The Limits Of Soviet Airpower: The Bear Versus The Mujahideen In Afghanistan, 1979-1989
October 11, 2001 5:13 PM   Subscribe

The Limits Of Soviet Airpower: The Bear Versus The Mujahideen In Afghanistan, 1979-1989 "This manuscript [from the United States military's Air University] analyzes the failure of Soviet air and ground forces to defeat the Afghan mujahideen during the nine-year Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In pursuit of this objective, Soviet military strategy underwent a process of increasing radicalization that eventually resulted in a sanctioned policy of terror by Soviet air and land forces. During this period, airpower played a critical role in this campaign of terror by providing the platforms for punitive bombardment, chemical attack, aerial mining, troop insertion, and fire support." Oh. Soviet air attacks were "terror". Ours are different. Somehow. After all, we're fighting terrorists, so how can we be terrorists ourselves, eh?
posted by fold_and_mutilate (22 comments total)
Uh, is this a trick question?

Maybe because the US isn't an expansionist totalitarian state looking to increase it territory? Maybe because the US actions were directly precipitated by a violent assault on it's own soil? Maybe because the US is acting to oppose a clearly demonstrated danger to it's own populace? Maybe because the US is attacking military and government targets in response to attacks upon its civilians? Maybe becasue the US is also expending great effort to protect the civilians of Afghanistan?

Maybe becasue you're trolling?
posted by NortonDC at 5:26 PM on October 11, 2001

Perhaps because the Soviets were the prime aggressors and targeted civilians when their invasion didn't go as planned?

Apple, meet Orange.
posted by syzygy at 5:29 PM on October 11, 2001

"punitive bombardment, chemical attack, aerial mining,"

Whoa! I didn't know we'd started doing that! Good scoop f&m. Do you have a link to the article that talks about chemical attacks we're making? And I thought we weren't dropping mines. Can you give us the documentation on that?
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:30 PM on October 11, 2001

...the US has also somehow managed to avoid deploying kiddie toys that are actually bombs. Gosh, what other terrible terrible mistakes is GW making?

Explosives for children today, it's the American Way!

Welcome to the amazing world of logic, where Soviets+Afghanistan does not equal US+Afghanistan.
posted by aramaic at 5:39 PM on October 11, 2001

What positively moronic commentary. You must be trolling.

Did you read the article? It describes napalming villages, purposeful killing of civilians, has quotes from soviet military about how much they enjoyed the killing, etc. The soviets were invading, and were not particularly shy about killing innocents.

We are trying hard to limit our targets to military ones. We are also attacking a government with a simply awful human rights record. (Yes, I know, one we took no small part in bringing to power.) Also one who has welcomed, and by many accounts, encouraged the people who brought about the most brutal attacks on american soil.
posted by mragreeable at 5:43 PM on October 11, 2001

What, no comments about how we're making the world safe for meateaters, SUVs, and the Coca-Cola Corporation? I'm very disappointed in you, f&m. Your bowl-splatterings are usually much more amusing to read.
posted by darukaru at 5:58 PM on October 11, 2001

After all, we're fighting terrorists, so how can we be terrorists ourselves, eh?
Stop it. You're blowing my mind.
posted by holloway at 6:37 PM on October 11, 2001

Russian invasion of Afghanistan (which, in their words, was a humanitarian mission to protect Afghanistan from bandits) = terrorism

Flying planes into the World Trade Center = terrorism

Taliban supporting bin Laden = terrorism

Pakistan’s ISI training Taliban soliders, and likely, terrorists1 and possibly giving money to a WTC hijacker2 = not terrorism

Saudi government support for occasional Al Qaeda front groups3 = not terrorism

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s ruler, sitting on the board of an organization which has fronted for bin Laden4 = not terrorism

bin Laden connected terrorists clandestinely bombing embassies = terrorism

US clandestinely bombing a pharmacuetical factory = not terrorism

US bombing Afghanistan (which in their words, is a humanitarian mission to rid the world of terrorists) = not terrorism

1 Intelligence: Gearing Up For a Shadow Struggle, Newsweek, Oct. 8. 2001
2 India helped FBI trace ISI-terrorist links
3 Newsweek, Oct 8.
4 ibid
posted by raaka at 7:17 PM on October 11, 2001 > preferences > block user > fold_and_mutilate
posted by jragon at 7:42 PM on October 11, 2001

One of the Soviets' first acts was to slaughter the intellectual class. Very much like Pol Pot's lads: you got glasses? Bang. Soft hands? Bang. A relative of mine was in Kabul when the Red Army rolled in, and before he was smuggled out one of his colleagues told him the Sovs would put a fellow up against a wall, load a small cannon with nails, and fire. Just to send a message to those who wouldn't be killed today.

