When Is Prescription Drug Abuse Okay?

UPDATES I, II, AND III BELOW:

When the prescription drug is Viagra, and the C.I.A. is handing it out to tribal chieftains in Afghanistan:

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

“Take one of these. You’ll love it,” the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills.

For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won. While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country’s roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations.

I have a question: Does anyone besides me think this is wrong?

Apparently not:

Spencer Ackerman:

… This is a really good idea, isn’t it? Directly responsive to immediate and, uh, deeply felt needs of an important and unpersuaded-but-persuadable population. If you’re an impotent tribal elder, are you going to threaten your erection supplier? And people say CIA is hidebound and uncreative.

Ed Morrissey:

… American intel operations have scored some successes in Afghanistan by helping tribal leaders score some as well.  What do you get for the tribal leader that has everything, including multiple wives?  A bit of youth in a little blue pill apparently works wonders for friendship — and cooperation[.]
[…]
The success of this strategy makes some sense.  People seem to think that we toss cash at people, but as Joby Warrick points out in this report, that can quickly compromise sources.  People who get large sums of money tend to flash it, and it becomes clear who works with Americans and who terrorists will avoid like the plague in the future.

Intel operatives look for other, less obvious enticements, and few things would be more private in Muslim tribal life than bedroom performance.  Many older tribal chiefs have multiple wives but may not have the physical ability to keep pace.  Few items would make the kind of impression that Viagra does for men in that position, and it’s highly unlikely that they’d be chatting about it at the mosque.  It’s practically designed for the mission.

Matthew Yglesias:

Via Spencer Ackerman, this is definitely clever[.]
[…]
One especially neat thing about this is that unlike guns or money, our Taliban rivals have essentially no prospect of producing large quantities of advanced pharmaceuticals. So if Afghan elders decide they like their ED meds, they’ll really have no choice but to try to stay on our good sides. And conversely, if things don’t work out so well there’s much less potential for a “blowback” problem when you’ve been handing out viagra than when you’ve been handing out rocket launchers.

Don Surber [emphasis mine]:

Forget hearts and minds, we’re winning over another part of the anatomy in Afghanistan.

The little blue pill may be the most effective weapon in the American arsenal in the war in Afghanistan.

You give an old tribal chief a few Viagra to keep his wives happy, and you have a friend for life.

“While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country’s roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations,” reported Joby Warrick of the Washington Post.

One guy familiar with the pills told the Post: “You didn’t hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones.”

It’s not just the sex, although with 4 brides each, the elder tribal leaders ha [sic] some fun. The source said the pill “put them back in an authoritative position.” [Just one of these little blue pills and marital rape will be everything you dreamed of!]

Men are about as complicated as tic-tac-toe.

Hooray for our side for figuring it out.

Steve Benen:

Conditions in Afghanistan have been deteriorating, and the pressure on U.S. troops and officials is increasing. Apparently, in some cases, there’s been a diplomatic breakthrough thanks to a little blue pill.
[…]
U.S intelligence officials use “novel incentives,” but this is not limited to Viagra. Sometimes, “notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains” can be won over with tools, school equipment, and surgical assistance. But it appears the “pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos” can be effective with older tribal officials.

Why not just hand out cash? It doesn’t work as well — Afghan leaders with U.S. dollars are recognized for having cooperated with the unpopular Americans. And with Taliban commanders, drug dealers, and even Iranian agents offering enticements, too, U.S. officials have had to get creative.

The key, one American said, is to “find a way to meet the informant’s personal needs in a way that keeps him firmly on your side but leaves little or no visible trace.” Viagra obviously fits the bill.
[…]
Gotta love outside-the-box thinking.

Outside the Beltway (under the title “Viagra Anti-Terrorist Weapon”):

The CIA has figured out a way to use sex as an interrogation tool in a way that’s likely to elicit chuckles rather than horror. …
[…]
It’s a slow news day, indeed, when this makes the front page of the Washington Post.

Joe Ivory Mattingly has an amusing graphical take on this one.

And here is the amusing Joe Ivory Mattingly — aka The Heretik: “Ask the CIA why our warlords offer such stiff resistance.” Hahahaha! Isn’t that funny?

Jesse Walker:

Ordinarily the CIA might bribe its informants with guns and cash, but the side effects of those options aren’t always welcome. And so, according to the Post, they’ve turned to “novel incentives and creative bargaining,” including “pocketknives and tools, medicine or surgeries for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos.”

