What Would Jimmy Carter Do?
January 30, 2006 7:19 PM   Subscribe

What Would Jimmy Carter do? Was interference in Afghanistan worth it? Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski seemed to think so.
posted by matkline (25 comments total)

 
Yeah, but Brzezinski was ALWAYS a prick who believed in a hardline response to the Soviets.
posted by klangklangston at 7:22 PM on January 30, 2006


If you were fighting the Cold War with two nuclear armys of proportional size, yes, it was worth it to influence and even advance radical islamists.

There, I said it.
posted by Balisong at 7:36 PM on January 30, 2006


That isn't to say that I also believe that the CIA are also supporting the insurgents in Iraq to keep fighting.
They may be helpful someday.
posted by Balisong at 7:38 PM on January 30, 2006


I think a better question is this - which was worse for human rights? Communism or terrorism?
posted by Afroblanco at 7:39 PM on January 30, 2006


Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

He's probably right, and I certainly hope he is.

I would love to hear his thoughts today on the same subject.
posted by caddis at 7:56 PM on January 30, 2006


Yes! I finally know how to spell Mujahideen! And now I can look it up!
I've been wondering about the word for years now, ever since I heard it used in Naked Lunch...
posted by Citizen Premier at 7:57 PM on January 30, 2006


Communism or terrorism?

We're all here.

There are no smoking glass craters where the greatest cities in the world used to be.

The world's largest country enjoyed a quiet revolution with virtually no casualties.

I would say the actions of the past were at the very least not the worst ones.

But the lessons of yesterday cannot be applied carte blanche to the tests of today.

Communism and Terrorism are not and never will be the same thing.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:58 PM on January 30, 2006


I was thinking more along the lines of this - were there more human rights violations as a result of fighting terrorism or fighting communism?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:03 PM on January 30, 2006


The Muj gave the world Osama bin Laden.

If Brzezinski actually believes that this is a good thing, then he's as much of an idiot as the White House's current occupant, who seems to share with the former NSC advisor the inability to draw lessons from the mistakes of the past.
posted by clevershark at 8:17 PM on January 30, 2006


Did he say this is a good thing? NO! He said that the Cold War was worse than "stirred-up Moslems" (which even by 1998 meant Osama).
posted by caddis at 8:36 PM on January 30, 2006


caddis writes "Did he say this is a good thing? NO!"

From the article:
"Regret what? That [Muhahedeen] secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it?"

You know, in the cold war, you didn't routinely see large numbers of people with SWAT suits and automatic rifles walking down 5th avenue around Christmas.

You also knew who the enemy was, and you could count on his being sane. You know, afraid to die himself. That's largely how the West faced the Soviets. Consider a concept like mutually assured destruction (MAD) -- that game was played with the Soviets for, what, 30-35 years? The Soviets had more than enough nukes to bring about the end of the world, and so did the Americans, but in the end nothing nuclear happened because both parties were sane.

Can you imagine what would happen if a terrorists with no clear goals and a fanatically religious bent had nearly as many nukes as the US? Can you image what would happen if they had even just one?

The Soviets having the bomb was a threat that could be dealt with only because the enemy was sane. Can you say the same of Osama bin Laden?

That's why Brzezinski is dead wrong on that score. The situation occurring now is worse because the enemy is worse, and no one got around to getting rid of the nukes. You're taking a situation that requires two sane players and replaced one of the players with a madman who dreams of martyrdom.
posted by clevershark at 10:00 PM on January 30, 2006


I guess you don't remember duck and cover drills. The Soviet threat was real. It remains to be seen how real the threat from these stirred-up Moslems will become. I somehow doubt that they represent a greater threat than that of the USSR and the USA unloading their nuclear arsenals on each other.
posted by caddis at 10:09 PM on January 30, 2006


I am stunned by simple sensibility of this:

There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.

posted by LarryC at 10:34 PM on January 30, 2006


And yes, the current struggle against radical Islam is small potatoes compared to awful stakes of the Cold War.
posted by LarryC at 10:35 PM on January 30, 2006


" I guess you don't remember duck and cover drills. The Soviet threat was real. "

Not by '76. Things were imploding more due to agricultural planners than anything the US did.
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 PM on January 30, 2006


You also knew who the enemy was, and you could count on his being sane. You know, afraid to die himself.

And yet, there were some pretty tense moments. Aside from the public showdowns like the Cuban Missile crisis, who knows how many unpublicized (at the time) close calls? We've discussed at least one here and here.

That's one reason I'm with caddis and Brzezinski. Another one being -- why do we think there wouldn't have been a Bin Laden or Bin Laden himself without this intervention? It certainly provided a proving/training ground for him. But the history of radical Islam and its conflict with the West hardly starts there.
posted by namespan at 11:16 PM on January 30, 2006


We're all here.

as of today, yes.

There are no smoking glass craters where the greatest cities in the world used to be

yet?

it would be wise to pass judgement on this a few years down the road -- the true question is, was it worth it even if/when a terrorist nuke erases NYC and most of the personal rights granted by that soon-to-be outdated US Constitution with it?

that's the only important question. and now it's way too early to answer.
posted by matteo at 12:17 AM on January 31, 2006


were there more human rights violations as a result of fighting terrorism or fighting communism?