This was during the START of the campaign. They were radicalized from the beginining, I think.
posted by lileks at 7:57 PM on October 11, 2001

US clandestinely bombing a pharmacuetical factory = not terrorism

Try that again: US clandestinely bombing as part of response to a previous attack claiming more than 250 lives a pharmacuetical factory that the best intelligence available at the time indicated was a part of chemical weapons program = not terrorism

Yeah, that's about the size of it.
posted by NortonDC at 8:02 PM on October 11, 2001

Great link, great article. Lots and lots to think about as the U.S. tries to dominate Afghans by air power. Read it.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:30 PM on October 11, 2001

slight off-topic tangent

Soviet Counter-Terrorist Forces were the most effective in Lebanon while Westerners and Missionaries were being held hostage. When one of the groups in (Hizbollah?) Lebanon took Soviet diplomats hostage, the KGB or was it Spetznatz sent their wet works team to kidnap members of the kidnapping organization. After torturing them and castrating them, they stuffed their members down their throats and delivered them to their families. The sheer brutality of the act scared terrorist groups from refraining from kidnapping other Soviet or East Bloc victims for the duration of the Lebanese civil war.

Not saying that its right...just that the most effective weapon against terror. ala SwordFish or Apocalypse Now
posted by AsiaInsider at 8:42 PM on October 11, 2001

While the Soviets were certainly more brutal than the Americans were willing to be, don't forget that they were also giving lots of money and guns to the anti-Israel nations as a way to irritate the US. Or counter the US support of the unreasonable Israeli goverment, depending on your political leanings. Even the most strident usually don't bite the hand that is feeding them at the time.

In any case, the Soviets came to regret deciding "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" in much the same way that the US is doing now.
posted by jaek at 10:12 PM on October 11, 2001

I find Norton's absolute faith in the total moral right and good of the US to be charmingly naïve, in a Norman Rockwell kind of way.

While I agree with the current action, we shouldn't fool ourselves: there's plenty of hypocrisy in this "war on terrorism", as raaka amply pointed out. As we prosecute this war, even with ostensibly more limited aims than the USSR, we run serious risks of mission creep and will undoubtedly find ourselves doing things much less nice than dropping food on Afghan minefields (remember, it's 1% of the daily nutritional requirement of a refugee population, as determined by the FDA). No matter how hard and quckly we work to implement a replacement government for the Taliban, it will require years of protective nurturing and what will be seen as collaboration with the infidels in order to complete our mop-up of al - Qaeda.

Here's a few more:

Palestinians massacred in refugee camps by Maronite Christian clients of Gen. Sharon-led invasion force clients of US: not terrorism.

Israeli freedom-fighters truck bombing a British troop hotel: not terrorism.

Arab freedom-fighters truck bombing a US troop hotel: terrorism.

Cutting-edge-technology missile-defense cruiser shooting down civilian aircraft in Persian Gulf: not terrorism.

Monthly bombing of Iraq over much of the last 10 years, resulting in countless "collateral damage" casualties: not terrorism.
posted by dhartung at 1:17 AM on October 12, 2001

Maybe becasue you're trolling?

Not only is it trolling, his alleged point doesn't even make sense. This is not an official government document; it's a student's senior thesis paper. Look at the actual Acrobat file, and start laughing.

I look forward to f_and_m's next front-page post, where he dredges up some public school 4th grader's book report as proof of Bush's horrible anti-Afghani objectives. A book report that will probably date from the Ford Administration.
posted by aaron at 2:50 AM on October 12, 2001

lileks, that’s a good point. Totaltarian states do tend to be more violent. It’s easier for them to quash dissent violently since the leadership is unaccountable. In more open nations, such as the US, quashing dissent is mostly done via propoganda and information suppression.

That’s an interesting thesis Norton. Obviously each one of those could be expanded on with their respective shoddy evidence and moral equivocation. Russia, surely, had a long and complex argument for invading Afghanistan, as the terrorists had a long and complex argument to kill civilians. The US is killing civilians now, and to the average Afghani a bomb is a bomb and terror is terror. What’s the difference to them?

aaron, I disagree with you, your point doesn’t make sense and you’re wrong. Nowhere does f&m claim it’s a government document. Westermann wrote a scholarly graduate paper to attain a degree from Air University. (Senior means undergraduate which he was not since AU doesn’t award undergraduate degrees.) He’d written a few essays and went on to write a book about air defense. I suspect he was in a very good position to comment on air campaigns.

Afterall, this paper just backs up conventional Air Force doctrine that aerial dominance does not win wars. Russia apparently went ultra-violent in their use of aerial dominance and they still didn’t win. Meaning the doctrine holds true.

f&m: italics yours, plus leave off the question. People would’ve come to their own conclusions.
posted by raaka at 4:28 AM on October 12, 2001

Dan, I'd never thought I'd see this, but now you are flirting with trolling with your blatant misrepresentation of what I wrote. Nowhere did I say the US did no wrong. The majority of evidence now suggests that bombing the pharm. plant was wrong, but doing wrong does not equal terrorism.

