Posted on | March 17, 2014 | 13 Comments
More than 12 years after the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban and deprive al Qaeda of a base operations, the sexual abuse of Afghanistan children has reached an all-time high, according to the U.S. State Department.
The department’s 2013 Country Report on Human Rights in Afghanistan, which was released this month, says that 60 percent of girls in Afghanistan are married before their 16th birthday.
“Despite a law setting the legal minimum age for marriage at 16 for girls and 18 for boys, international and local observers estimated that 60 percent of girls were married before the age of 16,” the State Department said in its most recent human rights report. . . .
A marriage contract in Afghanistan requires verification that the bride was 16, “but only a small fraction of the population had birth certificates,” the report noted.
One of the follies of U.S. policy in Afghanistan was the belief — or at least the claim, since we don’t know if the policy makers were actually fools enough to believe it — that we were going to impose modernity, including “women’s rights,” by force of arms.
Even if you consider cultural modernity an unalloyed blessing (an idea that conservatives, being skeptical of claims of Progress, are obliged to resist), such modernity requires a degree of economic vitality and affluence that Afghanistan does not possess.
Per capita income in Afghanistan in 2012 was $687. The 15-year-old daughter of a family of goat herders, whose parents marry her off to the son of another family of goat herders, is not thereby being deprived of any actual opportunity. Whatever we in the affluent West may imagine her “rights” to be, as a practical matter, her future is going to involve goat-herding, and whether she marries at 15 or 16 or 18 isn’t really going to make much difference in that regard.
The symbiotic relationship between poverty and cultural primitivism cannot be erased by a bunch of State Department human rights do-gooders, even if they are permitted to employ the United States military as a tool of their social-engineering schemes.
As I say, however, conservatives are obliged to be skeptical toward the blessings of modernity. We may wonder if the 15-year-old bride of an Afghan goat herder is really being oppressed in a way that, for example, a certain Duke University freshman is not.