To his credit, Ackerman does take a look, with Megan Carpentier, at the feminist perspective on handing out Viagra to aging warlords with (yuck! yuck!) as many as four wives (funny how that polygamy thing is so, uh, mainstream — traditional, even — now, isn’t it?).

Here is a snip from the conversation, which is actually worth reading in full:

MEGAN: My issue with it is that the CIA and the operatives handing out the dick pills likely gave little or no thought to the consequences of doing so for the women involved.

Seems that most of the male bloggers commenting on the story gave little or no thought to that, either.

Via Memeorandum.

UPDATE I:

Echidne of the Snakes identifies what’s been left out of this story [my emphasis]:

I picked this particular quote on the funny-ha-ha Viagra story, because it at least refers to the warlord’s four wives and the possibility that they might not have been asked about their desire for those little blue pills (or for their desire to marry the man in the first place). And of course it’s a different society and of course women don’t have a voice about any of these issues. Still, it’s weird to read so many funny-ha-ha interpretations of the story, with the very silent four wives somewhere in the background as targets for the miraculous effect of the pill.

UPDATE II:

Thank god, d-day gets it, too:

I suppose I shouldn’t be alarmed by this, but I have to confess to being a little taken aback by the snickering and high-fiving in the blogosphere over the CIA’s attempt to curry favor with Afghan tribal leaders by offering them Viagra.
[…]
There’s a certain logic to using personal items as barter (or bribery, if you prefer) for warlords and tribal leaders to extract information about the Taliban insurgency. At the same time, does anyone credibly think that those four women this guy is married to are entirely willing spouses, and the consequent sex performed as a result of the Viagra entirely consensual? One of the most persistent problems in Afghanistan – indeed, one of the ostensible reasons used by people like Laura Bush to justify the invasion beyond the need to root out al-Qaeda – is the terrible life circumstances for women. I fail to see how use of erectile dysfunction pills created by men and for men improves their quality of life. …

D-day also wonders aloud why some of the same people who understand why Dennis Prager is encouraging marital rape when he tells women they should have sex with their husbands whether they want to or not, do not see the connection when it’s the C.I.A helping warlords with their boners in exchange for information.

UPDATE III:

James Joyner has responded to my inclusion of his response to yesterday’s WaPo report that C.I.A. agents are dispensing Viagra to tribal leaders in Afghanistan. I take it from his newest post that he feels I did not do adequate justice to his contempt for the independent lives, choices, and physical and psychological well-being of Afghan women — and, as I’m guessing he would agree, all non-Western women. As a courtesy, therefore, I am adding this update to clarify that point (with my addition of emphasis on the particular words and phrases James chose to use as aids to understanding the full depth and breadth of his scorn):

With respect to the generally humorous tone with which the blogosphere, yours truly included, greeted the news that the CIA is giving Viagra to Afghan chieftains in hopes of softening them up psychologically by temporarily doing the converse physically, Kathy Kattenburg is concerned that 1) the wives of the chieftain in question may not be willing sexual partners and that 2) Viagra is supposed to be administered under prescription from a medical doctor.

There’s no evidence, though, that the chieftain was having sex with his wives, let alone that they were unwilling.  Perhaps he has girlfriends.  Perhaps his wives truly love him and miss his affection?  Beyond that, to the extent that his wives were unwilling partners, that was the case before the CIA got involved.  In any case, the CIA isn’t responsible for his choice of sexual partners.

While I’m anti-torture and think there are lines as to how my government should obtain information about terrorist activity, giving prescription drugs with unknown side effects to people who then freely decide to take them in order to get known benefits strikes me as decidedly on this side of the line.

I think in fairness we must grant the reasonableness of at least some of these points. The name of the game is information and cooperation, after all. Women don’t have any news the C.I.A. can use. And even if they did, they’re not supposed to be walking around outside their warlord husband’s encampment — much less talking to a Westerner — if they want to continue living. In Afghanistan, women are good for only one thing — and that’s what the Viagra is for.

Now, if the situation were reversed — if women had the status of human beings in Afghanistan and men were the ones who had no rights or power — then C.I.A. agents would not be handing out Viagra. They’d be handing out birth control pills, emergency contraception, and RU-486.

But that’s not the world Afghan women live in.

35 Responses to “When Is Prescription Drug Abuse Okay?”

  1. gcotharn says:

    I quibble with the use of “abuse” in the headline.

