“Ayatollahs in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan” Billy Joel’s reference in his hit song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” was the motivation/inspiration for this blogpost. 1979 was a turbulent year in world politics, especially on this front in central/south Asia. There are a few universally accepted adages through the course of human history. Never invade Russia in the winter, never go to the senate during the Ides of March, and never EVER invade Afghanistan. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it, and the Soviet Union should have been more aware of the fact that the only people to have conquered Afghanistan in centuries were the Mongols.
As I was thinking about what to write in regards to my blogpost this week, I gravitated immediately to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I have always found it fascinating that the Soviet Union experienced a similar conquest and defeat in Afghanistan much like the United States would in the decades to come. However, James Von Geldern’s subject essay, specifically the last paragraph gave me my focus this week:
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend”
The consequences of the Cold War in terms of blowback for either the citizens affected or the regimes propped up had devastating ramifications. Von Geldern sums up the sentiments of the Cold War well :”The war, fueled by and fueler of Cold War anxieties, operated on the law of unintended consequences.” In the case of the Soviet invasion, the United States essentially created the Taliban by way of funding & propping up the forces fighting against the Red Army, the “mujahideen”. One of these fighters/leaders funded was none other than Osama Bin Laden, in a similar way to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. I feel as if more people in the United States should be aware of facts like these, rather than buying into the narratives our government tells us about why we are involved in certain conflicts. Understanding the history involved in foreign policy decisions helps paint a much clearer picture of the world we live in.
4 thoughts on ““Ayatollahs in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan””
Ethan – always glad to see a “We Didn’t Start the Fire” reference!! Nice summary of the consequences of the Afghanistan invasion, from both sides. Jordan’s post serves as a great complement to yours, you should definitely check it out! What does this invasion (and its causes) tell you about broader trends in the Soviet Union at this time?
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Thanks for flagging how critical US support of the mujahideen was to what followed after the Soviets withdrew! In addition to Jordan’s post, you should also check out Tim’s, which leads with a Dylan reference and has some great links to popular music of the time: https://ukrophistory.wordpress.com/2019/05/06/all-along-the-watchtower-the-soviet-vietnam/comment-page-1/#comment-42
Great post Ethan! I like how you incorporate some American references and history in your post and talk about some aspects of the history of these conflicts that people often forget (or try to hide in the case of Osama Bin Laden).
It’s always nice to see a “We Didn’t Start the Fire” reference in a blog post about history! I really like how your post highlighted how Afghanistan’s state as a Cold War proxy battleground would go on to influence it to the present day, especially tying back to the US funding the mujahideen. Really great post!