizes’ Rape 04/02/09. It's about a new law that our ally Hamid Karzai put into effect on his own authority without the action of Parliament requiring that married women have sex with their husbands under certain conditions. I'm not clear what the law actually says. According to the Canadian Press article to which she links, the law applies only to Shi'a women and says that they can't refuse sex to their husbands, apparently at all; Shi'a are a minority among a Sunni majority in Afghanistan. The account in Gesetz bestimmt Häufigkeit von Sex in der Ehe Die Welt 02.04.2009 says it requires women to have sex with their husbands once every four days (in the body of the article) or maybe four times per week (in the introductory summary). This account says it also requires the husband to agree to have sex with the wife at least once every four months.


So I'm really confused about what this new law actually says. But, once again, Taylor Marsh is outraged about the law without apparently putting it together what that means for her preferred women's-right war goal. If the very pro-American, relatively secular Hamid Karzai is imposing such a law, it says something about what kinds of obstacles women there have to overcome before gaining full equality. And it shows once again as we've seen in Iraq that the US likes to claim we're improving the status of women by making war on their country, but the practical effects are often very different than our advertised ideals.

And wars are the most unpredictable of tools to achieve anything. Optimistic views of Obama's current strategy are picturing another five years before the country can be stabilized and Karzai's government and army be at full capability. How many civilians - men, women and children - will be killed during that time? How many things can go wrong and send developments off into a very different direction? How open are men and women in Afghanistan going to be to American notions of women's equality when our planes and helicopters and drones are rocketing their villages and blowing up adults and children, fighters and noncombatants, young and old? And what kind of blowback will five or ten more years of Americans fighting in Afghanistan produce?

I'm sick of people coming up with pretty-sounding reasons to kill foreigners in wars thousands of miles away. And it's depressing to see after the experience of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars already how hard it is for many people to come to grips with the real limits of American power that we've encountered.

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