Thursday, August 26, 2004

The lesser of two evils is still evil

Here's a review of a book, "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim," that details how the Reagan Administration helped to unite the world's Islamic jihadi movements against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Islamists were financed and armed by the CIA, and we know all too well, after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, the jihadists turned on the United States and our allies in the Muslim world. The reviewer notes that supporting the Islamic reistance wasn't just good Cold War politics; the Soviets ravaged Afghanistan, destroying most of the nation's buildings, driving millions from their homes and lacing the countryside with land mines. Nonetheless, this episode should provide us with a cautionary tale about the perils of realpolitik, and serve as another reminder of the ways in which our erstwhile "friends" can quickly become enemies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be too combative, but one should note that Mahmood Mamdani is NOT and NEVER HAS BEEN an expert on war, global terrorism, Afghanistan, the Middle East or even issues of the Indian subcontinent.

A former Pitt grad, he holds an important chair in the Anthropology Department at Columbia and is best known for intriguing studies of Uganda in an era of late Post-Colonialism. While a very fine analyst of group conflicts in Africa, with a keen eye for the diplomatic counterstrokes the conflicts generate in both the west and the developing world, his expertise concerning the issues he tackles in this work aren't very strong, and it shows.

The thesis has been better explored by others in academia and think tanks with some working knowledge of the issues and the region.

A few gems you should know about Mamdani:

1. He believes the U.S. was on the verge of losing the Cold War in 1981 (a point so thoroughly discredited by American, European and Russian researchers working in Soviet archives as to be laughable).

2. That this frightened the powerless U.S. into fomenting global terrorism movements by funding insurgents in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. He doesn't, however, explain why similar global terrorism movements paid for by the U.S. (Angola, Nicaragua, etc) didn't take root, some of which received far more direct CIA support than Afghanistan, which was largely funded by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states.

3. In Iraq, he believes the U.S. waged "nothing short of an officially conducted and officially sanctioned genocide" against Iraqi children after the first Gulf War, another point thoroughly discredited by Iraqi dissidents and even UN officials in the wake of the latest conflict. Most observors would suggest to the professor that the Kurds received similar Food-for-Oil payments and created a robust economy and quasi-democracy, whereas Baghdad spent its money on weapons, castles and graft, to notable effect.

4. It was the American media's collective fault for failing to inform the public that the U.S. was waging "genocide" on Iraq. He says this after notable mea culpas from CNN and others following the war, confessing that they said too little about the atrocities and mismanagement of the Hussein dictatorship.

5. So far, the only revolutionary movement against the U.S. is the "intelligentsia" in places such as Columbia, and these people have been unable, yet, to forge alliances with insurgents overseas. This must be done to form a counterweight to American power.

6. The U.S. was wrong to invade Afghanistan, the proto-nation of thuggish zealots that harbored bin Laden's network.

Now, most laypeople outside the informed halls of Columbia would reject this as a bowl of crap, pure and simple. One would assume that perhaps only a myopic Baby Boomer, suckled on the sweet promise of revolution at Harvard and Columbia, without any relevant experience in this area of expertise, could concoct a book so thoroughly devoid of anty real understanding of "Realpolitik," global terrorism or even the many faces of political Islam.

One would not be surprised, however, that a blogger simply pasted a confused, uninformed review from the Washington Post onto a page to badmouth current American foreign policy.

Perhaps this provides us with a "cautionary tale" about the perils of blogging, and serves as "another reminder of the ways in which our erstwhile 'friends' can quickly become enemies."

In this case, an enemy of good blogging.

7:50 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I wasn't aware that you had written the rules of what makes good blogging. Forgive me for having offended your sensibilities. (Not to be combative.)

Perhaps I didn't read the review carefully enough, but I don't recall the reviewer saying that the U.S. was wholly responsible for the global Islamic terrorism--certainly that was not the point I was trying to make. There is no doubt that we did support the Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan--for good reason--and there is also no doubt that our Cold War policy led us to support some unsavory regimes, who sometimes came back to bite us in the ass.

3:04 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

That said, I continue to appreciate your insights and hope you keep reading and responding.

3:10 PM


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