We're not in Afghanistan to protect women's rights...

I watched one of the best Panorama's I've ever seen last night (doesn't Jeremy Vine have the easiest job in television - how much does he get paid for that topping and tailing?).

And I'm not the only one thinking about Afghanistan today, as Iain Dale has noticed, Sunny Hundal has done a very interesting post on the subject on Pickled Politics.

It was on the subject of Afghanistan and how despite 'so-called' democracy women are still treated abominably. In Herat on one day four women, in separate incidents, set themselves on fire to get away from their husbands.

They had a lady, whose teenage son had a British soldier killed in Afghanistan watch the film brought back from Afghanistan and ask her whether it's still right the the UK should be in Afghanistan - whether in fact, her son had dies in vain?

She said, that it was, that was important that we helped change Afghanistan given the treatment of women.

But that's the wrong thing to show her because we are not and never have been in Afghanistan to help the women who live there.

We're in Afghanistan for reasons of national security. The Taliban and Al Qaeda base themselves in that region on the Afghanistan/Pakistan borders (must I really call it AfPak?) and from there they plot and train people to bomb and harm British, American and other nationalities in their own countries and abroad.

It's right that the programme concentrates on the efficacy of aid going into Afghanistan and how much of it falls prey to corruption. But the only reason we give aid and the only reason we risk our soldiers lives is to shore up our own national security.

After all, we'd never gone near Basra if we really cared about women's rights and security in Iraq.

And nor would we be busy helping out British Aerospace continue to bribe and fund the decadent lifestyles of the Princes of Saud by dropping fraud enquiries.

Nope, the question of whether we pull our troops out of Afghanistan should be tested against the case for putting them in there in the first place. I foresee in the next few weeks some Lib Dem hand wringing about our role in Afghanistan, after all, everybody else is. Personally, I would prefer we sorted out Al Qaeda and the Taliban so they couldn't bomb us, and so, think we ought to keep the in there until they are incapacitated (I did International Relations at Uni not strategic studies, so I'm in no position to take a view on whether this is the best way to beat Al Qaeda - I get to define the end state without worrying about the military delivery of such an end state!).

Let's not kid ourselves that anything about UK foreign policy in central Asia or the middle east has anything to do with women's rights - it doesn't and never has.

Which is not to say that I think the that's the way it should be - I was really pleased when Labour came in in 1997 and Robin Cook put forward an ethical foreign policy and I have been very proud of Vince when he has challenged the decision to stop the investigation of the SFO into BAE by Tony Blair.

I just think we should be clear on whether UK foreign policy is working with an ethical dimension or not and our presence in Afghanistan has nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with National Security.


Tristan said...
18 Aug 2009, 20:18:00

Absolutely right the first point - and even worse, there were many claims that the invasion of Afghanistan was to help the women there - a cynical use of the suffering of others to gain support for a war there.

I think you're incorrect in your assessment that there's a national security reason - the Taliban were never a threat to the UK (or the US), Al Qaeda perhaps were, but not that much of a threat - 9/11 was the result of bad luck on the part of the US and years of aggressive foreign policy - the continuation of which has had increasingly dangerous results.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
19 Aug 2009, 09:38:00

So, Tristan, if not for human rights and not for National Security, why on earth are we there?

Iraq had oil but Afghanistan doesn't?

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