The Bush administration has violated civil rights at least as much as was done during the Cold War, by Roosevelt during World War II, or by Lincoln during the Civil War, even though the threat from terrrorism is nowhere near as serious as those crises were. The Soviet Union had hundreds of nuclear weapons pointed at the United States, Germany and Japan were industrialized countries with modern armies, and the Confederacy had large armies on American soil, including one that attacked Washington, DC.

Can you image what would happen if they had even just one?

Yes. The most likely worst-case scenario is that terrorists get one nuclear weapon, smuggle it in to the United States, and blow up a city. That would be awful, but it's still not as serious a threat as the Cold War and actual wars.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:19 AM on January 31, 2006


False premise, Mr. Brzezinski. The Afgan invasion did not cause the collapse of the Soviet empire. All it did was prove to the Soviets that they could not extend their borders any further without paying heavy a price.

The false economy of the communism was the leading factor in the Soviet collapse.
posted by StarForce5 at 8:00 AM on January 31, 2006


Exactly.
posted by klangklangston at 8:27 AM on January 31, 2006


I don't want to leave the impression that I think that the Soviet empire imploded due to the Afghan war. I don't. I think the war weakened a lot of political structures within the Soviet Union, particularly the army. If you think the returning Vietnam vets were bitter, you should read about how the Soviet vets were treated and how they felt about that. I have seen it written that many of the protesters protecting Gorbachev during the coup attempt were Afghan vets disgusted with hard liners. The Afghan war was a factor, but only one among many. Economics was a big factor as was the growing independence of Soviet member states (which many attribute to the poor economics). Watching Poland overcome its communist government certainly was a strong factor (thank you Pope John Paul). I think great credit must be given to the vision and courage of both Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Many give credit to Reagan's military build up. How important this was I am not sure. Many factors helped weaken the Union. The Afghan war did not do it alone, and it probably would have happened without the war, but I do think it hastened things along.

That brings up the question of whether we should have been plotting to draw them into a bloody war, a war that caused untold misery both in Afghanistan and for Soviet soldiers and their families, just to weaken the power of an enemy already seemingly in decline? I think not, and I think not even if we could have done it without stirring up trouble in the Moslem world. I know that is easy to say in hindsight, but even at the time we knew how awful the war would be and we bet that against some unknown stress upon the Soviet government. Perhaps I am just a pacifist, but it doesn't seem right to me.
posted by caddis at 9:02 AM on January 31, 2006


caddis, interesting point but I don't think US drew USSR into the war involuntarily. The Afgan war started as a civil war in Afgansistan, on one side was Marxist rebels whom the Soviets clearly supported and the US can't be too proud of the side they chose to support. Afgans were caught in the middle of another superpower showdown.

Some say that the Cold War was fought and won without a shot being fired. Not true.

There were countless shots fired and much life loss. Most of it happened in places such as Southeast Asia, Afganistan, Central America... the super powers fought each other by proxy instead of firing directly at each other.
posted by StarForce5 at 10:24 AM on January 31, 2006


"Many give credit to Reagan's military build up. How important this was I am not sure."

Nearly not at all, especially if you talk to Russians. Frankly, the buildup probably did more damage to America, especially once you factor in how off our estimates were regarding the Soviet military strength and budget.
No, it really was the liberalization within the agricultural planning aparatus that had the most to do with the collapse. When agricultural stagnation hit, and the USSR was being clearly outpaced on the most important part of any country— keeping people fed— plans were drawn up to liberalize farming in order to compete. This meant that the top-down decision making was suspended within the agricultural ministry, and people were encouraged to debate openly. One of those economists who came out of that environment was Gorby.
posted by klangklangston at 10:31 AM on January 31, 2006


gads, is there anyone who hasn't seen this already?
posted by 3.2.3 at 11:01 AM on January 31, 2006


“But the lessons of yesterday cannot be applied carte blanche to the tests of today.”

well said.

“was it worth it even if/when a terrorist nuke erases NYC and most of the personal rights granted by that soon-to-be outdated US Constitution with it?”

If the world is still here? Maybe. I wouldn’t argue, specifically, the Soviet/Afghan war as worth it in that context. But as has been pointed out, they were headed that way anyway.
Plus it was a lot of playing keep away with the oil. If they got their hands on Afghanistan they could have built pipelines, eyed other areas in the middle east, all sorts of things.
Things...that we’re doing now actually.
But it would have propped the USSR up for quite a bit longer all that revenue. Maybe.

Tough argument because the wave has already collapsed into what it is. Very few people saw the USSR collapsing when it did. Lots of asses were puckered in the military at that time I can tell you. (I still get shaken up remembering someone telling me “the hard liners have the missles”)
In retrospect tho, it was obvious.

I’m wondering why we’re still somewhat on a cold war footing with our own agraculture. Or were until a little bit ago.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:41 PM on January 31, 2006


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