by Cockburn, Spectaor World, 19 August 2021
wenty years of war in Afghanistan are over. What comes next is twenty years, or even more, of recriminations and blame for why the war ended as it did. Scholars and partisans still argue over the reasons America lost in Vietnam, so why should Afghanistan be any different?
On the plus side, the debate promises to be far more interesting. When it comes to Vietnam, partisans debate rules of engagement, bombing strategies, funding levels, and the Tet Offensive. With Afghanistan, the question could be: did gender studies cause America to suffer its most humiliating defeat ever? Cockburn wishes he was joking.
Traditionally, nations have waged war by mustering armies, defeating their enemies in battle, and despoiling their lands and cities. Only after total victory is the process of remaking a society feasible.
But America in Afghanistan sought a shortcut, and by “shortcut” Cockburn means “something that takes ten times as long but doesn’t look as nasty for TV cameras.” America hoped that with enough half-baked social engineering in the half of Afghanistan it controlled, it would eventually be rewarded with victory, and Afghanistan would become the Holland of the Hindu Kush. On Ivy League campuses, students are taught to decry “colonialism,” but the Ivy League diplomats who sought to remake Afghanistan in Harvard’s image were among the most ambitious practitioners of it in world history.
So, alongside the billions for bombs went hundreds of millions for gender studies in Afghanistan. According to U.S. government reports, $787 million was spent on gender programs in Afghanistan, but that substantially understates the actual total, since gender goals were folded into practically every undertaking America made in the country.
A recent report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) broke down the difficulties of the project. For starters, in both Dari and Pastho there are no words for “gender.” That makes sense, since the distinction between “sex” and “gender” was only invented by a sexually-abusive child psychiatrist in the 1960s, but evidently Americans were caught off-guard. Things didn’t improve from there. ... Continue reading >>>