Saturday, April 3, 2010

WFB called Afghan problems -- back in '89!

By Rick Morris

In the otherwise superlative movie CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR, the case was made in ham-handed fashion at the end (as is often the case in Hollywood) that the US abandoned Afghanistan after playing a key role in helping them dislodge the Soviets in the 1980s. The point is true, but I'm dubious about 20-20 wisdom in this regard, since there weren't many experts who said so at the time.

So imagine my surprise when I ran across an old William F. Buckley, Jr. column from February 15, 1989 in National Review [I do have some old magazines on different subjects that I enjoy pulling out from time to time particularly for the "time capsule" perspective of what was being said at the time and which theories are valid even today]. It was about the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and it was meant to be a sobering note about the euphoria many were feeling about seeing the mighty USSA military suffering their version of Vietnam (in retrospect, it's almost impossible to believe the mega-events that would follow in less than three years, from the fall of the Berlin Wall, to German reunification, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the brief coup sidelining Gorbachev and inevitably, the dissolution of the Soviet empire itself).

In light of the rise of Al Qaeda in the 1990s and ultimate culmination of the group's evil attack on a cloudless Tuesday in September 2001, WFB's warning about this group and the Taliban is chilling:

"We have much to be apprehensive about in the months ahead. The mullahs who are destined to take over the country they defended so vigorously are, so to speak, not PLU (People Like Us). It is even conceivable that a few years down the line some people will publicly mourn the government of President Najibullah ...

"In an indication of what may unfold in Afghanistan, two elderly maulavi -- judges appointed by the mujahedin -- have sent out edicts to rebel commanders urging them to exercise more control over the civilians by curbing such excesses as 'the playing of tape-recorded music ...'

"The judges have ordered the execution of murderers, the stoning to death of adulterers, and the surgical amputatin of a thief's hand.

"Still, we must do what we can to influence the mujahedin to moderation ..."

We did not, and the consequences began to make themselves known first during the Clinton Administration when terrorist actions around the world were not answered with sufficient force, then with 9/11 and continuing now with a war that ranks as one of the longest in American history. While the last decade has proved the limitations of neocon adventurism, so too has it shown the fallout of isolationist disregard for the birth of terrorist states. Both approaches are woefully inferior to a rational, America-First approach to solving problems, preferably proactively, on a case-by-case basis.

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