"Live our values," Gen. David Petraeus wrote recently to troops in Afghanistan. "This is what distinguishes us from our enemies."
Unfortunately, this is also what distinguishes us from many of our "friends." This culture-chasm is what makes the infidel struggle for hearts and minds across Islamic lands so recklessly, wastefully futile, something I was once again reminded of on reading Time magazine's cover story featuring 18-year-old Aisha. Aisha is a lovely Afghan girl whose husband and brother-in-law, on instructions from a local judge and Taliban commander, sliced off her ears and nose and left her dying to set an example for other wives thinking of running away from abusive in-laws. Only her discovery by U.S. troops saved Aisha's life.
But where was Aisha's father? Where was her family? Where were her town's elders? Where was Hamid Karzai? Turns out her family did nothing to protect her from the Taliban, Time writes. Why? The magazine describes a mixture of fear and shame that I hope still strikes the average American family as so foreign as extra-terrestrials. Time further explains: "A girl who runs away is automatically considered a prostitute … and families that allow them back home would be subject to widespread ridicule." When Aisha's father enticed her home with promises of a new husband, the girl refused because she was fearful that her family would sell her into slavery, or murder her.
Similar scenarios play out beyond the wilds of the Taliban zone wherever Sharia culture flowers, an expanding zone that now includes urban centers of the Western world — from Berlin to London to Atlanta to Calgary — where previously unimagined assaults on women and girls are taking place almost exclusively from within Islamic communities. This gruesome fact renders Time's cover line — "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan" — absurdly provincial in scope. That is, it's not only in Afghanistan where Islamic men have dominion over Islamic women. It is wherever Islamic law, de facto or de jure, empowers them.
It is into this brutish society that American and NATO troops have again been ordered to mix, this time by Gen. Petraeus who believes, as a Pentagon release put it, "meeting and understanding the people is the main mission for military forces." Calling for more interaction with "the people," Petraeus told his forces: "Take off your sunglasses. Situational awareness can only be gained by interacting face to face, not separated by ballistic glass or Oakleys." This last bit inspired a note from a Marine mom who reminded me that eye protection is what defends our soldiers from blast-borne fragments that cause blindness or brain injuries.
Petraeus seems bent on stripping our men bare, almost literally, to make them symbols of a non-threatening openness that he and other counterinsurgency (COIN) zealots insist will win what he calls "the decisive terrain" — aka, the Afghan people. Of course, that same "terrain" includes not only poor Aisha, but also her cowardly, complicit father, her murderous in-laws, her acquiescent town elders, and corrupto-crat Karzai, whose silence on the plight of women worries observers already concerned about Kabul's and Washington's overtures to the Taliban. Meanwhile, as one female Afghan parliamentarian estimated to Time, fewer than a dozen of the 68 female parliamentarians in Afghanistan support women's rights. Time writes: "The rest — proxies for conservative men who boosted them into power — aren't interested."
Aren't interested? Incredible — at least to people who believe that for a battered bride, no-fault divorce beats slavery and murder. To Sharia-culturalists, however, such "women's rights" violate their code. This is something that Westerners, convinced they are born to be loved and envied, can't grasp. "Is America going to abandon the women of Afghanistan?" an overwrought Christiane Amanpour demanded of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on ABC, brandishing Time's Aisha edition.
It is Islam that abandoned these women, Christiane, not America, and not just in Afghanistan. Whether prisoners of Islamic law or promoters or Islamic law, such women are beyond the reach of America's ineffectual attempts at "nation-building" — unless, of course, the nation being built is also wholly de-Sharified. Short of a intergalactic missionary movement enforced by robo-conquistadors, that ain't going to happen.
"Live your values," says Gen. Petraeus. "This is what distinguishes us from our enemies." Amen, general. But how about living them — and guarding them against Sharia — at home?
Diana West is the author of "The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization," and blogs at dianawest.net. She can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.