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Should We Fight Pashtun Pedophiles?

A revolting NYT story from Afghanistan: [1]

In his last phone call home, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father what was troubling him: From his bunk in southern Afghanistan, he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base.

“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records.

The policy has endured as American forces have recruited and organized Afghan militias to help hold territory against the Taliban. But soldiers and Marines have been increasingly troubled that instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages — and doing little when they began abusing children.

“The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights,” said Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain who beat up an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. “But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me.”

Read the whole thing. [1] It’s horrifying — and it poses very difficult questions to us all. I mean, the outrage is easy — I certainly feel it — but the questions are hard.

I wonder how many Americans realize that one of the reasons the Taliban was welcomed by Afghan peasants is that it fought bacha bazi. The Washington Post reported in 2012: [2]

A growing number of Afghan children are being coerced into a life of sexual abuse. The practice of wealthy or prominent Afghans exploiting underage boys as sexual partners who are often dressed up as women to dance at gatherings is on the rise in post-Taliban Afghanistan, according to Afghan human rights researchers, Western officials and men who participate in the abuse.

“Like it or not, there was better rule of law under the Taliban,” said Dee Brillenburg Wurth, a child-protection expert at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, who has sought to persuade the government to address the problem. “They saw it as a sin, and they stopped a lot of it.”

… Afghan men have exploited boys as sexual partners for generations, people who have studied the issue say. The practice became rampant during the 1980s, when mujaheddin commanders fighting Soviet forces became notorious for recruiting young boys while passing through villages. In Kandahar during the mid-1990s, the Taliban was born in part out of public anger that local commanders had married bachas and were engaging in other morally licentious behavior.

If I were an Afghan peasant and the only way to stop Pashtun perverts from doing that to my son was to empower the Taliban, I would welcome the Taliban. Wouldn’t you?

In the NYT story, we learn that two US soldiers were punished by the military for beating up an Afghan commander they found with a boy sex slave chained to his bed. The idea here is that the US needs to work with these degenerates to fight the Taliban (who are also degenerate, but in a different way).

Think through the outrage, and understand how difficult this problem is for US strategists. I would sooner be court-martialed than sit there and listen while a man rapes a child, and do nothing about it because I have to follow orders. If men under my command had shot that SOB, I would have given them a commendation. That said, if the mission of our forces is to defeat the Taliban, then we have to work with those who fight them. If the Taliban in power is a national security threat to the United States, then it is arguably in our national interest to tolerate the evil that is not a danger to our country for the sake of defeating the evil that is.

I’m not saying that I agree with that argument. I’m saying that the correct course of action for the US here is not clear-cut.

Second, this is a pretty great illustration of the limits of criticizing “cultural imperialism” as an answer to Westerners trying to change the traditions of Third World peoples. The other day, I wrote critically [3] of the way the US and other Western governments and institutions are trying to pressure Africans to adopt secular Western views on sexual morality, including homosexuality. This, I said, is “cultural imperialism.” And it undoubtedly is.

But one man’s “cultural imperialism” is another man’s “liberation of the oppressed.” I would have no moral problem imposing Western standards on Pashtun pederasts, at the end of a gun if necessary. Nor, for that matter, if there were, say, Ugandans who were lynching gays, and US soldiers were occupying that country and had the power to stop it, I would cheer our troops on.

(That is a different question than asking whether or not it is worth invading another country to stop Pashtun pederasty or Ugandan anti-gay lynching. Of course we should not. We cannot possibly save everyone in the world who needs saving. The reason the US military is in Afghanistan in the first place is not to civilize Pashtun barbarians, but to fight Islamic religious savages who harbored terrorists who mass murdered Americans. It is easy to believe that the Pashtuns or Ugandans are behaving like devils in those respective cases, but to also accept that the cost of trying to stop it would be too high, and unlikely to change things.)

More broadly, to religiously conservative Americans, the rich West trying to use the power of the purse to compel impoverished African nations to give up their traditional views of marriage is a case of the West attempting to impose its corrupt values on a relatively weak culture. To liberals and other pro-LGBT Americans, it’s an attempt by the enlightened West to use what leverage we have to compel morally corrupt African cultures to believe and behave more humanely towards LGBTs within those cultures. Who is the oppressor and who is the liberator depends on what you believe constitutes goodness and evil, slavery and freedom.

