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New data from Pakistan published in the American Journal of Political Science suggests that the middle class there is more likely to support violent extremism than those who are less well off. The factor proposed for this difference is interesting:

the contextual factor that matters appears to be exposure to the externalities of militant violence. Leveraging a new dataset of violent incidents, we find first that violence is heavily concentrated in urban areas and second that dislike of militant groups is nearly three times stronger among the urban poor living in districts that have experienced violence than among the poor living in nonviolent districts. It is not that people are vulnerable to militants' appeals because they are poor and dissatisfied. Instead, it appears that the urban poor suffer most from militants' violent activities and so most intensely dislike them.

In other words, the people who have to deal with the consequences are those who don't like the violent extremism. It's not a surprising causal relationship, but it is emblematic of the habit among the better-off classes the world over to casually form hardened opinions over matters that have nothing whatsoever to do with them.

You can find parallels...More >>

It's long been fashionable to claim that the US Government used Afghan women as a justification for waging war in Afghanistan. It's not a particularly orginal, well-supported or sophisticated argument, but it's become a meme. It's slightly less fashionable, but still barely frowned upon in the post-modernist classrooms of western arts faculties, to write off the whole enterprise of women's rights (and indeed, human rights writ large) as an imperialist adventure perpetrated by patronizing western feminists, being forced upon the dominated, resistant masses of developing countries. It's these two trends, and the fact I've seen them surface more than once among UBC political science students, that prompts me to publish a detailed response to one particular undergraduate student's article regurgitating these tired claims.

The following is a response to "Feminist Ethics and the Rhetoric Surrounding Women and the War in Afghanistan," by Allison Rounding, which was published in the 2012 journal of the Political Science Students' Association of the University of British Columbia. I delivered a keynote address at the journal launch, also published here.

 

This homogenization of Afghan women, coupled with a homogenization of American women as all emancipated, is an

...More >>

On April 2, 2012, I delivered the keynote address at the launch of the journal of the Political Science Students' Association of the University of British Columbia. It was a well organized, brief event with a good Q&A session, and I'm grateful to the Association for the opportunity to respond to one of the articles featured in this year's journal, "Feminist Ethics and the Rhetoric Surrounding Women and the War in Afghanistan," by Allison Rounding. A detailed response to the content of that article can be found here, and you can read Rounding's article here. Meanwhile, here is the transcript of the keynote address.

Good afternoon and congratulations to the students who have worked so hard to produce UBC’s Journal of Political Studies.

I’m speaking to you today in my role as an aid worker in Afghanistan, but I’m also a student, at least for another couple of months, here at UBC, and a dozen or so years ago now when I started my university studies, I minored in Political Science at McGill University.

It’s been fascinating since then to go out in the field, and see how the theories of the classroom resonate, or don’t, in...More >>

united nations human rights civil dictatorship africa middle east democracyThe United Nations, the body founded in the wake of the Holocaust and the horrific consequences of unchecked fascism, has once again signalled just how far off its foundation it's slid over the last 60 years. In a resolution on extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary executions, a specific reference to sexual orientation has been dropped from the list of unjustified reasons for executions, after several Arab and African countries banded together in a bid to have the reference removed.

In effect, the United Nations, the world body mandated to uphold the universalism of human rights, will not be defending the rights of human beings not to be murdered by their governments on account of their sexual preferences-- not even on paper this time.

The amendment to remove "sexual orientation" was put forward by Mali and Morocco and hailed by African and Islamic member states, changing the wording of the 2008 resolution which explicitly mentioned sexual orientation. Thus, in 2010, we have a resolution that is weaker than its predecessor: it's regress instead of progress in the develoment of international...More >>

This is the third in a series on popular myths about Afghanistan. For Myth #1, read Popular Myths About Afghan Women, Myth #2 is The Afghan Women's Movement on International Forces, for Myth #4, read Guest Myth-Buster Melissa Roddy's The Persistent Afghan Pipeline Conspiracy Theory, Myth #5 is Afghanistan is Backwards and Irreparable, and Myth #6 is Afghanistan has never been conquered by outside forces.

Myth #3: Afghans don’t want us there.

The Truth: The reality is that most of those individuals and organizations insisting that NATO’s role in Afghanistan is an imperial enterprise are unconcerned with what Afghans want. If they were concerned, discovering the opinions, thoughts and ideas of Afghans would have been an early priority when forging a position that influences the actions of our own government, and impacts the lives of Afghan men, women and children.

Though among most stoppists there is little pretending to care about the fate of Afghans, when queried, they will often say something along the lines “they don’t want us there,” despite the evidence to the contrary. There remains in some milieus the persistent image of US bombs perpetually raining down on a people innately hostile...More >>

afghanistan women conference civil rights taliban politicsThis is the second in a series on popular myths about Afghanistan. For Myth #1, read Popular Myths About Afghan Women, Myth #3 is The Myth That Afghans Don't Want Us There, for Myth #4, read Guest Myth-Buster Melissa Roddy's The Persistent Afghan Pipeline Conspiracy Theory, Myth #5 is Afghanistan is Backwards and Irreparable, and Myth #6 is Afghanistan has never been conquered by outside forces.

Myth #2: The Afghan women’s movement wants foreign troops to leave now.

The Truth: While all Afghans likely want foreign troops to leave their country eventually-- like when there is peace-- many activists and civil society organizations are anxious over what will become of them in the absence of an international security presence, as expressed by some of the women quoted here. Since the Taliban target and have murdered many prominent women including politicians, reporters, government workers and women activists, many women expect to be promptly killed should a Taliban government ever return to power. Many Afghans feel that the international community should wind down its...More >>

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