Thursday, January 25, 2007
I hope the Russians love their children too:
You are a Soviet defense strategist. It's 1984. The occupation of Afghanistan has not gone according to plan. One reason for your misfortune is the external support the mujahideen receive, via Pakistan, from your longtime enemy, the United States. The CIA station in Pakistan has provided the mujahideen with shoulder-mounted missile systems, the Stinger, that severely hinder your air-cover capacity and kill your helicopter pilots. While it's not clear that your fortunes would change if you could somehow severe the U.S. influence in Afghanistan, some of your more hawkish colleagues argue that your fortunes won't change if you don't. They also counsel that you need to see the bigger picture: the U.S. is already at war with you via this proxy force. Are you supposed to ignore the U.S. role in the deaths of your troops? After all, from your perspective, Afghanistan is now the front line, the hottest place in the Cold War. Therefore, your colleagues argue, the U.S. must be made to pay a price here -- or, before you know it, your allies in Latin America will begin to question your commitment as they face their own U.S.-backed insurgencies.

But you've got this nagging feeling that with Pershing missiles in West Germany and your forces bogged down in Afghanistan, the U.S. is at a position of strength here. It may not be the wisest thing to expose your overreach by expanding the war into U.S. strongholds -- or even across the border in Peshawar. There are ways of dealing with the Americans, you think, remembering that the American government consists of a panoply of voices and interests -- some of which align with your own. Nonsense, say your hawkish colleagues. As long as the U.S. can hurt you without cost, it will. You're not going to negotiate a withdrawal from Afghanistan with Washington, so Washington will continue to cause you pain in Afghanistan, no matter what niceties it issues to your face. Better to raise the cost of their involvement.

Keep this scenario in mind when you read about Iran's involvement in Iraq. It's by no means an exact parallel -- we're, y'know, not Iran -- but I find it somewhat helpful.
--Spencer Ackerman
Well said.
Blogger Steve Sailer | 3:01 PM