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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 that

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 Afghanistan.

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 rules?

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.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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