    I don’t see a feminist gripe here – unless feminists have something against sex. Who says the wives do not desire sex?

    Ironically, the greatest feminist advances would occur if the Taliban is marginalized. Megan Carpentier cannot see the forest for the trees.

    I am bothered that WaPo is exposing this covert technique for the sole purpose of selling a few more newspapers. Thus WaPo provides the Taliban with info which might be helpful in keeping women subjugated for decades more – and for what? Viagra is far less harmful than ammunition and ordnance. If we can win with more Viagra and less bullets, that is fantastic for us and for the women of Afghanistan. WaPo accepts meager coins, sells out the citizens of Afghanistan and America, and provides info to the Taliban. Shameful, immoral “journalism”.

  2. Jesse Walker says:

    I must have missed the part of that paragraph where I was “commenting on the story.”

  3. gcotharn says:

    I find it amusing to juxtapose the condescending sniggering at Dennis Prager in the post below with the seeming certainty in this post that warlord wives do not wish to have sex with their husbands.

    I don’t think Dennis Prager was necessarily aiming his comments at the information addicts surfing the internets. Further, if Dennis Prager’s comments prompt even a few wives to rethink, and even a few marriages are helped, are his comments really so precious and useless? Frithjof Schuon said: “Everything has already been said, and well said; but one must always recall it anew.”

  4. dualdiagnosis says:

    [Just one of these little blue pills and marital rape will be everything you dreamed of!] ??!!?

    WTF are you talking about?

  5. gcotharn says:

    WHO said the wives are being raped? Thats a pretty big leap. Are you judging Afghan culture? How un-PC. Are you some type of ageist? How illiberal.

    Also, my comment that Dennis Prager was not aiming his comments at info addicts on the net was obviously a wrongheaded comment. Prager’s comments were published online, and apparently nowhere else. I was wrong.

  6. The Heretik says:

    That Heretik fellow will pay a stiff price for his cheap humor.

  7. DrGail says:

    I’m troubled by it, but not necessarily against it. On the one hand, the drug is legal and reasonably safe. One can only hope that they become so enamored of their new toy that they become less attentive to growing poppies. In essence, this is a form of the barter system: Viagra in exchange for information. The allusion to “marital rape” is ill-founded as Viagra does not increase libido; it makes it easier for men to act on their libidos.

    On the other hand, there is something vaguely sleazy about the whole matter, even recognizing that war is not all pretty and tied up in a bow. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect, for me, has nothing to do with the particulars of using Viagra to purchase information. Rather, it reminds me about how easily men can be bought. It also makes me queasy to think that all the various extreme techniques the CIA has used so far have been effective at obtaining information that, it turns out, can be gotten pretty easily and cheaply.

    Oddly enough, concerns about the chieftains’ women are pretty far down the list. It’s hard for me to imagine situations in which a woman might be feeling rather safe because her chieftain can’t get it up (or keep it up) and now is endangered because he has obtained Viagra.

  8. Kathy says:

    I offer my congratulations to The Heretik. He is the only one here who shows any indications of getting it.

    Gail, I will only address one part of your comment. The legality and “relative safety” of Viagra is completely and utterly not the point. Of course it’s legal. If it weren’t legal, it could not be prescribed, duh. Apparently, the concept that “prescription” medication should be available only with, ummm, a doctor’s prescription and under a doctor’s supervision is not one everyone shares.

    Also, I am aware of what Viagra does and does not do. I was not suggesting that Viagra has the effect of making husbands want to rape their wives, and my allusion is not at all ill-founded. If I was not suggesting Viagra turns men into rapists, what on earth was I suggesting? I am going to leave that for you, and all other bewildered souls, to ponder. Maybe at some point you will get it.

  9. Jesse Walker says:

    Like any attentive reader, I “get” what you’re suggesting. I just don’t “get” what “comment” you’ve read into the paragraph of mine that you quoted, seeing as it consists entirely of a summary of the Post piece with no additional discussion.

  10. Kathy says:

    I just don’t “get” what “comment” you’ve read into the paragraph of mine that you quoted, seeing as it consists entirely of a summary of the Post piece with no additional discussion.

