Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oh Soviets, we hardly knew ye

When they were called Mujahideen, we idolized and romanticised them. Rugged, well leathered Afghan resistance fighters, coming down from the mountains to bloody the Soviets, then like gear-laden-billy-goats they'd retreat back up the slopes into the mysterious tough-as-iron world from which they were forged

Heck, we even had America's #1 beefy-bone-head, Sylvester Stallone cast them as freedom-loving brave-hearts in the shamefully overlooked by the Academy masterpiece, Rambo III. But that these same Mujahideen would form the core of the Taliban, that they were Shariaists who represented a brutal shudder-inducing theocracy was something we absolutely did not know.

And shame on us for not knowing it. And we must never forget the lessons of not knowing it - that the world is full of ironies we don't understand. All we wanted, me too at the time, was for the Soviets to get bloodied. We couldn't see past the Cold War. So Carter started arming the Mujahideen and Reagan accelerated it. Then the world sat back aghast (and this even before 911) at what the Taliban actually were. We watched them blow up 1,500 tear-old carvings to Buddha, literally destroying irreplaceable national and world treasures because it supposedly went against their religious creeds. Women were not allowed to be educated and religious death squads were formed, enforcing Sharia law with an iron fist.

Now it wasn't the Taliban directly that perpetrated 911, but they welcomed Bin laden and his terrorist camps into the country with open arms. And we're left with the supreme irony that a Soviet-style Communist Afghanistan would have actually been more in our national interest than was the post-Soviet Taliban. One take-away from this is that we really don't always know what our national interest is at the time, although we think we do. Another is that we don't understand foreign people, their societal factions, their cultural and religious institutions and proclivities the way we think we do.

This lesson was solidified further in Iraq. Which, by the way, I actually thought we were going to just knock off Saddam Hussein and leave. Not caring what they did next, but just making it clear that governments who may do us harm will get harm done to them first. When it became clear we were actually going to stay to build a Jeffersonian democracy, then we began to understand what we didn't understand. For instance, there never was 1 Iraq, there were 3 Iraqs. The Kurdish north, Sunni center and Shiite south. Apparently, Saddam permitted opposition Shiite clerics to exist. I would have just though he would have had them all killed. But there they were, El-Sadr and the like. What a mess.

I'm tired of these parts of the world. We only need to do what we need to do, both home and abroad, to keep crazies from flying planes into buildings. Let's do no more, and never get caught not knowing what we don't know ever again.


  1. Just some thoughts to add to yours

    1. During the cold war you made the enemy of your enemy your friend be they dictator or another mans terrorist.

    2. The Mujahideen did not just turn into one united Taliban group after the Russians left. Much more complex (like Iraq). After the Mujahideen defeated the pro-Russian government - After the Soviet Union pulled out of the conflict in the late 1980s the mujahideen fought each other in the subsequent Afghan Civil War. After several years of devastating infighting, a village mullah organized a new armed movement with the backing of Pakistan. This movement became known as the Taliban, meaning "students of Islam", and referring to the Saudi-backed religious schools known for producing extremism. Veteran mujahideen were confronted by this radical splinter group in 1996. By 2001, the Taliban, with backing from the Pakistani ISI (military intelligence) and possibly even the regular Pakistan Army, as well as al-Qaeda which found a refuge in Afghanistan, had largely defeated the militias and controlled most of the country. The opposition factions allied themselves together again and became known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (Northern Alliance). In 2001 with U.S. help and international military intervention, they ousted the Taliban from power and formed the new government.

    3. The complexities you speak of in IRAQ were no secret. Regan knew the complexities which is one reason I liked Regan's strategies of funding your enemies enemy and staying out of the middle east. Bush Sr., Chaney and advisors new the complexities during the 1991 Kick Iraq's ass but don't step in its shit strategy. That War cost the USA very little. Bush's Blunder ( as many independent republican military historians would say) was to waste time, blood and money in Iraq. Fight the battle on terrorism in Afghan yes, but do not open up two war fronts (Hitler's Blunder). I could write a book on this Bush Blunder topic. Let's just say the father made the right decision and the son made the wrong choice.

    4. My 35 year Middle East Military Motto: Let the dogs fight amongst them self so they have no time to bite us. (e.g. Iraq Iran Wars) And if the dogs are not fighting stir the pot up...throw out some bones...create conflict through CIA covert actions. And always fund the enemy of your can always kill them if needed. This military strategy would save american taxpayers billions and American life.

  2. BMWright, thanks for sharing your views on my blog, maybe you SHOULD write that book, since you seem to understand this situation in great detail.

    I did realize that the Mujahideen and the Taliban are not exactly one and the same, but I believe part of the Mujahideen went on to become Taliban. Also, all the ignorances I speak of are concerning the American people, obviously the Defense Dept. and State Dept. know the dope, my point was that as a whole, we as a nation don't know what we think we know most of the time.

    I'd take a little umbrage that Bush 41 had it right. I believe he sent some mixed signals to Saddam to begin with, and had he made clear what the reaction would be, Saddam may not have gone into Kuwait. Bush 41 was a master at mixed and confusing signals - the way he inspired the Kurds only to leave them hanging. So had Gulf War I not happened, the US would not have had to leave troops in Saudi Arabia, which went on to become Bin laden's big beef. So I think there is much to criticize about 41.

    BTW, I liked your website, looks like you have yourself a pretty cool business. I can do SAS and SPSS programming, if you ever have a need for it :)

  3. You are correct the Taliban evolved from Mujahideen people. My point was so did the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (Northern Alliance. Yes, like most other cultures American's tend to only understand some of their own and assume most Islamic people are very similiar.

    Yes, people point to the issues of Bush 41, requarding 1991 but mix signal was over-blown in press. Now if Saddam would have invaded Iran then Bush who have stayed out. The US sold arms to Iraq to fight Iran and Russia supplied Iran and while they killed each other no American or Russian died. But the World was with Bush 41 in 91 and most people do not know he wanted to give the military approval to march into Iraq but advisors convinced him we had distroyed 50% of Saddams tanks, airforce and defenses.

    Yes, more Kruds died but he did make every effort to protect them with a no fly zone and fund them. And just look at how many Iraqs have died as a result of us invading on holding Iraq.

    Most people did not know that Iran hated the Taliban and was happy the USA spent the money to occupy Afgan. But Iraq invasion changed every thing.

    Yes, Bin laden's big beef is he wants the westerner worlds out of Islamic countries and frankly I wish we would go bad to the Regan doctrine. I'm a military hawk not a dove but I agree with Ron Paul in his Presidential bid and statements about the middle-east. He saw how went spent 12 years fighting in Vietnam after the French spent 5-10 years before us to stop "communism" no over the last 20 years we've shipped jobs to communist China and Vietnam so as old Country Joe sang, What are we fighting for?

    BTW thanks for info, so much I need to learn. The world has come so far from my 70's Main-Frame and Fortran program training, I'm a fish-out-of-water in this web2.0 world.