How Much Oppression of Women Might
the U.S. Be Obligated to Support in Post-Taliban Afghanistan?
October 18, 2001
Commenting on Colin Powell's visit to Pakistan, a New York Times
reporter dryly noted
The high praise heaped on
Pakistan provided a curious sight: an American secretary [of] state
standing next to a general in uniform who seized power in a military coup,
and lauding his achievements.
You sometimes can't choose
your allies in a war, and must hold your nose until the fighting's over.
But what about after the
hostilities end? I'm particularly thinking about women's rights in
I'm sure women could not be
worse off in any post-Taliban regime than they were under the Taliban.
The question is, how much better off will they be, and will their status be
such that the U.S. could stomach aiding the government establishing those
If a new government says
okay, women, you can now go out of your homes without a male escort, but you
still cannot drive a car, nor vote, nor hold any professional position other
than a teacher, would that be acceptable? By acceptable, I mean a
situation where the U.S. would be willing to be a key player in establishing
such a regime and providing it with critical financial and other support in
the early going.
Obviously, a million
different permutations and combinations can be hypothesized about the less
than equal gender relations that might exist under the
"broad-based" government that the U.S. government envisions being
established in Afghanistan.
The bottom line is, given our
commitment to equal rights for men and women, to what degree would we be
willing to violate that basic human rights standard in order to be able to
establish and foster a functioning, and friendly, government in Kabul?
Maybe we can just say
"The women are better off than under the Taliban, and that's good
enough," but somehow I don't feel quite right with that approach.
It seems to be a problem with
no easy solution.