The Ethics of Promoting Democracy
Jean Bethke Elshtain, ethics professor at the University of Chicago, Chris Seiple, the president of the Institute for Global Engagement, and Will Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, discuss whether the U.S. should stay militarily involved in Afghanistan.
There's No Choice on Afghanistan
We're already there. Now we have to deal with it.
Jean Bethke Elshtain
It is irrelevant to debate whether the United States should be in Afghanistan; we are already there. The important questions must deal with the realities of the situation.
First, remember why we are there. We entered Afghanistan with the United Nations fully behind the operation after the attacks of September 11, 2001, an act of aggression that necessitated a response. U.S. entry into Afghanistan was an act of self-defense.
The notorious misrule of the Taliban came to an end, and the operation of Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan ceased for the most part. We did not intervene to end Taliban rule per se, but to put an end to Al Qaeda operations. At this point, a return to Taliban control would be a disaster—first and foremost for the people of Afghanistan.
Under the Taliban, those who suffered the most were women. Women were driven out of universities, and girls were not allowed to go to school. Women were denied all legal rights and were not permitted to go out of doors unless escorted by a man. Anyone who defied regulations was beaten or stoned. Women had to be seen by female physicians and remain covered during medical examinations. This meant, in effect, little medical care, as female professionals fled Afghanistan in droves when the Taliban took over.
We must contend with these realities now. Leave aside our own security concerns: Are we content to watch Afghanistan fall once again under Taliban rule? What on earth do people think would happen if we packed our bags and left the country tomorrow? That we would see the lion lie down with the lamb?
We would watch as women now in school were denied an education, and other women were beaten and executed. We would stand by as those who signed on with the prospect of a constitutional Afghanistan are slaughtered. The border with Pakistan, now the site of Taliban operations, would turn into a Taliban stronghold from which they could threaten the security of the entire region. Afghanistan sits astride one of the most dangerous zones in the world. Terrorist entities hanker to generate dirty nuclear weapons with which to threaten all "infidels," whether Jews, Christians, or the wrong sort of Muslims.
We might pack our bags tomorrow, but we would return as the situation went completely downhill. No American president wants to see Afghanistan lost when so much is at stake. So our present dilemma is not whether we should be there or not, but how we can best secure the situation and eventually withdraw.
We have adopted a difficult counter-insurgency strategy for the sole purpose of trying to spare civilian lives. If this strategy does not succeed, it will mean a much longer U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Let us hope and pray—for the sake of the Afghan people, and in order to somewhat minimize the horrors of this world—that we succeed.
Afghanistan is the New Normal
It is in America's interest to use "practical pluralism" to bring people together in Afghanistan.
The U.S. will be involved militarily in Afghanistan and Iraq for the rest of our lives. This is not unusual; it has been involved militarily in Europe and Japan since the end of World War II, and in Korea, since the 1953 armistice. We are still in the Balkans. Unfortunately, this is how stability and the opportunity for positive change come in a fallen world.