Afghanistan fallout three decades later

I have a pet peeve against all attempts to rewrite history that goes well beyond the usual disdain for those who speciously boast of 20/20 hindsight. Thus as soon as I read that the American born shooter in the Orlando nightclub incident* was 29, I knew what to expect in our current political environment. Age 29 means the individual's parents came to America from Afghanistan sometime before mid-1987. Many people seem to have forgotten some basic facts from that period. Others are disregarding what they do know because it is not helpful to their current political goals.

Consider that in 1986, most Americans saw the Mujahedeen not as religious fanatics but as an army of Davids taking on the invading USSR Goliath with the assistance of US made Stinger missiles instead of a slingshot and rocks. Nor was this view confined to conservatives. Remember "Gunga Dan" Rather's trip to Afghanistan during which he shed all his self-proclaimed journalistic objectivity to go on a raid with the Mujahedeen?

Consider that in 1986 the idea that the Mujahedeen would in a few years lead to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS was nowhere to be found. Indeed, the watershed events in 1979, the overthrow of the Shah and the seizure of the Grand Mosque tended to be seen by many as aberrations when, in fact, they marked the start of a strong counterrevolution to the decades of secularization by governments across the region that had looked to western style socialism as the model for the future of the region, 

Consider that in 1986 some Americans were still dismayed by the Carter administration's reluctance to admit the deposed Shah of Iran, except briefly for medical treatment, after he was overthrown.  Perhaps even more Americans were embarrassed at how we had abandoned allies in Southeast Asia a few years before that. Stories about refugees attempting to flee Vietnam in overcrowded and unsafe boats were in and out of the news all through the late 70s and the 1980s. Resettling those who had suffered Communist persecution because of their interactions with Americans plus finding home for the many illegitimate children of US Servicemen was widely considered a debt of honor.  By the mid-1980s, some 50% of the Afghan population was displaced by what had become for the United Sates a surrogate war with the USSR.  Assisting those people was seen as an extension of such debts. That there was a vast gulf between the affluent, Western-educated and often secularized Persians allied with the Shah and the fundamentalist Afghani tribesmen was not seen as a consideration.  After all, many of the refugees from American wars in Southeast Asia were also poor, uneducated and unfamiliar with urban life.  

Consider that in 1986, most international actions, including international terrorism, were still being analyzed through the lens of the Cold War. The consensus on that was the Soviet Union might collapse and Germany reunify in another 30 to 40 years or so.  Of course, the smart money in 1986 was also on how a progression of septuagenarian "western style" reformers -- Yuri Andropov. Konstantin Chernenko and Andrei Gromyko -- into Soviet leadership should be taken as a sign the Soviet ship of state knew it had to correct its course. Can sinking beneath the waves in five years be considered a course correction?

Consider also that in 1986, it could be difficult and was extremely expensive to make a phone call to the capital cities of much of the third world from the West, never mind smaller cities and towns. Snail mail could take weeks. Only a few people on the cutting edge of technology understood there were about to be great changes in international communications capability.  Because wireless systems are cheaper to build than landlines, communication abilities in lesser developed nations have exploded while services such as Skype have brought the costs down. Today, an immigrant from halfway around the world can call, e-mail or text home every day as well as stay in touch through the social media. Immigrants can also stream news from back home, download movies, videos and books from their native lands and even shop for native groceries on-line.

Each wave of immigration has produced a handful of alienated members in the second generation, One key difference from the past is that communication developments since 1986 make it much easier for terrorists to locate and recruit their preferred cannon fodder -- disaffected, unstable, angry, violence prone young people seeking either redemption or glory. I often imagine what might have happened had the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th century had Internet capabilities.   

In 2016 a lot of people on the political right who regularly decry the way the political left loves to rewrite history in pursuit of current political goals seem to be falling to the same urge. In their desire to score political points on the war on terror they are overlooking that only the Almighty Himself knew in 1986 what a yet to be born second generation Afghan Americans might do in 2016, and then only if the theological concepts of double predestination are, indeed, part of the Almighty's grand plan. 

I worry that the United States in 2016 bears an uncomfortable similarity to the Soviet Union in 1986.  The list of nations that have been restored to greatness under a gerontocracy is short.  Yet the names being considered for leadership in today's America are of the same age as the Soviet leaders back in 1986.  Those Soviet leaders were fixated on aggrandizement and ignored the real reasons for the internal economic stagnation inside their nation.  They also affected a false sense of prescience that is rife among our current Presidential candidates. While our candidates talk about hot button issues like Islamic terrorism and immigration, and play to an increasingly polarized population, there is one uncomfortable fact that is being almost completely overlooked. Due to the falling birth rates/family formation among the young and the retirement of the Boomer generation, there is now only 2.1 workers for every person collecting Social Security.  That cannot be sustained.

*Since many mass murderers actively seek notoriety, I try to deny it to them by not using their names but only identifying information.

