OK

OK, headline is tongue-in-cheek. But there's a serious point here.

It's well known by sociologists that having large numbers of young, unmarried men is destabilizing to a society. Often they assemble into roving bands of lawless hoodlums that cause all kinds of trouble. They're prone to joining fanatic and/or paramilitary movements. We also know the old cliché is true: getting married tends to settle a man down.

On this particular score, the benighted country of Afghanistan has at least two strikes against it. Maybe three.

Here's what I mean:

Strike one: polygyny. As an Islamic republic under Sharia law, Afghanistan allows men to have up to four wives. And of course, every wife one man has is a wife that some other man can't have.

Women—especially poor, uneducated, powerless ones—naturally seek a measure of security and stability in their lives and the lives of their children. So in polygynous societies, it is virtually always the wealthier, higher-status, often older, men who have multiple wives. Given the poverty and chaos of Afghanistan, we might expect its women to be especially security-conscious, and in fact it's been reported that most Afghan women would rather be a man's third or fourth wife than remain single, even if they are abused or treated unfairly by the husband.

Since the wealthier, older men get multiple wives, many of the younger, poorer men have no opportunities for marriage. But it gets worse…

Strike two: lopsided sex ratio. India and China have been in the news for their preference for sons over daughters. Whether through infanticide or selective abortion, both countries have about 107 males for every 100 females (2001 data). What's not generally known is that Afghanistan is a close third place, with over 106 males per 100 females. So not only are fewer women available (due to polygyny), there are more men seeking them. (Perhaps this chronic shortage of in-the-flesh women lends extra appeal to the promise of bevies of nubile virgins in the afterlife.)

Possible strike three: the Afghan economy. I'm certainly no expert, but it seems likely that the economic opportunities for young Afghan men coming of age are limited at best.

So what we end up with is an outsize cohort of poor young men with very little opportunity to find stable employment, get married, and settle down. And in those circumstances, it shouldn't surprise us that the Taliban finds a fertile breeding ground. This is from the Wikipedia page on Polygamy in Afghanistan:

Large numbers of Afghan men cannot afford to buy a wife (through providing money for dowries and weddings). When the nonprofit International Council on Security and Development interviewed more than 420 Afghan men in 2010, 82 percent suggested that the best way to discourage young men from joining the Talaban [sic] would be to provide them with money for dowries and weddings.
The upshot of it all is that the Taliban has its best luck recruiting Afghan's losers: rootless, impoverished young men with literally nothing to lose. And as James Baldwin famously said, "The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose."
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