This is why the culture war never ends. On some fundamental moral principles, we have widely diverging views, and no way to resolve them. Culture war is an eternal thing within diverse cultures, and between them. Here is an essay by a far-left professor who denounces US cultural imperialism from a Marxist perspective. [4] He begins:

U.S cultural imperialism has two major goals, one economic and the other political: to capture markets for its cultural commodities and to establish hegemony by shaping popular consciousness. The export of entertainment is one of the most important sources of capital accumulation and global profits displacing manufacturing exports. In the political sphere, cultural imperialism plays a major role in dissociating people from their cultural roots and traditions of solidarity, replacing them with media created needs which change with every publicity campaign. The political effect in to alienate people from traditional class and community bonds, atomizing and separating individuals from each other.

There’s more (misspellings in the original) — this from a section called “the tyranny of liberalism”:

Just as western state terrorism attempts to destroy social movements, revolutionary governments and disarticulate civil society, economic terrorism as practiced by the IMF and private bank consortia, destroy local industries, erode public ownership and savages wage and salaried household. Cultural terrorism is responsible for the physical displacement of local cultural activities and artists. Cultural terrorism by preying on the psychological weaknesses and deep anxieties of vulnerable Third World peoples, particularly their sense of being “backward”, “traditional” and oppressed, projects new images of “mobility” and “free expression”, destroying old bonds to family and community, while fastening new chains of arbitrary authority linked to corporate power and commercial markets. The attacks on traditional restraints and obligations is a mechanism by which the capitalist market and state becomes the ultimate center of exclusive power. Cultural imperialism in the name of “self expression” tyrannizes Third World people fearful of being labeled “traditional”, seducing and manipulating them by the phoney images of classless “modernity”. Cultural imperialism questions all pre-existing relations that are obstacles to the one and only sacred modern deity: the market. Third World peoples are entertained, coerced, titillated to be modern’, to submit to the demands of capitalist market to discard comfortable, traditional, loose fitting clothes for ill fitting unsuitable tight blue jeans.

Cultural imperialism functions best through colonized intermediaries, cultural collaborators. The prototype imperial collaborators are the upwardly mobile Third World professionals who imitate the style of their patrons. These collaborators are servile to the West and arrogant to their people, prototypical authoritarian personalities. Backed by the banks and multinationals, they wield immense power through the state and local mass media. Imitative of the West, they are rigid in their conformity to the rules of unequal competition, opening their country and peoples to savage exploitation in the name of free trade. Among the prominent cultural collaborators are the institutional intellectuals who deny class domination and imperial class warfare behind the jargon of objective social science. They fetischize the market as the absolute arbiter of good and evil. Behind the rhetoric of ‘regional cooperation”, the conformist intellectuals attack working class and national institutions which constrain capital movements — their supporters isolated and marginalized. Today throughout the Third World, Western funded Third World intellectuals have embraced the ideology of concertacion (class collaboration). The notion of interdependence has replaced imperialism. And the unregulated world market is presented as the only alternative for development. The irony is that today as never before the “market” has been least favorable to the Third World. Never have the U.S., Europe and Japan been so aggressive in exploiting the Third World. The cultural alienation of the institutional intellectuals from the global realities is a byproduct of the ascendancy of Western cultural imperialism. For those critical intellectuals who refuse to join the celebration of the market, who are outside of the official conference circuits, the challenge is to once again return to the class and anti-imperialist struggle.

The author of that piece is a sociologist named James Petras [5].

James Kalb, a traditionalist Catholic, has a great book called The Tyranny of Liberalism [5]that takes a similar tack, though from the traditionalist right. Though Petras and Kalb no doubt differ strongly on fundamental questions of right and wrong, they are united, it appears, in questioning the hegemony of neoliberalisms of the Left and Right. They might even agree on the politics of architecture [6], I dunno. The thing about neoliberals of both the Left and Right is that they take their own WEIRD (White Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic) [7] assumptions as universal realities.

But I digress. Going back to the Afghan thing, the main point here is that it’s not hard to identify the phenomenon we typically call “cultural imperialism,” though the term is pejorative. The real question is whether or not specific instances of “cultural imperialism” are morally justified. When the British crown began to rule India as an imperial power, Queen Victoria’s representatives in the Raj had to contend with the cultural practice of suttee (widow-burning). [8] Their initial response was to tolerate it, because the British couldn’t risk riling Hindus and Muslims by banning a practice that was deeply rooted in religion and tradition. Eventually, though, British Evangelicals, both missionaries and believers in the British Army, led a campaign to stamp out the practice as cruel. Were they cultural imperialists? Absolutely — and real imperialists too! As the scholar of the Victorian era whose article about suttee I link to in this paragraph says, it’s simply not accurate to depict widows burned alive on pyres as nothing but victims. Some of these women wanted to do this, because it was what they believed was just.

