In 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan in an effort to support the communist regime of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The USSR finally extracted itself from Afghanistan in 1989, after nearly 15,000 casualties and no clear victory. Without the Russians there, the communist government of Afghanistan collapsed and was replaced by Warlords and the Taliban in a matter of years. Afghanistan moved on and attempted to rebuild itself (though in ways ultimately unacceptable to the west); the USSR, however, did not. Though revolutions and turmoil in eastern Europe, coupled with western agitation, are often attributed to the fall of the Soviet Union, the costs and consequences of the war in Afghanistan are also attributed a role in the demise of the USSR. Afghanistan has frequently been called the graveyard of civilizations, Greece, Britain, the USSR, and many others have discovered why. Is the US next?
Obviously, the War in Afghanistan is not a major battle. It never reached the pitch of Vietnam, Korea, or Europe. Yet the US has been there for nearly a decade, invested over a trillion dollars in the war effort, and accomplished little. Terrorism has not stopped, it has actually increased. The cost of war has bankrupted the US. Of course other things occurred during the war on Terror: financial markets were deregulated, US political systems were degraded (elections, executive accountability, corporate money in elections, bailouts of entities “too large to fail”). All of these things have contributed to the current state of the US and thus global economy. All of this happened under the watch of a single president. At present, the US has the highest public debt ever and must raise its debt ceiling to keep going. Politicians discuss effectively eliminating entitlements and social safety nets in order to continue to finance continued war efforts. The war effort is not only abroad, such programs as the Patriot Act require large sums of money to maintain. With these costs coming at the public from all sides, we stand to continually lose our civil liberties while sacrificing our paid-for, social entitlements (medicare, social security, etc.) And all this is done in the name of security (and the dollar).
Is there a parallel here between what happened to the USSR in the 80s and what is happening to us now? Certainly. The cost of the Soviet action in Afghanistan helped destabilize a shaky union. The costs of the US war on terror continues to destabilize an apparently shaky Union. The threat of terrorist actions against the US, both domestic and international, continues to be the justification for the denial of civil liberties, habeus corpus, and civility. Al-Qeada doesn’t have to do much to win this ideological fight. They don’t even have to succeed at grand attacks. As long as they are generating the threat of a threat, our nation will continue to spend itself into oblivion rather than address the root causes of these problems. What are those root problems? The continued financing of ideologies which contrast with our own (through the purchase of the middle easts primary commodity: oil), our continued presence in this region (which is widely viewed as an imperialistic act), plus our continued support of Israel on religious grounds. As long as we continue with these global ambitions of domination, we will never be safe. If the US could adopt a position of lead by example rather than force, the potential for terrorism would be greatly diminished.
In the end, so much of our action is based on corporate profits. The taxpayers subsidized corporate access to petroleum products via the wars, the military industrial complex has reaped billions in profits through US aggression. Who has lost? The people of the US, but most importantly, the people of the world. The global community used to look up to the US as an example, a leader. But our own focus on controlling global natural resources rather than being a leader has sacrificed the good name of the American people and destabilized the planet. Has the US lost something in all this? Does history repeat itself?