Ideologies in Motion: the Soviet War in Afghanistan

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The Individual In History
The grey war

The beginning of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1979 marked a new phase in the Cold War, the effects of which would continue to cast a shadow over modern politics into the next millennium. The Soviet-Afghan war was driven by the persistent personalities of US National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, his puppet president, Jimmy Carter, and Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan flipped Cold War politics on its head. The war was a clash of personalities and manipulation, masked by a façade of noble ideological intentions, which has shaped the way modern politics is conducted. This can be proven by analysing primary and secondary sources of information concerning the politicians and their policies surrounding the war.

To understand the Cold War and, therefore, the proxy wars which arose from it, it is essential to understand what the ideologies behind the conflict were. Ideology is accurately referred to by the BusinessDirectory in 2012 as “[a] system of ideas that explains and lends legitimacy to actions or beliefs of a social, religious, political or corporate entity”. The ideologies, or in this case, driving political excuses, behind both super powers, America and Soviet Russia, were communism and capitalism. Communism is a classless social system in which all people are equal and all property is jointly owned by the state. This system was first introduced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the book, The Communist Manifesto, which promoted ideals of common ownership (BusinessDirectory, 2012). The ideological opposite of communism, which was championed by the political opposite of the Soviet Union, America, is capitalism. Capitalism challenges the core ideals of communism. Where communism promotes equality, capitalism is based on the beliefs of private ownership and production (BusinessDirectory, 2012).

The various leaders during the Soviet Afghan war each privileged a different ideological perspective. Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States from 1977-1981 (The American Peace Award, 2009). President Carter was known for his passion for peace and arms control. This view is shared in a number of accounts (Cold War Warriors, 2010; Le Nouvel Observateur, 1998; The American Peace Award, 2009). At the other end of the ideological spectrum, Leonid Brezhnev became the leader of communist Soviet Union after seizing power from his mentor, Nikita Khrushchev, following Soviet defeat in the Cuban Missile Crisis (Kris, 2004). Brezhnev’s and Carter’s ideologies were to clash at the end of the détente period. The détente period refers to the easing of tensions and competition between powers (The Free Dictionary, 2008). The fall of the détente is generally attributed to Zbigniew Brzezinski; National Security Advisor under the Carter administration (Le Nouvel Observateur, 1998; Washington University, 1997; Coll, 2005). In his 1997 interview with George Washington University, Brzezinski defended the reintensification of the Cold War by claiming “[it was] either détente across the board, or competition across the board, but not détente in some areas and competition in those areas in which we were vulnerable” (George Washington University, 1997).

The Soviet war in Afghanistan was instigated by leaders from the Soviet Union and America, who used ideology to mask ulterior motives. The Soviet excuse for entering Afghanistan was to assist a fellow government in a time of need, as reported by the liberal Russian source Alternative Insight (2001). The guise of assisting a sister nation gave the Soviets cover to follow their hidden agendas. It is agreed upon by non-communist sources Cold War Warriors (2010), John Laver (1997 p. 44) and Guide to Russia (2004) that the true motivation behind the Soviet invasion was to eliminate Hafizulla Amin, the Afghan leader who was reported to have been in conference with American officials. The...
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