Similar requirements existed in the program to improve municipal governments. Bids needed to have measures to develop a “gender strategy that supports the inclusion of women in municipal governance,” a commitment to “implement gender awareness courses,” and establish “leadership training for women” in municipal governance. The key goal was to have women constitute 30 percent of the work force in such governments.
This isn’t merely nation building. It’s not even merely nation building on steroids. It is nation building on crack. America’s social engineering bureaucrats actually seem to think they can impose 21st century Western standards of gender equality on a pre‐industrial, tribal society based on a highly patriarchal religion. Not surprisingly, USAID has had to greatly dilute its standards for bidding on Afghan contracts, since it soon became clear that there was no chance of any firm achieving such ambitious goals. That tactical shift, in turn, has led to allegations that the Obama administration is abandoning its commitment to Afghan women.
Afghanistan would certainly be a much better place if women there enjoyed equal rights instead of occupying, as they do today, a status midpoint between male children and family pets. But it is not a proper function of U.S. foreign policy to risk the lives of military personnel and spend hundreds of billions of tax dollars in a quixotic crusade to transform other societies.
The ostensible motive for our intervention in Afghanistan was to destroy al Qaeda because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. It is bad enough that such a limited, punitive expedition was gradually transformed — through a “bait and switch” maneuver — into a much larger intervention on behalf of Hamid Karzai’s regime in its civil war against the Taliban. But now we’re involved in an ambitious social engineering project that has almost no chance of success. Such a utopian goal has no relevance to the genuine security interests of the American people.
The Afghanistan mission is a textbook example of how badly Washington’s approach to national security has gotten off track. It underscores the need for a new, sober debate about the proper objectives of foreign policy — and especially security policy — in a constitutional republic