Thursday, September 28, 2006

Taliban--Part 1

I've been reading the book Taliban by Ahmed Rashid, copyright 2000, and it has been an extremely enlightening experience. Because it was written before September 11, 2001, and before the 2000 elections, when the Great Rift between Left and Right began to emerge, I figure that Rashid was not terribly interested in pushing a particular agenda or spinning the story for any Larger Cause. As far as I can tell, he's just cataloging the events and people who contributed to the phenomenon called the Taliban and its ties to international Islamic terrorism, before terrorism became front-page news.

On the other hand, much of what he says confirms my suspicions about how this all started, so maybe I'm just hearing what I want to hear. Except that my suspicions have been and still are that this whole business is extremely complicated, with multitudes of players, each with their own agendas and their own methods, and overlapping layers of historical influences, geography, religious beliefs, cultures, tribes, and even weather.

This detailed picture of Afghanistan in the 1980s through 2000 stands in breathtaking contrast to the oversimplified world view in which the US is the ├╝ber-oppressor, throwing its weight around with impunity while the rest of the world cowers in fear, and gee, look, some of them finally got the 'nads to fight back. Huh. Maybe we should let these righteous underdogs win, eh? I mean, we deserve it for being such bullies.

Hardly. The role the US played was at times very miniscule indeed, while at other times we were working actively in the region's best interests (and ours, too, natch), but the Law of Unintended Consequences came back and bit us hard in the anatomy.

But not for the reasons the Left imagines. Not for the reasons Chutch and his chicken-hatted fans dream about nights.

Check it out: back in the late 1980s, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The US policy of resisting Soviet aggression on the one hand while avoiding all-out war with the USSR itself (a tricky balancing act, for those of us old enough to remember) led us to recruit Islamic radicals from all over the Middle East, men who already had fighting on their minds, to join their Muslim brethren in Afghanistan to resist the Soviets, for whom the Muslim world had no love.

They were trained and armed--largely by Saudi Intelligence, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ISI--then turned loose in that rugged terrain, and the Muslims drove the Soviets back. That was a total rush for the Muslims. They beat the freakin' Soviets, man. Not a shabby job. And shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union fell.

What most people don't seem to know is that while we Americans credit Ronald Reagan for that fall--or at the very least recognize that the Soviet edifice collapsed under its own rotten, corrupt weight--the Mujaheddin believed that they caused it. Says Rashid:

Most of these radicals speculated that if the Afghan jihad had defeated one superpower, the Soviet Union, could they not also defeat the other superpower, the US and their [the jihadis] own regimes? The logic of this argument was based on the simple premise that the Afghan jihad alone had brought the Soviet state to its knees. The multiple internal reasons which led to the collapse of the Soviet system, of which the jihad was only one, were conveniently ignored. So while the USA saw the collapse of the Soviet state as the failure of the communist system, many Muslims saw it solely as a victory for Islam. For militants this belief was inspiring and deeply evocative of the Muslim sweep across the world in the seventh and eighth centuries. A new Islamic Ummah, they argued, could be forged by the sacrifices and blood of a new generation of martyrs and more such victories.

One of those jihadis was Osama bin Laden. More on that later.

The upshot of this particular incident being that they weren't reacting to bullying by the US but rather to a desire to install a Caliphate. And if the US is in the way, then the US has to go. Our behavior towards them isn't even a factor.

You might wonder why on earth the US would risk bringing together a bunch of radicals and giving them weapons. Isn't that like giving toddlers pneumatic staple guns and then being startled at the results?

Said Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US National Security Advisor, "What was more important in the world view of history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"

Which goes to prove the old adage that every war sets up the conditions for the next war. I remember being flabberghasted when I heard that during WWII, we were allied with the Soviet Union. Weren't they the bad guys, too?

Well, yeah, but they also had tanks and they could beat Hitler. Which they did. And afterwards we had them to deal with.

So how about we not ally with any wackos to fight the jihadis, mmmkay?

UPDATE: Here's a short piece by Rashid in the WaPo, which was characterized by Michelle Malkin as a "worthless piece of jihadi apologism." I guess she means the part where he says that Brits need to look to the poverty and other bad social conditions of their Muslim population. But it didn't seem overly apologetic to me...

1 comment:

Goesh said...

The mujahadeen did not need much training, they needed good arms. They were and remain tribal people and have indulged in blood fueds for many generations. The Left would have us believe we corrupted a bunch of simple peasants and turned them into killing machines. They were efficient fighters, blooded, from the get go. They only needed better weapons and communications. The principle thing we gave them was stinger missles to knock down the Soviet Hind attack helicopter, which was state of the art at the time, a most lethal machine with which they were devastating entire villages. It was a most affective weapon, the Hind, and it offset the static, world war 2 offensive mentality the Soviets used in Afghanistan. Once the mujahadeen started knocking them down, the war changed dramatically for the worse for the Soviets. We on the right glorify the Northern resistance movement as noble resistors to the taliban. It was nothing but a common power struggle between then and the taliban prevailed because they had more resources and logistics. It's that simple.