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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Current events result from Cold War era

Before you begin reading the rest of this article, you should either conjure up your memory of a world map or go and look at one right now. Aim your focus at “The Middle East.” Understanding the Middle East’s geography is important to understanding the historical implications of the Arab Spring and other current uprisings.

One point of the region should stand out: Iran, America’s current fodder. Now look around that country. Afghanistan occupies a slight majority of Iran’s eastern border, Pakistan is underneath the other half, Iraq commands much of Iran’s western border and Turkey, a major NATO ally and possible new European Union member, engulfs Iran’s northern border.

No area on Earth probably experienced as much foreign gerrymandering in the 20th century as the Middle East. Many people’s and cultures were herded and corralled into various, non-unified nation-states which laid the ground of deep-seeded cultural, political and social conflicts for decades. These conflicts were exploited or intensified by foreign interests as a means of fighting their ideological battles, particularly in the aftermath of World War II.

The Cold War is heavily responsible for producing much of the regional norms and political regimes that structure the world today. Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Lebanon have all been not only grounds for such battles but the pinnacles of the shadow wars world powers conducted. It is no surprise that the house built of playing cards eventually comes tumbling back down to Earth.

No greater example of these global conflicts exists than Afghanistan. Is there really nothing to learn from Soviet Russia’s nearly 10-year war in the country? There is no coincidence that the 10 years of heavy bleeding suffered by the Soviets, but most horrifically by Afghan civilians, coincides with the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union. The war, at the last troop pullout in 1989, killed nearly 15,000 Soviet troops and approximately one million Afghan civilians; 1989 just happens to be the year the Berlin Wall came down, and just eight months after the last troop withdrawal.

To win this battle, many foreign factions poured their treasure and blood into the region. In our lifetime, Afghanistan has never been and probably will never be a Western-style nation-state. The United States, through its “Operation Cyclone” program, funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to the Afghan-Arab Mujahideen to fight the Soviets. It worked by helping to defeat the Soviets, but it also ended up spawning elements that founded the Afghan Taliban, other Arab terror groups, al-Qaida and even Osama Bin Laden himself. India and Russia supported the communist government and the U.S., Israel, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supported the Afghan-Arab rebels and thus became a multi-dimensional proxy battle. Afghanistan is the perfect parable to sum up the regional card house the world has created there.

With all card houses, eventually the complexity all implodes in on itself, as it is now. The Arab Spring is very much a reaction to the world’s artificial constructs. It is imperative to point out that the United States is not and never was the “Great Satan” the Arab dictators subsisted off of. We are merely one more nation trying to gain influence in a region laying atop fossilized money and power. To get past the preoccupation of the U.S. being the only nation single-handily manipulating the Middle East is to see the real truth and the real importance of the recent uprisings.

This is exactly what has happened to a new, digitally connected generation in the Middle East and around the world. The uprisings, particularly in Syria, see the truth in that mainly their own, foreign-controlled, governments are the real enemies. Consciousness has arisen and with it has brought about a new era in the region. Syrians, who just a few years ago were pouring insurgents into Iraq to fight us, are now burning Chinese and Russian flags and uploading videos praising Robert Ford, the U.S. Ambassador to Syria. But at the heart of all of this is the very human battle against the forces of misery and oppression.

Protests rage against Putin. Gadhafi’s death is forever viewable on the Internet. Bashar al-Assad’s body, what is left of it, will be unrecognizable. Afghans still mistrust the United States. Iraq is still in a state of barely managed chaos. Tunisia is free. Egypt’s revolution has reached the next, long-term phase. The United States has gone broke overextending its empire, just as the Soviets did; as with the passage of history, things fall apart.

Matthew Curry is a junior majoring in political science and environmental studies. Please send your feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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