Manipal, India — The 1989 defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was a tactical victory, but a strategic defeat for the Western alliance. The induced success of the jihadis gave them a boost of vainglory, leading to the expansion of their jihad to the West.
Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and their al-Qaida organization are the unintended consequences of the 1979-87 strategy by former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency William Casey of funding, training and equipping jihadists to fight a conventional force.
Those lessons are now coming in handy for terrorists operating in the Afghan countryside, where NATO is floundering in a manner similar to the 1983-84 travails of the Soviet battalions.
If it can be said that the economic and other costs of the Afghan war helped push the Soviet Union to collapse, it can also be argued by those determined to undermine the West that the immense financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – along with the concomitant speculative rise in commodity prices sparked by the conflicts – are responsible for the apparent meltdown in Western economies witnessed in the latter half of 2008.
Iraq and Afghanistan are theaters separated by conditions on the ground. In Iraq, the policy of occupation has led to an essentially nationalist rebellion against the United States and the United Kingdom – giving the religious Shiite parties an opportunity to secure the political space left empty by the secular nationalists’ recourse to insurgency.