And now the war in Afghanistan is drawing to a close. After nearly thirteen years and nearly 2,200 American deaths, President Barack Obama announced last week that combat operations will conclude at the end of this year. Fewer than 10,000 American troops will remain in country at the start of 2015 and nearly all of those will be removed by the time Obama’s term ends in early 2017. The war is over.
Remind us again, what, exactly, was the point?
Last week, you may recall, we noted that Hollywood is unhappy that the Sultan of Brunei intends to establish Sharia law in his country later this year. Among others, Jay and Mavis Leno, who help run a group called the Feminist Majority Foundation are outraged at the Sultan’s actions. This despite the fact that the virtual American protectorate of Afghanistan has Sharia enshrined in its constitution, which, by the way, was written under American supervision.
The irony in all of this, and especially in Hollywood’s newfound outrage at Sharia, is notably palpable. In the case of Jay and Mavis Leno, however, the irony is thicker still.
You see, it was almost 16 years ago that the Lenos became involved with the Feminist Majority and began their efforts to aid the poor and oppressed women of the world. And the women they were most interested in helping at the time were those in Afghanistan. In its March 29, 1999 edition, the Washington Post told the story as follows:
Last August the compassionate, concerned, dedicated women of the Feminist Majority – a small group of activists based in Hollywood and Washington – were utterly miserable.
It had been eight months since Mavis Leno, wife of Jay and member of the board, had declared her intention to take on the cause . . . Eight months of letter-writing, of networking, of power-lunching, and she’d gotten plenty of sympathy but no real action.
The average American remained blissfully unaware that women half a world away were being repressed . . . that women were to be hidden beneath full-length shrouds in public and denied . . . education, freedom of movement and the opportunity to work. Women who resisted were beaten. Women suspected of offenses like adultery were stoned. To death.
“It was clear to me,” says Mavis Leno, sitting in her West Hollywood headquarters, “that if women in the West didn’t do something pretty spectacular, these women were lost.” She is dark-haired and articulate, with a vague resemblance, strangely, to her famous husband. She goes on, “It would be like the German and Polish Jews, like the peasants under Stalin. They’d be swallowed by history. And I didn’t want that to happen while I was alive.”
What’s fascinating about this is that the Lenos – and the Feminist Majority – were interested in the plight of Afghani women when they were far-off, abstract objects, which is to say when there was really very little they could do on their behalf. But once their oppression at the hands of the Taliban had been ended and something could actually be done, they seem to have lost interest. It is possible, for example, that they – or someone else with influence – might have thought to insist that the new government, the new American-sponsored government that replaced the Taliban, be at least marginally less oppressive, less misogynistic, and less Islamist than were Mullah Mohammed Omar and his coterie. But that would have required the imposition of American cultural norms on the erstwhile noble indigenous people. And we couldn’t have that, could we?
Just over two years ago, the inimitable Mark Steyn penned a sad and sadly-prophetic column on what was likely to be the ultimate outcome of the American adventure in Afghanistan. He put it this way:
The last crusader fort I visited was Kerak Castle in Jordan a few years ago. It was built in the 1140s, and still impresses today. I doubt there will be any remains of our latter-day fortresses a millennium hence. Six weeks after the last NATO soldier leaves Afghanistan, it will be as if we were never there. Before the election in 2010, the New York Post carried a picture of women registering to vote in Herat, all in identical top-to-toe bright blue burkas, just as they would have looked on Sept. 10, 2001. We came, we saw, we left no trace. America’s longest war will leave nothing behind.
And so it shall be. The American ruling class simply could not muster the strength and the moral clarity to tell their Afghan clients that it is NOT OK to marry little girls off at the age of 9, or to stone adulterers to death, or even to kill apostates. Democracy, we could give them. But beyond that, we wouldn’t want to meddle in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation – even as we supported that sovereign nation with our own blood and treasure.
Once upon a time, it seemed to the Feminist Majority and many others on the American Left critically important to rescue the Afghan women and girls from their oppressors. Now, it is far more important to rescue them from even a residual American expeditionary force.
Two thousand-plus Americans dead and no trace left behind. Or, as the Bard put it from Athony’s lips: Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils, Shrunk to this little measure?
Indeed they are. But then, who can be bothered to worry about that now? After all, the Beverly Hills Hotel isn’t going to protest itself.