    Jesse, that’s the point. You simply re-state the C.I.A. officers’ talking points without comment. This sentence, for example — “Ordinarily the CIA might bribe its informants with guns and cash, but the side effects of those options aren’t always welcome.” — is a re-statement of these officers’ own reasoning for handing out Viagra. Without any additional analysis of your own, I assume that you find the reasoning unexceptionable. Whereas in reality, that argument you have conveyed, when offered as an explanation for why Afghan warlords are being plied with Viagra — without even one moment’s consideration or thought given to what the women want, or even that they COULD have any independent wishes — is total bullshit. You don’t challenge the bullshit; you just repeat it.

  11. DrGail says:

    Oh, now I get it! And now that I do, Your post makes an excellent and paradigm-shifting point. I’ll admit I was a bit miffed at your response, and I still think the discussion that was peripheral to your point was a valuable one (I’m well known around these parts for being stubborn.), but damn. girl. you hit the nail on the head! I bow my head with great respect and genuflect. (h/t Tom Lehrer)

  12. gcotharn says:

    The solution to culturally sanctioned marriage customs which we find problematic is not to protect against extra erections. The solution is to marginalize the Taliban, introduce modernity, then encourage the centuries old tribes to reform themselves.

    More information means less bombs and less bullets. Viagra might lead to collateral erection damage. Bombs and bullets lead to worse collateral damage. We are speaking about a moral choice.

    And, we’ve not much place trying to police that culture’s bedrooms

  13. Jesse Walker says:

    Jesse, that’s the point. You simply re-state the C.I.A. officers’ talking points without comment.

    So when you said I was “commenting,” your point was that was that I wasn’t commenting. OK.

    This sentence, for example — “Ordinarily the CIA might bribe its informants with guns and cash, but the side effects of those options aren’t always welcome.” — is a re-statement of these officers’ own reasoning for handing out Viagra.

    Yes, that’s what it’s supposed to be.

    Without any additional analysis of your own, I assume that you find the reasoning unexceptionable.

    Yes, you assumed that.

    But I don’t always add analysis when I blog stories. Sometimes I just note them, and sometimes, as in this case, I add a joke: “I look forward to the dueling Reichian and Foucauldian interpretations of this approach.” Reich being the fellow who said the system uses sexual repression to keep its subjects in line, and Foucault being the one who said we are also regulated via sexual desire.

    I could have pointed out that the CIA may be facilitating marital rape. I could have pointed out that when the U.S. intervenes in the Middle East, it repeatedly faces a choice between reinforcing traditional hierarchies or engaging in the sort of social-engineering-from-afar that we haven’t ever been very good at and which tends to blow up in our face, and that this might be a good argument against intervening in the Middle East. I also could have pointed out the hypocrisy of peddling one recreational drug in Afghanistan while trying to suppress its export of another recreational drug. Or I could have gone in another direction, and argued that under the circumstances, little bribes like this do less damage than dropping bombs. Or maybe I could have just noted all the things the article doesn’t tell us about the practice, and the ways that additional information might make the approach look either better or worse.

    But I went in a different direction instead. Not because I “gave little or no thought” to the questions, but because blogging is usually something quick I do between more sustained bursts of writing and editing. Sometimes you just go for the joke and see if the folks in the comment thread pick up the ball.

  14. Kathy says:

    So when you said I was “commenting,” your point was that was that I wasn’t commenting. OK.

    That is correct. Your lack of commentary, in the instance of a news item as disgusting in its implications as this one, is a comment. Silence gives consent.

    Yes, you assumed that.

    Yes, I did. And I still have not seen anything from you that would lead me to believe my assumption was incorrect.

    Yes, that’s what it’s supposed to be.

    Yes, that IS what it was supposed to be, isn’t it? LOL

    But I don’t always add analysis when I blog stories.

    In this instance, you should have, IF you did not intend or want to be understood as conveying amusement or approval at the fact that the C.I.A. is handing out Viagra to Afghan tribal leaders without a thought for the consequences for Afghan women or how they might feel about it — or even that they *have* any feelings about it that are worth inquiring about.

    Sometimes I just note them, and sometimes, as in this case, I add a joke: “I look forward to the dueling Reichian and Foucauldian interpretations of this approach.” Reich being the fellow who said the system uses sexual repression to keep its subjects in line, and Foucault being the one who said we are also regulated via sexual desire.

    I did not find your joke to be funny. I’m sure you have many loyal readers who *would* find it funny.

    I could have … But I went in a different direction instead. Not because I “gave little or no thought” to the questions, but because blogging is usually something quick I do between more sustained bursts of writing and editing. Sometimes you just go for the joke and see if the folks in the comment thread pick up the ball.

