An Old Debate Wrapped in New Clothes

The traditional opponents in the Afghanistan/America debate have once again taken their place: buildup versus withdrawal. However, recent news reports lack any historical perspective of America’s presence in Afghanistan dating to the Cold War. Details of Washington politics are not sufficient to inform the public about the war in Afghanistan.

Begun as a proxy war between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S., the Afghanistan conflict has been a dumping ground for Marxist, capitalist and jihad ideologies as well as their common enforcement mechanisms: automatic weapons and explosives.


Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to the oh-so-troubled “state” of Afghanistan, is now advising President Obama against troop increases given the amount of corruption he sees in the current Karzai government. Meanwhile, Obama’s security team, including Secretaries Clinton and Gates, support sending 30,000 additional troops.

That there was only jubilation on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, even though it coincided with Obama’s rapidly approaching moment-of-truth on Afghanistan, demonstrates that the media are blind to history.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was instrumental in the development of America’s policy toward Afghanistan, which had been until that moment to make the Soviets pay for their Asian adventurism. The event rekindled the very debate we are still having: buildup versus withdrawal.

Buildup did not win, but certainly neither did withdrawal.

Once the Soviet Union dissolved, the American CIA remained in Afghanistan supporting Pakistan's regional interests by funneling arms through Pakistani intelligence to anti-communist rebels.

Today the CIA is most likely on Karzai’s side since (a) this is the official American position and (b) his brother is a paid informant.

According to Steve Coll’s 2005, Pulitzer-winning Ghost Wars, the Karzai family supported the Taliban for reasons of political exigency. Now that position is surely untenable given that he has American backing, but the point is that alliances in these circumstances have been as inconstant as the wind.

Belief that the Afghanistan question can be answered without a little history on the table will not, in the most meaningful sense, produce any lasting results.

Stress is contagious–but resilience can be too

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why health care should start long before you reach the hospital

The issues that determine your health go way beyond seeing your doctor.

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The average American spends about 24 hours a year at the doctor's office.
  • What you do the other 364 days a year mostly determines your health.
  • Michael Dowling discusses Northwell's focus on environmental, social, economic and other social determinants of health.

Horseshoe crabs are captured for their blue blood. That practice will soon be over.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.

An Atlantic horseshoe crab in an aquarium. Photo: Domdomegg via Wikimedia Commons.
Surprising Science
  • Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
  • This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
  • Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
Keep reading Show less

5 short podcasts to boost your creativity and success

These quick bursts of inspiration will brighten your day in 10 minutes or less.

Personal Growth

Podcasts can educate us on a variety of topics, but they don't have to last an hour or more to have an impact on the way you perceive the world. Here are five podcasts that will boost your creativity and well-being in 10 minutes or less.

Keep reading Show less