A reader writes:
That photograph is open to a multitude of interpretations. Time clearly has set this up as: "Look what will happen if we leave." But I look at that picture and think to myself, "What can we possibly hope to accomplish there?"
This girl's face isn't a warning about the consequences of withdrawal. It's a tragic reminder of the futility of the United States' efforts in Afghanistan. After all, this girl was not maimed before the American occupation. She was assaulted during the occupation, when NATO forces were spread out all over the country fighting pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda dead-enders.
This photograph just reminds me that we can put any number of troops on the ground and we still won't be able to change a thing about the culture of Afghanistan. It's a stark, tribal, medieval place in a lot of ways. We need to have a little bit of humility and realize that the world is a big, complicated place and we can't afford to spend billions of dollars and thousands of lives trying to impose our cultural values and our version of civil society on people who have no history of accepting such an imposition nor any interest of doing so.
The largely South Asian practice of maiming, mutilating and murdering women for not living up to a horribly inhuman and archaic standard of female behaviour is appalling. Not enough can be written against it, not enough scorn can be expressed. However, in light of what has been happening in countries such as Germany and Canada over the past decade, how can anyone argue that American and NATO troops will be able to stop this awful practice?
In Germany alone, at least 55 women were murdered in honour killings between 1996 and 2005, with several more since. In Canada, 12 women have been killed since 2002. In two of the safest countries for women around the world, with police forces, support centres and general societal disgust, we have been unable to stop this practice. It feels awful to say this, but keeping western troops in Afghanistan will have little impact on this. Let's try to find a solution to this in our own back yards, before thinking we can do it elsewhere.
Do you not find it peculiar that many of the very same people who insist that the U.S. should spend billions of dollars and sacrifice hundreds of lives each year to ensure that Afghan women (and the Afghan people in general) can enjoy a better life are the same people who want to spend millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent Mexican immigrants from crossing our border in search of work so that they can live a better life?
Why is the sacrifice of American lives and billions of dollars a burden worth shouldering in the case of Afghanistan, whereas a few tens of millions of dollars in social services is an unbearable burden in the case of immigrants who have come to perform productive work and who contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy and tax base?
I've seen arguments both ways that seek to show that illegal immigrants are a net asset or a net burden to the treasury. But whatever the truth may be, no one can seriously argue that illegal immigrants are are anywhere near as burdensome to our nation and our treasury as the Afghan war is. Where's the consistency?
You say, "We were not responsible for these evils when they were perpetrated for years before 9/11."
Remember the high level of support the US offered to the Taliban and its predecessors when they were fighting the Soviet Union. I think a very good case could be made that the women of Afghanistan were better off under Soviet rule than they had been before, or will be again for a long time. To the extent that the US supported the anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan, the US is responsible for the deteriorating situation faced by Afghan women. I still think the US should leave, but let's at least be honest about it. Nobody is fighting this war for the women, or ever has.