    Fair enough. But then you have to be prepared to accept reactions like mine and not get so defensive about it.

  15. Kathy says:

    Gail, thank you. I just now (at 3 a.m, lol) saw your 2nd comment. Thank you, thank you, for saying that.

  16. Kathy says:

    You don’t have to genuflect, though. I’m not even Catholic, so it’s wasted on me. 🙂

    I’m stubborn, too. So we understand each other. 🙂

    Thanks again.

  17. DrGail says:

    Hey Kathy. I know you’re not Catholic, nor am I. Tom Lehrer is the composer of “The Vatican Rag”, a song which greatly outraged Catholics at the time, and the line “bow your head with great respect and genuflect, genuflect, genuflect” is from that song.

    I highly recommend Tom Lehrer’s music — he can’t sing worth a damn, but his songs are extremely clever and make great social commentaries. Sort of like Mark Russell, only his songs are timeless and MUCH funnier.

  18. Jesse Walker says:

    Silence gives consent.

    Not the best line to use in a thread about rape…

  19. Kathy says:

    Ha! Good one, jesse. Touche. 🙂

  20. Kathy says:

    Hey Kathy. I know you’re not Catholic, nor am I.

    Oh wait! You are Jewish, too, right? I’m remembering you told me this, now….

    I know Tom Lehrer’s music, although I haven’t heard him in years. My father loved folk/protest songs; he played Lehrer all the time. I remember that “genuflect, genuflect, genuflect” line very well; I can even hear the melody in my head now! 🙂

    You’ve got me with Mark Russell, though. I’ve never heard of him.

  21. Dustin says:

    It’s not often that I find something to disagree with you about Kathy, but in this instance I think we’ve found one.

    Yes Afghanistan has a strongly patriarchal Muslim society. Yes, not all polygamist marriages are happy (especially in instances of young brides, oppressive husbands, etc).

    All that being said it’s a massive stretch to go from this story to accusations of marital rape. Honestly I’d say that the use of the term “warlord” probably cemented an image in your head to reinforce the vision of the meek and submissive victims wives so common to outsiders not familiar with Muslim societies. Does that situation exist? Yes, it does. There’s no getting around that, especially when discussing conservative Muslim society. But not always, and actually inside of the home it’s not uncommon for the wives to “rule the roost”, even in conservative settings.

    So this idea that simply giving an aging man a pharmaceutical to give him back control of his failing body is akin to telling him to go home and rape his wives is, to put it nicely, a stretch. Do you look at every American pharmacist as rape-enablers then? Or is this simply in response to the fact that this is a Muslim society?

    Look, I hate most multiculturalism arguments. They’re often filled with the misguided notion that there’s no such thing as right or wrong and that just because something’s different we can’t discuss or critique it. Well, in this instance it seems you’ve gone the opposite route. All we know about these men is that they’re A) old and in physical decline, and B) in positions of authority in their community. We know nothing else. For all we know you could be right about every one of them. Or you could be completely wrong and they could be wonderful husbands.

    We simply don’t know so this outrage of yours is, while well intentioned, likely misplaced.

    You want to change the situation? Trust me, cutting off successful modes of diplomacy and/or negotiation is the wrong way to go about it.

  22. gcotharn says:

    Dennis Prager is encouraging wives to consider why they might want to have sex with their husbands more often. It’s damn sure not an encouragement of marital rape. That characterization is idiotic.

    Afghan wives’ major problem (for those Afghan wives who believe they have a problem) is not that they might have sex with their husbands an extra dozen times per year. Their problem is their culture has encouraged their subjugation. If they are in a bad marriage, their overriding problem is their bad husband and their inability to divorce him. Distasteful sex is only part of a larger picture of difficulty. If dispensing Viagra hurries the day their subjugation lessens, or hurries the day their daughters’ or granddaughters’ subjugations lessen, then I believe Afghan wives would encourage us to dispense Viagra, and would call us damn fools for failing to distinguish greater problems from lesser problems.

    Viagra hand wringers evince a dulled ability to discriminate between lesser good and greater good; between lesser evil and greater evil. They also remind of an old saying: only an intellectual could believe something so stupid.

    Addendum: I agree with Dustin. I just chose not to go into that myself. He explains himself very well.

  23. James Joyner says:

    Kathy,

    My point is rather simple.