Were they right to have fought suttee, the British? That depends on what you think about right and wrong, and the prudential application of your principles. My point about the “cultural imperialism” slur is that it is a loaded term, even when conservatives like me use it. It is politically useful, given the bad name imperialism has in contemporary democratic culture, but in truth, it doesn’t settle any arguments. The real argument has to do with the moral status of the belief or practice of the weaker culture, and with the prudence and justice of the stronger power’s intervening in the foreign culture to stop it.

All of which is to say that not all cultural imperialism is bad, but only that before we engage in it, we should be very clear about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it — and we shouldn’t be surprised when those we force to accept our values hate us for our action (nor, it must be said, when those who share our values but whom we refused to help hate us for our inaction).

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131 Comments To "Should We Fight Pashtun Pedophiles?"

#1 Comment By William Dalton On September 22, 2015 @ 1:26 am

The United States has no business in Afghanistan telling the people and government how to order their lives respecting either sexual morality or religious liberty. It’s their country, God gave it to them, they are responsible to God for how they live and govern it, not the United States.

That being said, as long as there a base on their soil subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, no conduct should be tolerated on that base by anyone, Afghan, American or otherwise, which doesn’t comply with the requirements of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Anyone who won’t comply should be kicked off the base. If the Afghan government doesn’t like it, we’ll pick up and leave, just like we left from Iraq. I would rather us leave over the issue of protecting Afghan boys from pederasty than the issue of protecting American soldiers from prosecution in foreign courts for their own war crimes.

“If the Taliban in power is a national security threat to the United States, then it is arguably in our national interest to tolerate the evil that is not a danger to our country for the sake of defeating the evil that is.”

Don’t even go there. The Taliban wasn’t a “national security threat to the United States” when we invaded in 2001, and it isn’t a threat today. The only threat to our national security is the activity of the United States government which prompts people in the far corners of the world to attack us in retaliation for our interference, frequently murderous interference in their lives. That was the cause of anti-American terrorism on 9/11/2001 and it is the cause of it today. The only reason for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was the blood-lust of the American people for revenge for the attacks of that day, which should have been satiated by destroying the Taliban base camps in that country (as it would have been seen as stupid to destroy the homes in Germany, Boston, Florida and elsewhere where the actual conspiracy was formed and carried out). Instead we had to remove the Taliban, committing us to the project of installing a new government, i.e., “nation-building” George W. Bush had promised to abandon, and the responsibility to protect and maintain it, since it has obviously not had the support of the Afghan people sufficient to protect and maintain itself.

With of without Afghan officers raping boys on our bases there, our leaders’ persistence in this stupid and obviously insupportable war is nothing short of damnable.

#2 Comment By William Dalton On September 22, 2015 @ 1:35 am

The United States has no business in Afghanistan telling the people and government how to order their lives respecting either sexual morality or religious liberty. It’s their country, God gave it to them, they are responsible to God for how they live and govern it, not the United States.

That being said, as long as there is a base on their soil subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, no conduct should be tolerated on that base by anyone, Afghan, American or other, which doesn’t comply with the requirements of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Anyone who won’t comply should be kicked off the base. If the Afghan government doesn’t like it, we’ll pick up and leave, just like we left from Iraq. I would rather us leave over the issue of protecting Afghan boys from pederasty than the issue of protecting American soldiers from prosecution in foreign courts for those soldiers’ own war crimes.

“If the Taliban in power is a national security threat to the United States, then it is arguably in our national interest to tolerate the evil that is not a danger to our country for the sake of defeating the evil that is.”

Don’t even go there. The Taliban wasn’t a “national security threat to the United States” when we invaded in 2001, and it isn’t a threat today. The only threat to our national security is the activity of the United States government which prompts people in the far corners of the world to attack us in retaliation for our interference, frequently murderous interference, in their lives. That was the cause of anti-American terrorism on 9/11/2001 and it is the cause of it today. The only reason for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was the blood-lust of the American people for revenge for the attacks of that day, which should have been satiated by destroying the Al Qaeda base camps in that country (as it would have been both stupid and seen to be stupid to destroy the homes in Germany, Boston, Florida and elsewhere where the actual conspiracy was formed and carried out). Instead we had to remove the Taliban, committing us to the project of installing a new government (aka “nation-building”, the project George W. Bush had promised to abandon), and the responsibility to protect and maintain it, since it has obviously not had the support of the Afghan people sufficient to protect and maintain itself.

With of without Afghan officers raping boys on our bases there, our leaders’ persistence in this stupid and obviously insupportable war is nothing short of damnable.

#3 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 22, 2015 @ 3:49 am

I don’t get it. I didn’t say that. I just note that a group of people’s sexual appetites we constrain at home, we enable abroad. If that doesn’t bother you, then I have to think you’re not really against it per se, but can justify it when there is some advantage to be gained. In that case there really is no sense of morality that would prevent assent to it here, given the right circumstances.

