In the Arena

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At Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearings yesterday, no fewer than three Democrats–led by Barbara Boxer–raised the issue of women’s rights in developing countries, including those countries that we seem to be developing. Boxer cited the amazing work Nicholas Kristoff has done on this issue and today Kristoff’s colleague Dexter Filkins weighs in with a moving report about the fortitude of the Afghan women who were recently pelted with acid by the Taliban and their insistence on returning to school.

Two thoughts:

1. Hillary Clinton expressed full agreement with Boxer’s concerns. It remains to be seen what, exactly, can be done about the culture that produces such atrocities–other than publicizing and condemning them, as Laura Bush has done.  (Although this should be an issue for the President and the other male leaders of our government to address, not just the first lady and top women officers like Clinton.)

2. The soldiers I met in Afghanistan were unanimous in their opinion that most Afghans are utterly opposed to the Taliban for a very simple reason: they do things like this. If we can get our act together and, more important, if the Afghan government gets its act together, that sentiment may enable us to make some progress against the terrorists and religious extremists.

At the very least, whenever we start thinking that the Afghan effort is doomed or just not worth it, we should take a moment to think of those women, and all the others who’ve suffered–and try to figure out the best possible ways to help the Afghans build their communities and their country.