    1. You adduce zero evidence that any woman had non-consensual sex as a result of the CIA handing out Viagra.

    2. If, arguendo, they did, the blame rests with the perpetrator, not the CIA.

    3. Gathering intelligence by means of dispensation of licit drugs for people who can them use them or not voluntarily is not problematic.

  24. Kathy says:

    Dustin,

    I think there’s a larger point here that you’re missing. Maybe I haven’t expressed it clearly enough. The issue with this story is not just the specific possibility of marital rape — that’s just one illustration a few bloggers have used to, uh, illustrate (sorry, can’t think of another word) the problem.

    The larger problem is the fact that the C.I.A. is dispensing a prescription-only erectile dysfunction medication in Afghanistan for the purpose of getting information, not for any medical purpose. That in itself is wrong. The other piece of the problem is that in doing this, the C.I.A. personnel doing this have clearly not stopped to ask themselves or consider what the impact of this policy might be on the women in the lives of the men who are being given the Viagra. Cheap and obvious jokes about what the impact might be aside (and not that you’ve made those jokes; just in general) the entire concept that there actually might be undesirable impacts on Afghan women is not even a concept people commenting on this seem capable of understanding. I simply don’t know anymore how to explain what to me is such an obvious point if people don’t understand it — although i keep trying because I feel I must; this reaction I’m seeing is so upsetting to me.

    When Viagra or similar medications are prescribed in this country, such prescriptions are not just handed out indiscriminately. A doctor’s decision to prescribe Viagra in this country (or any medication or medical treatment that affects more than one person) would be made in the context, not simply of the man’s erectile dysfunction. It would be made in the context of the man’s specific sexual history, sexual contacts, his relationships, etc.”Why do you feel you need this medication?” And if the answer was something like, “Well, I want to be able to go into any bar, pick up a girl, and fuck her all night and stay hard,” depending on whether the doctor was a good doctor, maybe he might not prescribe it in that case?

    The entire point here is that the C.I.A. agents handing out Viagra don’t know the personal circumstances or motivations of the men they’re giving it to. I mean, obviously. That’s the point. They don’t care. So without knowing the individual you’re dealing with, without knowing anything about his sexual history, his family history, his relationships, etc., etc., how do you or how does anyone know whether marital rape or any rape is a possibility?

    Do you see what I’m saying here? It’s not that marital rape will happen, it’s that you don’t know what will happen or how any given Afghan male will treat his wives or what his motives are — so you *don’t know* how the women in his life will feel about this, or anything else. And worse, you don’t think there’s any need to.

    If dispensing Viagra hurries the day their subjugation lessens, or hurries the day their daughters’ or granddaughters’ subjugations lessen, then I believe Afghan wives would encourage us to dispense Viagra, and would call us damn fools for failing to distinguish greater problems from lesser problems.

    How is dispensing Viagra going to hasten the day their subjugation ends, if their Viagra-fueled husband is brutal to them, which is a fairly common problem in Afghanistan? How can you claim to “own” this argument based on concern for Afghan women’s subjugation when you cannot even grasp the concept that a woman might have an opinion and that you might want to find out what it is before proceeding? Dustin, it seems to me that the very assumptions your argument reveals totally invalidate and belie the concern you say informs them.

    Don’t you see, can’t you understand, that the very syntactical formulation you use — “IF Viagra helps end women’s subjugation, THEN I BELIEVE Afghan women WOULD ENCOURAGE us….” — is pure speculation uninformed by ANY inquiry into what Afghan women ACTUALLY FEEL and think?

    If women’s wishes don’t matter, then nothing else matters, either.

  25. Kathy says:

    Dustin,

    I just realized that I attributed direct quotations to you that were actually gcotharn’s, not yours. I apologize for that.

    Kathy

  26. Kathy says:

    Do you look at every American pharmacist as rape-enablers then?

    Pharmacists fill prescriptions; they don’t write them.

    Honestly I’d say that the use of the term “warlord” probably cemented an image in your head to reinforce the vision of the meek and submissive victims wives so common to outsiders not familiar with Muslim societies.

    No, it wasn’t the term “warlord.” It was (and is) the failure to ask what a woman’s wishes might be with regard to her husband’s taking Viagra (or, more specifically, the effects of his taking Viagra that affect her). That point only becomes stronger when you argue that Afghan women are not meek and submissive.