This isn’t about “gay rights” – unless you make it so. It’s about powerful thug allies enabled to kidnap, enslave, rape and molest multiple young boys under the watchful eyes of American soldiers, on U.S. bases. It’s about collusion in the human rights violations of those children, and it was deemed a state secret until it leaked out soldiers have been dismissed for complaining about it.

“Oh my, Fran and Kurt remind us that gay rights=NAMBLA. What an original point! Surely, now the scales will fall from our eyes!”

#4 Comment By JonF On September 22, 2015 @ 6:09 am

Re: If there is a choice between the sodomizing of their sons and the suppression of their women, it is for the Afghans to make, not you.

Who said I was trying to make their decision? However, Rod couched this piece as an indictment of US policy for supporting child abusers. I pointed out that the non-child abusers were horrific women-abusers. The problem is that as long as the US insists on pretending to be running the show over there we are going to be faced with that choice. As others have said we would do better to just pack up and leave and let the whole mess slowly putrefy on its own. Or maybe the Chinese would like their turn trying to civilize the country.

#5 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 22, 2015 @ 8:33 am

@ William Dalton, who wrote:

“The only reason for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was the blood-lust of the American people for revenge for the attacks of that day, which should have been satiated by destroying Al Qaeda base camps in that country (as it would have been seen as stupid to destroy the homes in Germany, Boston, Florida and elsewhere where the actual conspiracy was formed and carried out). Instead we had to remove the Taliban…”

That just about sums it up! The only reason was “the blood-lust of the American people for revenge” and the political leverage that satisfying that blood-lust gave the party in power.

Look at the facts:

The US government asserted that al Qaeda, which had some training bases in the mountains of Afghanistan, was behind the 9/11 attacks and that if Afghanistan didn’t expel al Qaeda and hand over its leader Osama bin Laden, the US would invade Afghanistan and apprehend him. The Taliban Afghan government responded that if the US provided evidence that al Qaeda/bin Laden was behind 9/11, they would put bin Laden on trial in Afghanistan. The US said that it didn’t have to provide — or didn’t have? – any such evidence and began bombing Afghanistan.

After eight days of US carpet-bombing of Afghanistan (“Operation Enduring Freedom” aka “Operation Shooting Fish in A Barrel”) the Afghan government made a second offer: If the US provided evidence that al Qaeda/bin Laden was behind 9/11, the Afghanistan would turn over bin Laden to an agreed third party or an international tribunal for trial. The US refused that offer, too. The US demand remained: We don’t have to show you any evidence. Just turn him over!

To this day – coming up to 14 years since the US invasion of Afghanistan – the US Government has still failed to provide a State Department White Paper or other credible US Government evidence that bin Laden was behind 9/11. Many speculate that it was just this lack of evidence that led to the US decision to assassinate bin Laden rather than capture him and put him on trial. It was widely agreed that in a trial of bin Laden could have been highly embarrassing for the US Government.

An excellent piece, William Dalton!

#6 Comment By Eamus Catuli On September 22, 2015 @ 10:27 am

As I think about this further, I see a logical contradiction in the idea that we should stand by and let someone else be harmed (in cases where’re in a position to help them) on the grounds that we’re dealing with a culture whose values are different from ours.

The premise behind that view is the idea that we don’t know enough about the other culture to make judgments based on our own standards. Other cultures’ value systems are in a sense black boxes that we can only look upon from the outside.

OK, but by the same logic, we also can’t know what another culture’s value system actually is, or even who is able to tell us this. Suppose someone who knew nothing about America showed up in Dubuque and happened upon a gang of pedophiles running a rape den. He’s about to alert the authorities, but the pedophiles assure him that what he’s witnessed isn’t “wrong” by local standards, that it’s actually one of the practices normal to American culture (or Iowan culture, or the culture of greater Dubuque, or the culture of middle-aged Midwestern white men). That would, of course, be a self-serving lie, and we should hope our imaginary foreign visitor wouldn’t fall for it.

Now suppose our same visitor saw a Confederate flag flying and started asking questions about that. This is a gray area, one where the values in question have long been contested and are currently in flux. It would be wrong to tell him that there’s no cultural warrant for the practice, but also wrong to suggest that it’s a totally normal and uncontroversial feature of American culture, or even of the culture of the South.

