Washington, D.C.: President George W. Bush delivers a speech at his farewell dinner on June 18, 2008.(Joseph August / Shutterstock.com).
How the ‘Global War on Terror’ Failed Afghanistan

Some historians have averred that the North Korean invasion of South Korea, which occurred two months after NSC-68 was written, proved the validity of its arguments. This, however, can also be seen the other way around: that the U.S. meta-narrative of the Cold War made Americans see what was in fact a Korean civil war initiated by the Korean Communists as part of Soviet grand strategy planned in Moscow; and see the Chinese military intervention to stop an American army appearing on China’s land border as another carefully-planned part of that strategy.

Three decades later, the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan was seen throughout the U.S. political and media establishments not for what it clearly was and has been revealed to be by Soviet documents—a defensive attempt to save a crumbling client state, with close similarities to the U.S. intervention in Vietnam—but as part of a Soviet plan to march to the Indian Ocean and eventually conquer the world. The result was to justify massive U.S. aid to the Afghan Mujahideen. To fit the Mujaheddin into the U.S. meta-narrative of democratic resistance required amazing mental contortions, but U.S. officials, politicians, and many journalists contorted themselves accordingly. The eventual result was 9/11.

Because the false beliefs underlying the Cold War meta-narrative were never adequately examined and critiqued after it ended, these features of U.S. thought replicated themselves disastrously in the GWOT. In the Cold War, they consisted chiefly of the following assumptions: that the Soviet Union possessed overwhelming military and economic power; that Soviet policy was inherently and permanently aggressive, not in any way rooted in genuine Soviet fears; that the Soviet menace to the United States was existential; that the Communist menace was monolithic, and every left-wing nationalist force in the world was simply a local agent of Soviet communism; that the Soviet menace was permanent and essentially unchanging; and that a clear line distinguished Soviet “totalitarianism” from the (often just as savage) authoritarianism of key U.S. allies.

Some of the terrible consequences of this meta-narrative should have been apparent long before the Cold War ended. These included the dreadful crimes committed by the United States and its allies against governments and peoples portrayed as “Communist,” and U.S. support for a range of regimes that were not only wicked in themselves but in some cases hostile to real American interests.

Read the full article in The National Interest.

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