A Feminist Case for War?

091024_goldberg_leadMichelle Goldberg in The American Prospect:

Women for Afghan Women (WAW), a nongovernmental organization that runs women’s shelters, schools, and counseling centers in three cities in Afghanistan, has watched with alarm as American opinion has turned against the occupation. An American withdrawal, its board members say, would be catastrophic for the women they work with. “Every woman who we have talked to in Afghanistan, all the Afghan women in the NGOs, in the government, say the United States and the peacekeeping troops and NATO must stay, they must not leave until the Afghan army is able to take over,” says Esther Hyneman, a WAW board member who recently returned from six months in Kabul.

In fact WAW, which has over 100 staffers in Afghanistan and four in New York, is, with some reluctance, calling for a troop increase. “Women for Afghan Women deeply regrets having a position in favor of maintaining, even increasing troops,” it said in a recent statement. “We are not advocates for war, and conditions did not have to reach this dire point, but we believe that withdrawing troops means abandoning 15 million women and children to madmen who will sacrifice them to their lust for power.”

There is a growing consensus among both progressives and a few realist-minded conservatives that the Afghan war is futile. Today’s Washington Post reports on Matthew Hoh, a State Department official who, after serving in Afghanistan, resigned to protest the continuation of the war. “I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote in a letter to the department’s head of personnel. With such sentiments spreading, one of the few remaining rationales for maintaining the occupation is that it’s the only way to protect Afghan women against the return of the Taliban. But does it make sense to perpetuate America’s presence in Afghanistan on feminist grounds?