The same problem exists when Americans look at Afghanistan. So, I’m asked to believe that “Afghan culture” or “Pashtun culture” approves of child rape. Well, who says? Was there a vote on that? Were there surveys? Who’s my informant, and what’s his authority to speak? Clearly the rape of children was controversial and contested enough (we’re told) that some Afghans welcomed the Taliban as liberators from it. Likewise, honor killings and the burning of widows apparently have not been universally applauded in India. So what then, in fact, are “the” culture’s values? Every larger community is made of multiple, overlapping subcultures; every culture is permeable to some degree and is certain to change and evolve over time. Given all that, what even counts as “the” culture? And who do we trust to tell us this?

In the end, we’re thrown back on our own judgments in deciding what to accredit as genuine “cultural practices” outside of our own. And if we’re thrown back on our own judgments, we’re thrown back on our own values, so we really can’t help but apply those even if try to. For these reasons among others, if I’m in a position to stop kids from being raped — with a reasonable chance of success, and a reasonably low likelihood of somehow thereby creating even worse problems — I would feel an obligation to do it. If turned out to be a cultural faux pas, well, I can always apologize for that later.

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 22, 2015 @ 10:59 am

While agreeing with the overall Dalton analysis, this is not the reason, but the immediate enabling pretext ( “never let a good crisis go to waste” ):

“The only reason for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was the blood-lust of the American people for revenge for the attacks of that day”

Afghanistan has strategic significance because of it location. The opportunity 9/11 offered was a credible (if properly propagandized) excuse for transforming it into a U.S. satrapy with bases offered the fulfillment of Great Gamemanship over adjacent potential and actual rivals, along with resources and the control of the corridors for resources. What we have seen over the past thirty years is a contest for control there by Great Powers.

#8 Comment By KD On September 22, 2015 @ 1:12 pm

Eamus Catuli:

Do you know what is required to “help” another nation, especially one economically and culturally quite different from your own?

That’s what the British Empire did, and guess what, no one besides TAC commentators have the temerity to defend British Imperialism. Remember Imperialism BAAAHD? What gives you the right to impose your moral values on others? Also, what do you think pre-ANC South Africa basically was?

If people want to start an American colony in Afghanistan, and pass laws suppressing all the barbarism (from Western eyes), and carry out all the executions and repressions associated with such a regime, then fine, Americans are free to support it. I still think it would be a waste of money, and cruel, and ultimately unsuccessful. But colonialism on the cheap is delusional.

What gives the state the “right” to imposes its values on another state, or a group within the state? Obviously, what gives the “right” is the overlap of the political will and the political means to do so. The West thinks you invade, wave the magic wand of Enlightenment wisdom, and people abandon their way of life from centuries past. It doesn’t work that way, as the history of British colonialism demonstrates.

#9 Comment By KD On September 22, 2015 @ 1:21 pm

Does anyone think thirty years of Hollywood portraying pedophiles sympathetically and slanted new coverage wouldn’t lead Americans to “discover” a new moral insight about discriminating against pedophiles? Is it any less of an “orientation” than heterosexuality or homosexuality?

And I am slanting things–pedophilia is technically prepubescent–we would probably start by deconstructing the age of consent:

[9]

#10 Comment By EngineerScotty On September 22, 2015 @ 10:18 pm

This gets back to some of my inflammatory remarks on the cultural dimension of “orientation”, but from the outside, it sure looks like the Afghanis are erotically fixated on the bloom of male youth, the way American males might be fixated on surgically augmented undergraduate-aged women.

And men in prison, most of whom would not dream of touching another man on the outside, will frequently rape other male prisoners on the inside.

Some of that might be “any port in a storm”; some of that might be mere expressions of power (as opposed to sexual gratification). On the other hand, prison culture tolerates (if not actively encourages) raping other prisoners; doing things in jail that are against the “rules” will get you stuck with a shiv, and prison rapists generally aren’t shanked as a result (unless the wrong person gets rapied). Yet I suspect the prison population generally disapproves of consensual adult male homosexuality (outside) far moreso than the general population.

Likewise, I suspect that the Afghan men who think nothing of raping boys, would view consensual gay sodomy–especially being the bottom as opposed to the top–as pure wickedness. But this double standard has long been a characteristic of pederasty throughout the ages.

Comparing any of this to gay rights in the West is obnoxious. Gay men in the US overwhelmingly disapprove of raping boys, just as straight men overwhelmingly disapprove of raping girls (and cultural tolerance for adult men popping the cherries of “jailbait”, even if consensual on the part of the girl, has declined quite a bit in the past several decades).

These things still happen, though.

#11 Comment By Eamus Catuli On September 22, 2015 @ 11:42 pm

@KD:

Do you know what is required to “help” another nation, especially one economically and culturally quite different from your own? ….colonialism on the cheap is delusional.

