The ultimate blame for the Afghanistan fiasco

So who is to blame for the current Afghanistan fiasco?

There is plenty of blame to go around.  President Biden, for sure.  President Obama, yes.  And the second President Bush, yes, for the insane mission of nation-building, trying to install a Western-style democracy in a land that was wholly unsuited for it.

But here is a name nobody is mentioning but should.  That name is...Ronald Reagan.

I hate saying that.  I supported the sainted Reagan rabidly back in the day, and I still do in many ways.  But now, in retrospect, I see Reagan as the ultimate culprit for the current fiasco.  History may yet look to Ronald Reagan's decision to intervene in Afghanistan as his biggest mistake.

But, gee, Reagan's decision sure seemed like the right decision at the time.  I certainly supported it.

Here's what Reagan inherited from Mr. Peanuts: a full-blown invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union.  And a subsequent erection of a classically brutal Stalinist Soviet state, with its customary vast human rights abuses.

Today's Russia pursues a classically tsarist foreign policy that is not world-encompassing, but the Soviet Union of that time was still hell-bent on an ideological mission to convert the entire world to Marxism.  The United States was the essential state the world needed to stand up to Soviet expansion, so, at the time Reagan intervened, it sure seemed like a good idea to resist the USSR.

Why did the USSR invade Afghanistan in the first place?  Answer: For centuries, Russia has always sought a warm water port that never freezes over in the winter.  While Afghanistan itself is landlocked, seizing it did place the USSR much closer to the Indian Ocean.  From there, it was easy to see that Pakistan or Iran could be the next domino to fall.

At the time, then, Reagan's intervention seemed reasonable — contain communism, and wait for it to wither away.  Overall, this strategy actually worked.

The Russian war in Afghanistan consisted of three phases.  Phase 1: The Russians invaded with a classical WWII army — and promptly got their backsides handed to them.  The USSR lost Phase 1.

But the Russians learned their lessons and for the next phase used a modern strategy of helicopters and other air assets to obliterate the Mujaheddin.  It worked.  The USSR won Phase 2 and, as a result, completely controlled the country.  The Mujaheddin were exiled across the Khyber Pass in Pakistan, licking their wounds.

Phase 3 can be summed up in one word: Stinger, as in Stinger missiles.  With Stinger missiles, which Uncle Ronnie gave them, the Mujaheddin took air control away from the Russians, drove them out, and the rest is — not only history, but now current events, too.

For a short time, the USSR had built a classical Marxist state in Afghanistan.  So what are the hallmarks of such a regime?

A police state — yes.  Brutal suppression of dissent — yes.  Lots of suppression of human rights, lots of imprisonment, lots of executions, lots of corruption — yes, yes, yes.

But now think of what else it means.

Suppression of organized religion.  In this case, this isn't gentle, harmless Christianity we're talking about.  Rather, this is jihadist Islam.  This would have been suppressed savagely, not least because, unlike Christianity, such an Islam really is a threat to a secular, atheistic state.

So, inside this classical, secular, atheist Marxist state, there'd have been no room at all for al-Qaeda or the Taliban or ISIS.  Afghanistan would never have become a world base for Islamic terror.  There never would have been an attack on 9/11.

Here are other hallmarks of Marxism, and these are positive, at least in the context of a medieval Islamic nation: universal health.  Universal education, and for girls as well as for boys.

If Marxism had been allowed to prevail in Afghanistan, its women would have been immensely better off than what actually happened to them.

Ronald Reagan simply should have left the damned place to the Russians.  Everybody would have been better off, especially the people of Afghanistan itself.

Image: Reagan meeting with the Mujaheddin (1983) by Michael Evans.  Public domain.

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