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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 ...

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September 2010

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