Yes, I know. Hence the qualifier: “with a reasonable chance of success, and a reasonably low likelihood of somehow thereby creating even worse problems.” Foreign invasions rarely meet those criteria, and the presumption should be that they don’t.

What gives the state the “right” to imposes its values on another state, or a group within the state? Obviously, what gives the “right” is the overlap of the political will and the political means to do so. The West thinks you invade, wave the magic wand of Enlightenment wisdom, and people abandon their way of life from centuries past.

Again, I agree with the last part. I’m talking about a situation that Americans or some other group of Westerners might happen to find themselves in, for whatever reason. What I pointed out is that there’s probably no way to know in most such cases whether you’re imposing your values, or whether you’re vindicating values that are already represented in the other culture. Either we understand other cultures or we don’t, and if we don’t, then among the things we don’t understand is how to assess what counts as “their culture” and whom we can rely on to tell us that. So it’s just illogical to suppose that what are otherwise clearly murders or rapes must somehow be OK for “cultural” reasons.

But that’s if the situation arises. If we’re sitting at home, looking from afar at a place and a people we’re not otherwise involved with, the presumption has to be that we respect the Law of Unintended Consequences and not go off in search of monsters to destroy, especially by armed force.

#12 Comment By KD On September 23, 2015 @ 9:30 am

Eamus Catuli:

I am not equating Afghani practices to American homosexuality. I compared with crude American heterosexuality, if you notice.

Moreover, I don’t understand the sex vs. power distinction at all. As Foucault pointed out, sex is only interesting because it is an expression of power relations (how else does something mechanical, like a gun, generate interest). Hence, why we have sexual ethics, as an attempt to place limits on power relations, and channel those relations toward public good, not private good.

I believe that culturally speaking, the object of erotic interest in Afghanistan is generally male youth. People speak of child rape of girls, but you are typically speaking of marriages in this context (Shari’ah allowing marriage at the age of 9 years typically). You have something like good sex is boring sex with your wives, and bad sex (what everyone really wants) is with young men/boys. So you have the moralists (everyone should have only good sex) and the laissez faire (“boys will be boys”). Obviously, individuals fall into some kind of spectrum.

What am trying to point out is how culturally embedded eroticism really is, and that cultural changes lead to changes in the way eroticism is manifested.

#13 Comment By KD On September 23, 2015 @ 9:33 am

My remark at 9:30 am should have been addressed to Engineer Scotty.

#14 Comment By KD On September 23, 2015 @ 9:38 am

The concept of “consent”, in either economy or sexuality, is intended to hide and excuse power. The rule of the strong is okay, because the people “consent”. The idea of “harm” (increasingly old fashioned) is sometimes invoked, but who defines the “harm”?

#15 Comment By KD On September 23, 2015 @ 9:46 am

Engineer Scotty:

The ten dollar question: is pedophilia an orientation? Is it genetic? (A left-handed way of saying is there any evidence of genetic links.) If so, how can society legitimate the punishment of pedophiles? These are the questions no one wants to broach today, but “progress” will wait for no one.

#16 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On September 23, 2015 @ 9:48 am

I remember reading somewhere that suttee ended up being the easiest way of getting rid of older women who were considered economically useless to the community.

The problems with this claim (and I realize it’s not your claim, but it’s very dumb anyway) are:

1) Older women aren’t economically useless to agricultural communities, as anyone who’s travelled in a developing country can attest. In India as well as Africa, older women (i.e. the ones who aren’t busy caring for children) do a lot of hard agricultural labour. Part of the reason that women have an extended senescence (i.e. that women survive long past menopause) is presumably because women can be economically productive, even in primitive societies, long past the age at which they’re no longer fertile.

2) This is especially the case in the parts of India where suttee was always the most popular- the economy relies largely on livestock herding, which doesn’t require as much brute strength as wheat or especially rice farming. The rice farmers down south never practiced suttee to any great extent.

3) The practice was always tied to widowhood status rather than age (and was part of a more general denigration of widows and especially female remarriage following the husband’s death).

4) Societies which did encourage the euthanasia of the elderly, like the Inuit and some other H/G cultures, generally did it in a gender neutral fashion.

5) Widow burning was widely practiced (possibly more commonly, though I’m not sure) among the nobility and royal families.

I really think the ultimate explanation here is sexual rather than economic- this is what you get when the concern for female chastity is taken to extremes, which means that it should be as least as much a concern for the sociosexual conservative as for the multiculti liberal.

Kris,

This isn’t a Freudian explanation, its a Darwinian one (or to be more accurate, in the tradition of the 1960s sociobiologists like Hamilton, Trivers etc.) And I did acknowledge widow burning was never much practiced in the south, and there was quite a bit of Indian opposition- especially Muslim, but Hindu as well- to the practice.