The US is being sued, in US courts, for that bombing. That means that even the victim has enough faith in US government institutions to turn to them for justice. Maybe they've earned a bit of trust from others, too.

Now, if you should want to add something truly constructive instead of just belittling what you claim to imagine is my thinking, try making a case to oppose any of my statements about what is not terrorism; make the case that they are terrorism, instead of just lobbing snarky comments.

As for the airliner shootdown, have you ever watched the home video shot by the sailors themselves? Seen the horror they felt when they realized they had not shot down an attacking fighter? Do you realize that 3 warnings were radioed on civilian distress frequencies, 4 warnings were radioed on military frequencies and an Italian vessel reported hearing at least 4 of these warnings? "Not terrorism" is right.

And as for "countless 'collateral damage' casualties" from enforcing the no fly zone to protect ethnic minorities in northern Iraq, I'll wait for support for that before calling it terrorism.

Raaka - It's not about whether anyone can muster any defense, it's whether or not the defense is valid. I hope it's not alien concept to you that some arguments hold up and some do not.
posted by NortonDC at 7:49 AM on October 12, 2001

Yes, I totally agree with the last. All opinions are not equal. Some actions though, have the same effects. The defense of the pharma bombing doesn’t hold up. You said yourself “best evidence available” which, in this case, is a syllogism for “any evidence at all.”

Bombing the crap out of Afghanistan (again) is looking rather flimsy. Bush wanted to bomb it and didn’t look for alternatives . Maybe he thinks this is the best way to root out terrorism — by moving on an action that will surely effect commoners more than anyone else.

As for suing for reparations in US Courts thing — I really don’t believe the plantiffs think the US Courts are the last sanctuary of justice. It is one of their few options, since the US has said time and again the World Court has no jurisdiction in the states. I know of one congressperson tried to push a reparations bill. The rest don’t want anything to do with it since they, like you, believe the US is above international law and shouldn’t be forced to rectify their mistakes.
posted by raaka at 5:24 PM on October 12, 2001

I'd love to see my words quoted back at me saying the "US is above international law and shouldn’t be forced to rectify their mistakes." Is that why I like that the US payed the family of each Iranian victim $300,000 per wage earning victim, $150,000 per non wage earner? Compare that to OSB offering a bounty on US soldiers. I know which reaction sounds like that of a terrorist to me.

You are right that the pharma bombing doesn't seem to hold up. Now. Early evidence pointed the other way. Action was taken on the early evidence. Later evidence lessened the credibility of that evidence. That incident is vulnerable to criticism as rash, insufficiently supported, and flat out wrong. If all those criticisms bear out, it still is not terrorism.

As far as not looking for alternatives, the US made specific, achievable demands and the Taliban ignored them. The US provided options. Hell, Bush offered to stop it all again last night. Find a new complaint, Raaka.

"I really don’t believe the plantiffs think the US Courts are last sanctuary of justice." Jolly. Is that supposed to be a statement in opposition to something I said? It is not.

I guess attempting to refute what I said isn't as much fun as refuting stuff I didn't say.

PS-- I don't think syllogism is really the word you're looking for.
posted by NortonDC at 6:24 PM on October 12, 2001

About the retribution: I’m glad the US paid compensation for the Iranian jet victims, but I’m wondering why they haven’t paid reparations to the factory owner or Sudan. Which is what I was talking about when I referred to “above international law” — not the jet incident.

You: “That means that even the victim has enough faith in US government institutions to turn to them for justice.”

me: “I really don’t believe the plantiffs think the US Courts are the last sanctuary of justice.” Is that supposed to be a statement in opposition to something you said? It is.

“syllogism: 2 : a subtle, specious, or crafty argument.” I think the best evidence available argument is specious at best. I don’t think I’ve been “snarky” either.
posted by raaka at 9:48 PM on October 12, 2001

You: “That means that even the victim has enough faith in US government institutions to turn to them for justice.”

me: “I really don’t believe the plantiffs think the US Courts are the last sanctuary of justice.” Is that supposed to be a statement in opposition to something you said? It is.

Ah, thanks for isolating your fuckup. You have imagined that I have posited the US Courts as the last sanctuary of justice. I did not. You are wrong.

Substituting your chosen definition of "syllogism" into your original sentence produces what is, at best, an extremely awkward construction, much like "I think the best evidence available argument is specious at best." Perhaps you meant "I think the 'best evidence available' argument is specious at best." Punctuation is your friend!

You go ahead and think that. It still doesn't make a case for labeling that as terrorism. I eagerly await your support for that position.

And I never accused you of being snarky. I accused dhartung of lobbing snarky comments. However, I did accuse you of refuting stuff I didn't say. Boy, do I look silly now!
posted by NortonDC at 11:18 PM on October 12, 2001

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