Some of the most striking photojournalism to emerge from nearly a decade in Afghanistan was the 2006 New York Times Magazine story titled "The Bride Price." It was about Afghanistan's culture of child sex abuse in which very young girls are chattels to be "married" off (as permitted under Islamic law) and used to settle debts or make other payments.
This 11-year-old Afghan girl (above) hoped to become a teacher but she became this 40-year-old Afghan man's "bride" instead. Below is a picture of the 13-year-old "wife" of a 45-year-old man, his first wife and their child.
Such photos came to mind on reading that Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was urging officers at the Naval War College, as a matter of war strategy, to learn to understand and respect such cultures. As it happens, I had the great privilege of lecturing at the Naval War College on The Death of the Grown-Up in 2008. With a simple if impossible timeline adjustment, I could easily have used the admiral's speech as book fodder, probably in Chapter 7, "Identity," which discusses the self-supression of the Western point of view and the dire implications thereof.
Here are some more dire implications, via the Pentagon:
Knowing about and engaging with people of other cultures, other beliefs and other ethnicities may be as important to American security as battle plans, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here Jan. 8.
Then why not just pull out the military and send in the Peace Corps?
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke at the Naval War College to an audience that included 110 students from other countries.
"I have been driven for a long time by the belief that the world we're living in requires us to understand problems from somebody else's perspective," Mullen said. "And I see that to be the case more and more in everything that I'm doing."
Better question: Why doesn't Adm. Mullen pull out of the military and join the Peace Corps?
The strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example, is predicated on American service members understanding and respecting the cultures of the countries. ...
Respecting? There's that word again...
Are we really supposed to teach our best young people to respect this?