A Question of Honor

With President Obama's Second Inaugural coming up tomorrow, it seems I should be waxing largely upon my nation's future when, instead, a piece in this morning's New York Times sends me back to the future of another nation entirely.

I've said somewhere before that I had no (or at least, very few) problems with going into Afghanistan in the first place. At least in the sense that I understood that, after 9/11, a bar fight was going to go down somewhere, somehow. And I, slightly embarrassed romantic that I too often turn out to be, was not unhappy that that bar fight was going down in Afghanistan. I'd done some reading on Afghanistan - ok, what I did was look up every article that National Geographic ever did on Afghanistan - and I fell for the place. The world is full of bad guys, but you don't just walk into a bar, any bar, and start punching people out because you know in your heart they deserve it. Nobody will be on your side. But if you are sucker-punched in the parking lot, chances are you'll have people rooting for you, because they, too, have wanted to teach that guy a lesson.

Sorry for the extended barroom metaphor but you know what they say. Write what you know.

What I'm saying is, we had a perfectly understandable reason for going into Afghanistan and a perfectly reasonable expectation that we might be welcomed and encouraged. Which we were, for a time. The fact that we then lost our marbles and - well - why go into all of that once again. We all know what happened then.

When President Obama announced the Afghanistan surge, I wasn't as displeased as others on my side of the aisle. I still clung to my original hope for the possibility of finally doing right by a population that had had high hopes for what we might be able to do. I didn't realize - or didn't want to know - at the time that the window had closed. We had already blown it. Our troops had been there too long. The new ones didn't know the territory. Even way out here in Seattle, I could hear doors slamming in our faces.

But I am heartsick for the women of Afghanistan. I am saddened that there was, in the end, so little we could do for them. For any of them. And the boys? The brothers who become obsessed with maintaining the family honor by killing their sisters? What is ahead for these children of the tribes? How many generations will it take before the stain of honor is not the daughter who flouted tradition, but the brother who killed her?