Many proponents of escalation in Afghanistan highlight the American moral obligation to the Afghan people, in particular to Afghan women certain to be oppressed by a Taliban resurgence and the large number of men and women who have worked with American forces who would likely be targeted for retribution. What is the nature of this moral obligation? Is it absolute? Are there steps we could take to mitigate the consequences short of providing a permanent guarantee of human rights in the country?
It isn’t a pleasant question. In asking it, we must also keep in mind that it was the Western-backed Karzai government that produced legislation allowing husbands to starve sexually unwilling wives. So in considering our moral obligation, we should also remember that U.S.-backed Afghan elites are making their own deals within the same misogynist political culture. In effect, the U.S. goal of building a stable, non-Taliban Afghan regime may itself result in a perpetuation of misogynist governance and human rights violations.