  27. Kathy says:

    Look, I hate most multiculturalism arguments. They’re often filled with the misguided notion that there’s no such thing as right or wrong and that just because something’s different we can’t discuss or critique it. Well, in this instance it seems you’ve gone the opposite route. All we know about these men is that they’re A) old and in physical decline, and B) in positions of authority in their community. We know nothing else. For all we know you could be right about every one of them. Or you could be completely wrong and they could be wonderful husbands.

    Yes, exactly. We don’t know what kind of husbands the men are. We only know they want the Viagra. In the case of the husbands’ wives, we don’t even know that much.

    But we’re still dispensing a medication without a prescription that is illegal to dispense without a prescription without knowing who the men are or whether their wives want them to have the Viagra.

  28. Kathy says:

    2. If, arguendo, they did, the blame rests with the perpetrator, not the CIA.

    No. If, arguendo, they did, with the aid of a prescription drug that made it physically possible for them to do so, then the blame rests both with the perpetrator and with the CIA.

  29. James Joyner says:

    No. If, arguendo, they did, with the aid of a prescription drug that made it physically possible for them to do so, then the blame rests both with the perpetrator and with the CIA.

    So…if a doctor prescribes Viagra to a patient, who then proceeds to commit rape, it’s the doctor’s fault? Surely, reasonable expectation of immanent criminality has to exist before culpability for follow-on actions perpetrated by a second party obtains?

  30. gcotharn says:

    One of our objectives is to allow democracy and modernity to encourage reform (importantly including gender reform).

    Our objective is also to be ethical.

    We can’t talk to the wives. We cannot know or predict what the wives in question consider distasteful or inhumane. We need to kill our enemies who are attempting to kill us. We have to make a call.

    Perhaps Thomas Aquinas’ “Doctrine of Double Effect” can shed ethical light. This description is from Ronald Munson, in “Ethics for Military Leaders”, Simon & Shuster, 1998, p. 397 [my notes in brackets]:

    [A]n action should be performed only if the intention is to bring about the good effect [dead Taliban/modernized Afghanistan] and the bad effect [unhappy sex] will be an unintended or indirect consequence. […] Four conditions must be satisfied:

    1. The action [the barter] itself must be morally indifferent or morally good.
    2. The bad effect [unhappy sex] must not be the means [pill = info = target + kill Taliban] by which the good effect [dead Taliban/modernized Afghanistan] is achieved.
    3. The motive must be the achievement of the good effect only.
    4. The good effect [dead Taliban/modernized Afghanistan] must be at least equivalent in importance to the bad effect [unhappy sex].

    Thanks for allowing me to comment here. I have found this subject more interesting than originally expected.

  31. tas says:

    To James Joyner:

    1. You adduce zero evidence that any woman had non-consensual sex as a result of the CIA handing out Viagra.

    2. If, arguendo, they did, the blame rests with the perpetrator, not the CIA.

    You’re an asshole.

    Sorry to vent simplistic vitriol into one of your comment threads again, Kathy. I guess I just can’t leave this kind of idiocy alone. I read Joyner’s rebuttal post to you at his blog, OTB, where he basically says that you don’t have a point. But now in comments here, he’s essentially agreeing with your post… But still claiming that you’re wrong. And that’s just an asshole move, so I can’t not call him such.

  32. Kathy says:

    So…if a doctor prescribes Viagra to a patient, who then proceeds to commit rape, it’s the doctor’s fault?

    James, this is so intellectually dishonest, it’s breathtaking — all the more so coming from a respected blogger such as yourself.

    The entire point in this discussion is that an agency of the U.S. government is dispensing Viagra to men in Afghanistan without a prescription. I have repeated that point over and over.

  33. Kathy says:

    Feel free, Tas. No objection here.

  34. Kathy says:

    So…if a doctor prescribes Viagra to a patient, who then proceeds to commit rape, it’s the doctor’s fault?

    No, But C.I.A. agents are not doctors and they’re not prescribing Viagra to patients. That’s the point, as you well know.

  35. Emma says:

    I wouldn’t say wrong just very unorthodox. Kind of seems like negotiating with terrorists or at least those who cooperate with terrorists.
    ‘ I’ll let you have an erection if you tell me something’-very freakin weird.
    I’m against all these pills anyway. For every person taking them for an “honorable”
    purpose how many nasty ass old men and impotent pervs are taking them so they can rape and touch children?
    Sexual contact wouldn’t have the same apeal if these miscreants couldn’t get it up.

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