Painful Compromises in Afghanistan


Ann Friedman writes about the questionable legitimacy of the Afghan elections for that country’s women:

President Hamid Karzai recently signed a law that severely restricts women’s rights. Among many other appalling provisions, it prevents Shia women from casting a vote without their husband’s permission. […] We’ve got a feminist Secretary of State who has professed her commitment to keeping women’s rights central to her agenda. And yet, Brooks points out, the U.S. and British governments decided not to raise a political uproar about the latest restrictions on women’s rights “out of fear of disrupting the election.” But if women’s voting rights are restricted, the election is already disrupted and illegitimate.

Meanwhile, in order to bolster his re-election prospects Hamid Karzai has called Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum back in from exile. Dostum, as sort of befits a longtime agent of the brutal Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, has progressive-for-Afghanistan ideas about women’s rights. But he also enjoys the occasional brutal massacre of captives. Which is just to say that when it comes to Afghan power brokers, there’s something of a “pick your poison” quality. Insofar as the United States wants to try to stitch together a united Afghan state, that’s basically going to involve trying to pick all the poisons simultaneously—Dostum on the one hand, and Taliban-style social values on the other. Alternatively, we could stay away from the poison altogether and do our best to wash our hands of the whole thing.