38 years of unintended consequences
In 1973 an Afghan politician called Daoud overthrew his cousin, the king, and proclaimed a republic. In this he had the help of the moderate faction of Afghanistan's communist party, the PDPA, led by Babrak Karmal. The PDPA's base was the large part of Afghanistan's small technical intelligentsia that had been to university in the Soviet Union and seen the future in the bright lights of Tashkent. Under the republic the party reunited and grew somewhat stronger. President Daoud decided in late April 1978 to crush it. Unfortunately for him, the PDPA had enough cadres in the army's officer corps to improvise a coup, and it was Daoud who got crushed. The coup was welcomed by joyous crowds in Kabul, making it the Saur (Spring) Revolution. The revolutionaries set out to reform Afghanistan's feudal countryside, but managed to alienate the peasants, to say nothing of the landlords and mullahs. Faced with increasingly violent opposition, the revolutionaries split along old factional lines between moderates and radicals. The president, Taraki, gave the moderate leader, Karmal, the job of ambassador to Czecheslovakia. Taraki then flew to Moscow, consulted with Brezhnev, and returned with the intention of dealing with the radical leader, Amin. Amin shot Taraki first, and pressed on in the teeth of an escalating insurgency, appealing all the while for Soviet military aid. The US, seeing opportunity, began arming the Afghan counter-revolutionaries. In December 1979 the Soviet Union answered Amin's appeals for aid by moving in troops to stabilise the situation, killing Amin, and installing Karmal.
The US, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia then massively stepped up their aid to the counter-revolutionaries, and organised the flow of thousands of Muslim militants to Afghanistan. One of these militants was a young civil engineer called Osama Bin Laden. One of his former colleagues said Osama was popular with the mujahadin because of his money and his construction skills, adding almost as an afterthought: 'And of course his pleasant personality!'
The cascade of unintended consequences just keeps rolling along. There seems no reason to think it will now stop.
Labels: Marxism, politics, revolution, War on Terror