I have a pet peeve against all attempts to rewrite history that goes well beyond the usual disdain for those who speciously boast of 20/20 hindsight. Thus as soon as I read that the American born shooter in the Orlando nightclub incident* was 29, I knew what to expect in our current political environment. Age 29 means the individual's parents came to America from Afghanistan sometime before mid-1987. Many people seem to have forgotten some basic facts from that period. Others are disregarding what they do know because it is not helpful to their current political goals.

Consider that in 1986, most Americans saw the Mujahedeen not as religious fanatics but as an army of Davids taking on the invading USSR Goliath with the assistance of US made Stinger missiles instead of a slingshot and rocks. Nor was this view confined to conservatives. Remember "Gunga Dan" Rather's trip to Afghanistan during which he shed all his self-proclaimed journalistic objectivity to go on a raid with the Mujahedeen?

Consider that in 1986 the idea that the Mujahedeen would in a few years lead to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS was nowhere to be found. Indeed, the watershed events in 1979, the overthrow of the Shah and the seizure of the Grand Mosque tended to be seen by many as aberrations when, in fact, they marked the start of a strong counterrevolution to the decades of secularization by governments across the region that had looked to western style socialism as the model for the future of the region, 

Consider that in 1986 some Americans were still dismayed by the Carter administration's reluctance to admit the deposed Shah of Iran, except briefly for medical treatment, after he was overthrown.  Perhaps even more Americans were embarrassed at how we had abandoned allies in Southeast Asia a few years before that. Stories about refugees attempting to flee Vietnam in overcrowded and unsafe boats were in and out of the news all through the late 70s and the 1980s. Resettling those who had suffered Communist persecution because of their interactions with Americans plus finding home for the many illegitimate children of US Servicemen was widely considered a debt of honor.  By the mid-1980s, some 50% of the Afghan population was displaced by what had become for the United Sates a surrogate war with the USSR.  Assisting those people was seen as an extension of such debts. That there was a vast gulf between the affluent, Western-educated and often secularized Persians allied with the Shah and the fundamentalist Afghani tribesmen was not seen as a consideration.  After all, many of the refugees from American wars in Southeast Asia were also poor, uneducated and unfamiliar with urban life.  

Consider that in 1986, most international actions, including international terrorism, were still being analyzed through the lens of the Cold War. The consensus on that was the Soviet Union might collapse and Germany reunify in another 30 to 40 years or so.  Of course, the smart money in 1986 was also on how a progression of septuagenarian "western style" reformers -- Yuri Andropov. Konstantin Chernenko and Andrei Gromyko -- into Soviet leadership should be taken as a sign the Soviet ship of state knew it had to correct its course. Can sinking beneath the waves in five years be considered a course correction?

Consider also that in 1986, it could be difficult and was extremely expensive to make a phone call to the capital cities of much of the third world from the West, never mind smaller cities and towns. Snail mail could take weeks. Only a few people on the cutting edge of technology understood there were about to be great changes in international communications capability.  Because wireless systems are cheaper to build than landlines, communication abilities in lesser developed nations have exploded while services such as Skype have brought the costs down. Today, an immigrant from halfway around the world can call, e-mail or text home every day as well as stay in touch through the social media. Immigrants can also stream news from back home, download movies, videos and books from their native lands and even shop for native groceries on-line.

Each wave of immigration has produced a handful of alienated members in the second generation, One key difference from the past is that communication developments since 1986 make it much easier for terrorists to locate and recruit their preferred cannon fodder -- disaffected, unstable, angry, violence prone young people seeking either redemption or glory. I often imagine what might have happened had the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th century had Internet capabilities.   

In 2016 a lot of people on the political right who regularly decry the way the political left loves to rewrite history in pursuit of current political goals seem to be falling to the same urge. In their desire to score political points on the war on terror they are overlooking that only the Almighty Himself knew in 1986 what a yet to be born second generation Afghan Americans might do in 2016, and then only if the theological concepts of double predestination are, indeed, part of the Almighty's grand plan. 

I worry that the United States in 2016 bears an uncomfortable similarity to the Soviet Union in 1986.  The list of nations that have been restored to greatness under a gerontocracy is short.  Yet the names being considered for leadership in today's America are of the same age as the Soviet leaders back in 1986.  Those Soviet leaders were fixated on aggrandizement and ignored the real reasons for the internal economic stagnation inside their nation.  They also affected a false sense of prescience that is rife among our current Presidential candidates. While our candidates talk about hot button issues like Islamic terrorism and immigration, and play to an increasingly polarized population, there is one uncomfortable fact that is being almost completely overlooked. Due to the falling birth rates/family formation among the young and the retirement of the Boomer generation, there is now only 2.1 workers for every person collecting Social Security.  That cannot be sustained.

*Since many mass murderers actively seek notoriety, I try to deny it to them by not using their names but only identifying information.