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We face the same problem in Iraq and Afghanistan that prevented us from leaving Viet Nam for so long: sunk cost. One day, if we're sane and rational, we'll say "screw the sunk cost," declare victory and leave.

Ian Welsh

Perhaps you should read what RAWA has to say on the topic. Actual feminist Afghan women.

Ken Muldrew

"The difference between life under Saddam and life under US occupation is that instead of having to worry that they would be scooped up by Saddam’s secret police and tortured and murdered in his prisons Iraqis had to worry that they would be blown up when they went to the market to buy bread."

You make it sound like there is some kind of equivalence here, as if not much changed for the ordinary people. The U.S. intentionally scuttled all plans to go in as an occupying power and instead planned only to sow chaos (at least those who held the levers of power planned for chaos...and they got it). A more apt equivalence is between the treatment of the Armenians at the hands of the Turks in 1915 and the American destruction of Iraq. Saddam was a tyrant but there is no measure of life, liberty, and happiness that was not vastly better under his rule than under American rule-by-proxy.

"We didn’t stop the killing. We just changed who would be killed and how they would they die."

You also significantly multiplied the amount of killing. And there are those 4-5 million Iraqis who were forced to flee their homes and their lives and are now dispossessed. I don't suppose too many of those folks are feeling better off now than under Saddam.

"We’d have left the Taliban alone, we’d have left Afghanistan alone, if the Taliban had handed over bin-Laden.

The Taliban refused."

Once the bombs started dropping in October of 2001 they certainly tried to hand over bin-Laden, but this time it was Bush who refused. Still, you have to remember that the Taliban was only able to consolidate enough power to rule the country (and then only marginally in the North) because they were popular among the people. The country was ruled by warlords who were either propped up by the U.S. (the database!) or the Soviets, all of whom were thoroughly corrupt. The Taliban promised an end to corruption and lawlessness (but at the cost of a severe imposition of their version of Islamic law). There is no way they are going to be able to retake the entire country now without dramatically changing their polity. The people know what they are all about, having seen how they wielded power when they had it.

Pulling U.N. troops out of Afghanistan doesn't mean handing the country over to the Taliban. It certainly means that a fractious civil war will heat up when the occupation ends, but the Taliban will have to compromise severely if they want to be part of whatever national government arises (should a national government arise).

Remember, too, that the Taliban were actually successful at stopping poppy farming and opium production. There is no way in hell that anyone is going to let them do that again (not least being the CIA, who are as addicted to drug money as Las Vegas is to gambling).


No country has the power and the moral standing to base its foreign policy on the general redress of wrongs. Terrible as the situation of women and children in Afghanistan is, we did not send troops there to save them. We cannot save them by staying there. It's at least as likely that our staying makes matters worse as it is that our staying mitigates the suffering. If we leave, the women and children of Afghanistan will be persecuted, but not by Martians, invading Pakistani armies, or other outside forces, which the world community, or one or more significant powers, might have some responsibility to prevent. They will be persecuted by misguided, even evil, fellow Afghans. It is the responsibility of the Afghans to straighten their country -- if it deserves to be called a country -- out. There is probably much to be done in the way of providing help to a government that has some desire and ability to stop the persecution, but our role is as helper, not savior.


Unfortunately, with all the mineral deposits in Afghanistan, the United States is unlikely to pull out any time soon. The government will keep justifying it in the name of humanitarianism, but if those resources weren't there, we'd have left a long time ago.


The people who run Time don't care about the poor women (or men) in this country, and have not done so in the entire history of the magazine. In fact, not caring has always been a big part of the publication's core ideology. So now I'm supposed to buy that they give a crap about poor people halfway around the world? Please.

They used this young woman. Plain and simple.

Leslie B

Beware the U.S. military-industrial complex. (Why does that phrase sound so familiar?) Spell that H-a-l-l-i-b-u-r-t-o-n" I think that Dick Cheney has something to do with promoting the best interests of that company, doesn't he? Oh yes, and this company tends to like to start wars in countries that have oil-production interests, because that's another big component of their business enterprises. The taxpayer shells out big bucks to the investors of Halliburton. They get richer, the rest of us go deeper in debt...for shit, to feed our endless hunger for oil. For a bit of retropective wisdom, Vietnam (the conflict that John McCain still says that we should have stayed with until we "won"?!?!?) today under communist rule is stuggling, but relatively speaking, it's people are making some slow progress now that they no longer must exist within a perpetual war.
Obama? What's his excuse? Perhaps he see the economy tanking even more when our fighting machines are dismantled? I gotta a great solution for that, it's called the Peace Corps and AmeriCorp Vista. ( ) Oh yeah, but that's a tough sell; the citizens of the U.S.A. would rather shell out the big bucks to kill one another, instead.

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