The True Weapon of Mass Destruction
How does one counter a gun that makes an average civilian as deadly as a professional soldier? This unanswered question has been puzzling superpowers for years. The AK-47 is the most readily available and easily fired gun in the world. It is quite indestructible and cheap to produce. No other gun comes close to it in its simplicity, which is what makes the gun world renowned. But the AK wasn’t always in the spotlight. For decades, the world’s leading powers failed to see the destructive forces of the AK-47, and even stimulated the small arms trade to the point of no return. The AK-47 now kills 250,000 people a year and there are more or less 100 million of these guns spread out across the entire world (Al Jazeera English). As one of the catalysts in world conflicts, the AK-47 has affected the world by arming rebel groups and average civilians with an unprecedented power that they would not otherwise have, causing millions of casualties, and revolutionizing governments. In addition, the AK-47 affects the Middle East by empowering terrorist groups, Africa by shattering already unsteady tribal life, and Latin America by building the largest drug organization in the world.
Before the spread and effects of the weapon can be discussed, a brief history of the AK must be known in order to understand its later influence. Injured in a Soviet tank while fighting the Germans in World War II, Mikhail Kalashnikov was sent to a Soviet hospital. He had seen the success the Germans had with their Blitzkrieg warfare firsthand, and Kalashnikov devoted his life to building a firearm that would defend the Motherland from the Germans. Kalashnikov ingeniously visualized a firearm that was simpler than the rest of the guns that were trying to be complex and high-tech. The AK was the complete opposite of these guns, and in 1947, the gun called Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947 was complete, but the war was over. Nonetheless, the soviets approved of the firearm and began producing them in small scales (Kahaner 23-25).
Although the AK-47 had been used in little skirmishes before in Russia, its first true test would come in Vietnam. The soviets gave away AK’s to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to fight the US with their supposedly superior M-16’s. These M-16’s that the US government was extremely proud of jammed easily in the wet jungle conditions of Vietnam, and US soldiers would pick up the reliable AK’s from dead Vietnamese rebels until the army banned the practice, partly since it would shame their own gun. The US army did not make progress in Vietnam, and in March 1973 US troops were pulled out of Vietnam (Kahaner 53). The communist AK-47 had trumped the democratic M-16. Every rebel group wanted this prized gun, and the US still didn’t recognize the power of the AK, making its spread possible.
The Cold war was in full swing in the seventies, captivating the world. The United States and the Soviet Union wanted to topple each other, but not directly. After seeing the devastating effects of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both nations feared a nuclear war. Their solution was to gain the support of subordinate countries with their capitalist and socialist ideas, and have those nations do the fighting for the two superpowers. Afghanistan seems to be a key nation for the US and the Soviets as they bribe the country with irrigation systems, roads, and airfields. In December 1979, the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan. Their tactics using the AK’s were so quick and deadly that the soviets literally obliterated villages, killing everyone and forcing the rebels to go into hiding. The Mujahideen, a rebel group supported by Osama bin Laden which translates to “strugglers” requests US assistance. The United States relents, as they were then working with bin Laden, and the CIA arm the rebels with Enfield rifles. The problem is that once again, the Soviets’ AK’s are far...