Progressive Bankruptcy on Afghanistan

02/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Taylor Marsh Political writer and cultural voyeur, author and speaker.

It begins in Iran, where a cleric was caught with his pants down. Daily Beast has the story, which got me thinking about the plight of women in that corner of the world, but specifically in Afghanistan, especially since some leading progressives, Steve Clemons and Rachel Maddow in this instance, seem willing to relegate them to the Taliban and tunnels, with their flippant judgment that going into Afghanistan is simply not worth the fight. Thankfully, President-elect Obama doesn't agree. But first things first:

The cleric was apparently a member of the government-run Friday Prayers Committee in Hamadan province. Semi-official news sites tried to downplay the impact of the video, which leaked out of an Intelligence Ministry investigation. But their reports did acknowledge that the man involved was a married cleric, and that the video depicts the consummation of an unlawful affair. [...]

We all know what would happen if this video was of a woman committing adultery, now don't we.

Segue to something that was said on Rachel Maddow's show this week during an interview with Steve Clemons. The conversation was about Afghanistan and what would happen if we walked away, with Clemons quoting Dana Priest from an online chat. Saying that we'd simply have to smuggle the women out when it got bad.

"... (Dana Priest) is increasingly of the view that we're going to probably have to come to terms with the Taliban and just find a way to tunnel out women, because it will be an awful reality for them, otherwise this will be a never ending war ..." - Steve Clemons

Coming to terms with the Taliban is a reality, agreed. But count me out on treating Afghan women as collateral damage that we will try to smuggle out via tunnels. I mean, really.

Progressives are getting quite flippant about the Afghanistan quagmire and how we shouldn't escalate at all in that country, seemingly content to smuggle women out instead of trying to work in selected areas/cities to help Afghans restore security. Of course, Afghanistan cannot be seen in a vacuum, with the Af-Pak challenge joined, which is why Afghanistan remains important. Anyway, I have no answer on this one, but find the type of dialogue I heard between Maddow and Clemons anything but enlightened, even considering he was quoting Dana Priest. I'm not in favor of escalating in Afghanistan like Iraq, mainly because Afghans have never had a central government, so it won't work. I also have the utmost respect for Steve Clemons, who is a consummate expert on foreign policy, and someone I know and continues to teach me every day. I'm also certainly not one of the "elitist" or "traditional" viewpoints he talks about in the interview either. But the notion that we allow another human rights disaster to unfold for women in Afghanistan, until we can smuggle them out, a suggestion being regurgitated by respected progressives, is unconscionable to me.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as first lady, human rights are women's rights. Countries that disavow women's rights also have fewer democratic values and freedoms. Maybe progressives against action in Afghanistan should consider looking at a broader picture in Afghanistan, one that includes women's rights, but also the rights of young girls to go to school, and whether that is a long term strategic interest to the U.S., not some luxury for which we can't afford to fight. Are we really willing to allow Afghanistan to go back to the days before 9/11, shrugging off what women and girls will suffer as a result? This is the progressive line on Afghanistan? No troops in Afghanistan; deal with the Taliban, and we'll just smuggle the women out when things get bad? Unacceptable foreign policy thinking in the 21st century. Women's rights are human rights.

President-elect Obama is right to be turning his attention and military focus to Afghanistan, which is really a broader subject to include Af-Pak, with Pakistan the number one priority in the region. The policy won't be easy to implement, especially with progressives losing their moral courage, but leaving the women and girls of Afghanistan to the mercy of the Taliban and tunnels should not be U.S. policy under President Obama.