The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Afghanistan Resists Modernity

Posted on | March 17, 2014 | 13 Comments

Does this really surprise anyone?

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.



13 Responses to “Afghanistan Resists Modernity”

  1. Anon Y. Mous
    March 17th, 2014 @ 11:28 am

    …whether she marries at 15 or 16 or 18 isn’t really going to make much difference in that regard.

    Stacy! You’re not going soft are you? Surely a girl getting married at 15 means there is a pervert involved somewhere. The bride, the groom, the parents, so many choices. There must be at least one in the mix.

  2. RS
    March 17th, 2014 @ 11:38 am

    I was always of the opinion we should’ve blasted the place back to the late Pleistocene and left with warning we’d come back if they continued their flirtation with terrorists. That said, it should be noted that Afghanistan was becoming much more modern and westernized until the Soviets showed up. All of that was destroyed with the Soviet invasion and resultant insurrection and civil war which left the Taliban in charge and the country philosophically in the 7th Century. The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to human institutions, as well. It’s easier to destroy, but very difficult to create.

  3. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    March 17th, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

    Beyond girls being married off young (generally to much older men, you are also missing the other side of sexual abuse in Afghanistan: Boys. Men in Afghanistan, especially Pastuns (who claim they picked up this practice from the original “nation builder” in Afghanistan, Alexander), like to keep young “unbeared” boys for dancing and other pursuits. Go read the Kite Runner.

  4. M. Thompson
    March 17th, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

    Kill ’em all and let God sort them out?

  5. RS
    March 17th, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

    It seems that way, alas. But over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Wilsonian concepts of “nation building” and evangelizing for converts to liberal, pluralistic democracy are pipe dreams if the countries and peoples in question have a) no historical or philosophical basis for those things and b) we’re not prepared to spend a lot of money and decades of time to make sure there’s no backsliding. Events of the 21st Century show us we’re not willing to do the later. Consequently, we just break stuff and leave a mess after a long, but not long enough, time. Better to make a mess and let the other guy think about why it happened and fear it happening again.

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  7. Charles
    March 17th, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

    With an average life expectancy of age 48, as compared to age 78 in the U.S., age 16 in Afghanistan is equivalent to our age 26.

  8. Quartermaster
    March 17th, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

    BS beat him down finally?

  9. Quartermaster
    March 17th, 2014 @ 5:55 pm

    We all know that cockroaches will survive a full nuke exchange. So, it would make no difference in the AFG.

  10. Adjoran
    March 17th, 2014 @ 8:39 pm

    The problem with that is Afghanistan is virtually indistinguishable from the Stone Age already. Any amount of bombing just rearranges the rubble.

    The worst thing is if you look back at pictures of Kabul from the ’60s, you will see young men and women dressed in Western styles attending university together. The country was more modern and advanced 50 years ago than it is after a few decades of islamic “renewal.”

  11. Adjoran
    March 17th, 2014 @ 8:43 pm

    When we speak of “women’s rights” in the context of Afghanistan, it has nothing to do with the age of consent for marriage or how marriages are arranged in rural areas.

    It is more to do with so-called “honor killings” and the beatings of women who appear on the street in unapproved garb, and the young women being prevented from even going to school or receiving health care – on penalty of death.

  12. RS
    March 17th, 2014 @ 11:52 pm


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