But let us think about it another way. Consider the hundreds of millions of people around the world living in horrid, oppressed, degraded conditions. 27 million people are enslaved; millions of women suffer from forced prostitution, female genital cutting, fistulas, honor killings, and worse. Millions in Africa die each year from malaria and AIDS. And as bad as this is, it overlooks the seemingly more prosaic, but similarly horrific condition of grinding, miserable poverty, living on less than one dollar a day.
The United States could fight these problems in countries where it would not require fighting a protracted, bloody, brutal, probably-unwinnable war, perhaps where governments either care about their population or at least simply neglect them. And if it did so, it could save, improve, and empower tens of millions of people brutalized just as much as the woman on the cover of Time.
If we are serious about empowering women and fighting poverty — and we should be — we should use all the money and effort we are expending in Afghanistan, and turn toward other severe problems that do not demand the lives of thousands of American young people. If fighting in Afghanistan derives from genuine geopolitical concerns — a case that has simply not been made yet — then of course that is another story. But to support the Afghan war on the basis of humanitarian concerns misses the larger picture and runs the risk of making a mockery of humanitarianism.