#17 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On September 23, 2015 @ 9:51 am

This gets back to some of my inflammatory remarks on the cultural dimension of “orientation”, but from the outside, it sure looks like the Afghanis are erotically fixated on the bloom of male youth, the way American males might be fixated on surgically augmented undergraduate-aged women.

You do realize that there’s a big difference between undergraduate-aged women, surgically enhanced or not (and for that matter male ‘twinks’ around the same age), and children, yes?

#18 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On September 23, 2015 @ 9:57 am

That’s what the British Empire did, and guess what, no one besides TAC commentators have the temerity to defend British Imperialism. Remember Imperialism BAAAHD? What gives you the right to impose your moral values on others? Also, what do you think pre-ANC South Africa basically was?

You’ll actually find that a not insignificant number of people don’t think colonialism was always or in every case a bad thing, some of them quite liberal, actually.

#19 Comment By KD On September 23, 2015 @ 11:07 am

Look at what Slate is publishing:

[10]

The Revolution comes to the children!

#20 Comment By William Dalton On September 23, 2015 @ 12:16 pm

@Kurt Gayle

Thank you, Kurt. I was aware of the facts you relate at the time and they have influenced my attitude towards the Afghan War ever since. It is why I have sought out Republicans who have opposed it ever since, and why I rejected Obama in 2008, who proclaimed his intention to continue pursuing it.

Thank you for recalling those facts to mind.

@Fran McAdam

I confess I’m not so much of an expert to comment on the strategic value of Afghanistan to those interested in that part of the world. (Although I will venture that is is not of any importance to the United States.) What I know of military strategy in the world of geopolitics I learned as a teenager from playing the board game, “Risk”. Anyone who plays that game learns from bitter experience that he is a fool if he wastes his rolls of the dice and his playing pieces trying to take Afghanistan. It is a prescription for being the first player off the Board. Those who designed the game were geniuses. Before and after that game was developed that lesson has been proven time and again in real life.

#21 Comment By JonF On September 23, 2015 @ 1:55 pm

Re: Is it genetic? (A left-handed way of saying is there any evidence of genetic links.) If so, how can society legitimate the punishment of pedophiles

There’s some evidence that alcoholism, and addiction in general, is genetic. This does not motivate anyone to suggest we repeal the drunk driving laws. (But neither does the problem of alcoholism and drunk driving support a case for general Prohibition.)

Re: You have something like good sex is boring sex with your wives, and bad sex (what everyone really wants) is with young men/boys.

Why? I mean why would sex with one’s wife be “boring”? And sex with an underage boy be “good”? I have trouble wrapping my mind around that. Unless it’s just the forbidden fruit and transgressive aspect of it? My own theory is that when a society defines women as radically unequal to men, and bans them as much as possible from a public presence, and even manages to suppress prostitution, what you get, especially among men far from home, is this sort of thing.

#22 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 23, 2015 @ 2:14 pm

I note that the soldiers who failed to obey lawful orders handed down through the command chain, and intervened to prevent pedophilia, aren’t really any different from Kim Davis, who also claimed to follow “higher law.”

Do we really want county clerks, or soldiers, following their consciences, which they believe not merely to be their personal preferences, but from a law that stands beyond human superiors?

I can see why Rod has trouble with this, as a self-styled “trad,” because part of that is resistance to change, and human institutions and their hierarchical power structures are what stand in resistance to the iconoclasm of individuals. Therefore, there is reflexive trust vested in these structures, and a reluctance to challenge their right to authority. But human hierarchies are always going to be built on foundations of quicksand.

The problem is the Romans 13 quandary, where an interpretation is made to grant authority to any that come to be able to exercise it, by hook or crook, once they have consolidated it.

I think there is a subtle failure to recognize that divine power is, in human expression, power in service to others from under, rather than domination over. That this isn’t being internalized, is in the frustrated outburst of temptation to solve the problem, by unleashing daisy cutters on the whole lot of troublesome Afghans.

#23 Comment By Eamus Catuli On September 23, 2015 @ 3:14 pm

The concept of “consent”, in either economy or sexuality, is intended to hide and excuse power.

Bizarre statement. Quite obviously, requiring someone’s consent to something limits the power of others to do that thing.

In other news, the sky is blue, and up is not down.

#24 Comment By Eamus Catuli On September 23, 2015 @ 5:12 pm

I note that the soldiers who failed to obey lawful orders handed down through the command chain, and intervened to prevent pedophilia, aren’t really any different from Kim Davis, who also claimed to follow “higher law.

