A War to Help Women?

Image result for woman in burka
Women in Burkas in Afghanistan

Two weeks ago I posted on hate crimes against women in the U.S. Today I’m going to look at our system of male domination, and how it plays out in our foreign policy.

To recap, I asserted that these hate crimes are ubiquitous, yet mostly unseen. Women swim in a sea of violence and the threat of violence, whose purpose is to keep us afraid and under male domination. Violence is the foundation of patriarchy. It also undergirds all other systems of domination, e.g. race or class based. But no society can function when most members of the subordinate group understand their situation and are willing to fight back. A constant stream of propaganda is necessary to convince the lower orders that they are inferior by nature, that their position is divinely ordained, and that ultimately members of the superior group have everyone’s best interests at heart. One reason the indoctrination works so well is that each woman is taught to seek refuge from the savagery in the streets by attaching herself to a male protector.

What does this have to do with foreign policy? Let’s look at Afghanistan. The position of women had been improving for decades under various regimes and improved even more under the Soviet occupation, to the point where women made up half the paid labor force. (See https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~macne20a/classweb/worldpolitics/finalpage3.html for details.) In order to defeat the Soviets, the U.S. armed a counterforce—a group of Islamist fanatics called mujahedin, which became the Taliban. When they took over, women were forcibly veiled. They couldn’t leave home without a male chaperone and couldn’t even go to a hospital for treatment. Girls’ schools were closed. Those who violated the Taliban’s rules were beaten and even executed. Our government expressed no regret for having spawned this misogynist monstrosity—until 2001, when we decided to invade Afghanistan.

At that time some feminists thought this would be good for women. I disagreed, contending that killing and maiming their husbands and children and destroying their farmlands would be less than helpful. However women’s opportunities did improve, at least in the U.S.-occupied cities. To the best of my knowledge, their situation remains bleak in rural areas where most of the fighting takes place. Even in an egalitarian society it’s hard to go to school or even find enough to eat when you’re living in a war zone.

We’ve been at war there for over 17 years. Americans are tired of spending trillions and shedding blood over, with nothing resembling a victory in sight. Our government is negotiating with the Taliban, basically preparing to turn the country back over to them. The current Afghan government—a U.S. puppet, corrupt to the bones—is not involved in these talks. In 2016 Laura Bush (who has called herself a feminist) argued for our continuing occupation in order to defend whatever progress women have made in that country. Some American feminists with better credentials have expressed the hope that whatever treaty we sign will include a clause protecting women’s rights. And if the Taliban agrees to such a clause and then violates it, are we going to invade again in order to enforce it?

A couple of days ago 700 Afghan women held a conference in Kabul, demanding to be included in the peace talks (see https://feminist.org/blog/index.php/2019/02/28/afghan-women-demand-inclusion-in-peace-talks/). They addressed President Ashraf Ghani, who subsequently spoke in support of their rights, but since he himself has been excluded, what can he do for them? My guess is that when the Taliban takes over, he’ll take the first plane to the Riviera, where he can live comfortably on the US $$ he has secreted in a Swiss bank account.

In sum, our government created the Taliban to further its geopolitical aims in the region. Our leaders didn’t give a rat’s rectum about Afghan women until it became useful to pretend to be their champions, as one of the justifications for an invasion and ongoing war. And now that such pretense has become too expensive and inconvenient, those same leaders will discard the women like the guts of a fish they’ve disemboweled.

The problem is that so many women, conditioned as we are, keep falling for the promises of the patriarchal protection racket. The military-industrial complex does not exist to defend democracy, or human rights, or anything other than power and profits. We—and the women of Afghanistan—will get nothing unless we fight for it ourselves.

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