by John Hawkins | January 2, 2012 12:17 pm
Afghanistan has been steeped in conflict and war since 1973 when Zahir Shah was deposed in a bloodless coup. In the eighties, Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union. With the help of United States and a few other countries the Afghans bravely defended their country and drove one of the world’s two super powers out of their nation at a terrible cost. Over a million Afghans were killed and the infrastructure of Afghanistan was largely destroyed.
After the war was over the United States chose not to help Afghanistan. There were reasons for it. We could legitimately say that we had already given billions of dollars to Afghanistan in the eighties. We’d done more than the rest of the world combined to help them when they fought the Soviets so why shouldn’t someone else pick up the tab for the rebuilding effort? In the end, no one else decided to aid Afghanistan and we now know that our decision not to step in was a mistake.
In the 90’s Afghanistan descended into chaos and civil war. Clashing warlords and banditry terrorized the people until 1996 when the Taliban movement came out of Pakistan and reinstated order’at a terrible cost. Afghanistan soon went from lawlessness to order at the price of brutal subordination to the Taliban’s bizarre, religious, fanaticism. As we now know, most of the people longed for freedom, but the Taliban and their terrorist allies in al-Queda had a stanglehold on the nation. The northern alliance rose up to fight them but they only controlled a tiny slice of Afghanistan and 2 days before September 11th their leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was killed in a suicide attack that was thought to have been arranged by Osama Bin Laden himself. Hope for the Afghan people was nearly gone.
Then after September 11th happened, the United States came. People warned that victory in Afghanistan would be elusive and might not be possible. After all, hadn’t the Soviets been driven out of Afghanistan in disgrace after 8 futile years of battle? But things were different this time. The northern alliance readily partnered with us and after we rearmed them and softened up the Taliban forces with air power, our combined forces quickly engulfed half of Afghanistan as our efforts were sped along by local uprisings. But ,what would happen in the south? The Pushtuns had more ties to the Taliban and many people thought they would support Mullah Omar’s men against the American ‘invaders’. However, rebellions broke out all across the south as the people of Afghanistan partnered with America just like the people of the north. But why? How did America succeed where the Soviet Union had failed?
It was because the people of Afghanistan believed in America. When we said we didn’t want to conquer them, they believed us. When we said we wanted to bring peace to Afghanistan and see the Afghan people set up a Democracy, they thought we were telling the truth. They remembered the help we gave them against the Soviets in eighties and they didn’t believe those who said we were waging a war against Muslims or against the people of Afghanistan. Although we didn’t promise them that we’d help rebuild Afghanistan, they saw what we did after WW2. America rebuilt our friends and our enemies. They hoped against hope that we would do the same thing this time.
Indeed, we should help the Afghan people. Despite what many people think, these are a decent, brave, and noble people. Ronald Reagan even compared their fight against the Soviets to our own fight for Independence against Britain in the Revolutionary war. That is an apt comparison.
We also have to consider that we are their only hope. The Afghans had almost 100 years of peace before things fell apart in the early seventies. But now, only our involvement can keep Iran, Pakistan, China, and Russia from stirring up trouble in Afghanistan again. If we don’t look out for Afghanistan, it is just going to be a matter of time before the country falls back into anarchy and war. That would be a poor idea since it could open the nation back up to terrorists but it’s also something the people of Afghanistan don’t deserve. After 20 years of suffering the United States has an opportunity to fundamentally change the lives of the Afghan people for the better. Will we turn away from these people who’ve fought so bravely and have suffered so much in the last two decades or will we step up like the ‘greatest generation’ did after World War 2?
One day going to look back at the ‘war on terrorism’ and we’re going to ask how we compared to the generation that fought in WW2? Their entry into the war saved the world from Nazi and Japanese domination at the cost of almost 300 thousand American lives. Even after all that bloodshed, even after Pearl Harbor, even after the ‘Bataan Death March’, we still helped our enemies rebuild just as we did our friends. We showed that we were as benevolent in our mercy as we were terrible in our wrath. We still have years of fighting to go in this current conflict, but Afghanistan is our first chance to show the generosity of our spirit. One day, when history compares our actions to those of the ‘greatest generation’, I hope we won’t be found wanting. I hope that our future generations will look at our actions and will seek to live up to our example, the same way we are striving to reach the mark set by our forefathers.
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