If the orders actually were lawful. I am wondering about this. Rape is a well-defined war crime. If I understand correctly, soldiers cannot lawfully be ordered to cover up war crimes. They can, I suppose, be ordered not to take matters into their own hands and beat up the perpetrators, and it sounds like that was technically the offense here, not objecting to rape. I don’t know all the intricacies of military law, but I would think there is some mechanism for going higher up the chain of command, or to the civilian authorities, if you report a war crime to your immediate superiors and they ignore it. In fact, I would think any soldier has a moral and maybe a legal obligation to do exactly that.

#25 Comment By EngineerScotty On September 24, 2015 @ 3:14 am

The ten dollar question: is pedophilia an orientation? Is it genetic? (A left-handed way of saying is there any evidence of genetic links.) If so, how can society legitimate the punishment of pedophiles? These are the questions no one wants to broach today, but “progress” will wait for no one.

Perhaps Rod’s new thread is a better place to answer, but since you asked here:

a) Is it an orientation? Some say it is, and there are some pedos who are only interested in children, and have difficulty (or no interest) in physical relations with adults. Other people who engage in molesting of children publicly identify as heterosexual–certain all of the Pashtun rapists in question have (or intend to have) wives; as did the coach at Penn State who was found raping boys in the locker room.

b) Is it genetic? I have no idea; I’m not aware of any good science on this topic. For obvious reasons, this is a difficult subject to study with any rigor; it’s only in recent years (with large numbers of gay people out of the closet and willing to participate in research studies) that research into homosexuality is becoming more dependable. And even there–science has not conclusively identified the “cause” of homosexuality, though prevailing theories are that sexuality is largely determined in early development (and is seldom, if ever, a conscious choice).

3) Society should not punish those who merely have pedophile desires; only those who actually molest or otherwise sexually exploit children. And child molesting has a definite victim (unlike, say, consensual adult gay intercourse), so I’ve no problem with the law punishing it.

#26 Comment By KD On September 24, 2015 @ 10:03 am

Eamus Catuli:

It is not slavery if the slave consents to be a slave, correct? Perhaps they sell themselves into slavery to feed their family?

#27 Comment By Eamus Catuli On September 24, 2015 @ 3:24 pm

KD, what are you talking about? Who is giving uncoerced consent to becoming a slave?

If someone points a gun at me and tells me that my survival depends on handing over my wallet, I will take my wallet out of my pocket and hand it to him. I have thus taken active steps to transfer my wallet from me to him. Have I “consented” to anything? Of course not.

Likewise, if I’m hauled off to a concentration camp and told I don’t get to eat unless I work all day, then I will try to do that work, but I will not have consented to any of this.

That still holds even if you take away the barbed wire, and merely create a situation in which someone’s only alternative is to starve. Is that what you’re talking about? Because that’s not consent. You seem to lack a fundamental understanding of the concept. It’s consent only if it’s uncoerced. Look it up in any legal dictionary.

#28 Comment By KD On September 24, 2015 @ 4:54 pm

Eamus Catuli:

Read Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905) if you want to understand consent.

#29 Comment By Eamus Catuli On September 25, 2015 @ 12:54 am

Read Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905) if you want to understand consent.

Sure thing, as soon as I finish reading Dred Scott to get a better understanding of African-Americans.

As you probably already knew, the word “consent” (or “consensual”) never even appears in Lochner. Also, you were talking about slavery, and Lochner isn’t about slavery, except insofar as it overturned laws meant to make the wage-slavery of its time a bit less onerous. Fortunately, this proved to be temporary, as the struggle against wage-slavery continued.

#30 Comment By StephenKMackSD On September 25, 2015 @ 8:39 am

‘Think through the outrage, and understand how difficult this problem is for US strategists.’

Here is the burning question not about child rapists or gays in Uganda or Marxist professors but really about Empire and it’s utterly dangerous consequences for the imperialist and it’s victims. Because the sodomized nine year old boy is that victim: one might just ask what mother or father would find it acceptable that any of their children be sexually abused, criminally assaulted? Does a nine year old child even understand the sexual appetite? That’s the consideration that eludes this writer mired in strategic thinking, with resort to the Raj as demonstrative of bankrupt ‘strategic thinking’. Call this absolute muddle of an essay failed because an apologist for Empire wrote it!
This is a trap, the incommensurables that Isiah Berlin prattled on about at the drop of a hat, interfere with the proper functioning of Imperial Armies in quest of an elusive security at your peril! In sum Mr. Dreher postulates this: the screams of children being sodomized are one of the costs of Empire!
StephenKMackSD

#31 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 25, 2015 @ 1:11 pm

True understanding of consent is not in Lochner v. New York but in the traditions of the American people.