Unintended Consequences: From Afghanistan to Ukraine
When in 1979 the Red Army scorned the history books and invaded Afghanistan, the D.C. war machine saw its chance to both weaken the USSR while exacting revenge for Moscow’s support of Hanoi during the Vietnam War. From 1979 to 1989, the CIA covertly channeled $2 billion in weapons, logistical support, and training to the Afghani resistance collectively known as the mujahideen (Arab for “those who engage in jihad”).
Our proxy war strategy seemed to work. The Russians ignominiously retreated, and the media and D.C. cheered.
By 1996, however, the most religiously fanatical mujahideen faction, the Taliban, had installed itself as Afghanistan’s rulers. Seeing all Western nations as an affront to Islam, they harbored Islamic terrorists, including a wealthy Saudi outcast named Osama Bin Laden. Unwittingly, the U.S., in its zeal to deal its communist foe a bloody nose, sowed the seeds of a far more sinister and lethal threat, which culminated in the 9/11 terror attacks, the deadliest in U.S. history. Unintended consequences writ large.
And now, we are obliquely facing that same Russian enemy again, just in a different region. But in many ways, the Ukrainian steppe is as enigmatic a theater, with a convoluted and violent history that featured extremist ideologies, as the Hindu Kush region that is now Afghanistan. Regardless, since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the mainstream media has been a vocal cheerleader for the United States’ funneling of tens of billions worth of arms and materiel to the Ukrainians resisting this latest Russian incursion.
But Ukraine was not always the media darling it is now. In fact, right up until February 2022, The New York Times and other similar outlets published piece after piece warning of the rise of neo-Nazism in parts of the country. When the Russians came, however, all that went out the window.
As Lev Gonklin writes in The Nation:
For seven years, Western institutions have warned about Ukraine’s Azov Movement, which began as a neo-Nazi paramilitary group in 2014 and became notorious for its worldwide recruitment of extremists. Then came Russia’s invasion. Within months, Azov fighters were being feted in Congress and at Stanford University. MSNBC swooned over a Ukrainian soldier whose Twitter account overflowed with neo-Nazi images. Facebook made the stunning decision to allow posts praising the Azov Battalion, even though the company admitted it was a hate group.
During its struggles against Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern region, it became apparent that Ukraine’s military had been severely degraded by rampant corruption. The Azov Battalion, motivated, fiercely anti-Russian, and Nazi-sympathetic, stepped in to fill the void. By 2021, the Azov movement had established itself as a global hub of white supremacy. Peruse photos of these militiamen, and you will be treated to Nazi symbology on the uniforms from the “Wulfsangel” (Wolf’s Hook) to the sinister S.S. “Totenkopf” (Death’s Head.)
The question is, what sway does the Azov Battalion and those with similar pro-Nazi sentiments hold in a nation wherein getting to the truth is becoming ever more difficult, given the one-two punch of Zelensky’s underreported cracking down on opposition press and the West’s sycophantic media carrying water for Kyiv?
To be sure, Russia is the aggressor. And it would be a good thing if the Ukrainians of the media’s imagination beat them back. Putin is not a good guy. But at the same time, I wouldn’t invite the Azov Battalion’s leader, Andriy Biletsky, over for a barbecue either. That tortured region is far more complicated and nuanced than the virtue-signaling Ukraine flag wavers (many of whom couldn’t find the country on a map two years ago) understand. The Western media so badly craves the binary good-versus-evil narrative that it has chosen to turn a blind eye to Ukraine’s ominous flirtation with neo-Nazism, which filled its pages before February 2022.
There are indeed parallels between our covert support for the mujahideen in the 1980s and our blatant support for the Ukrainians today. As with Afghanistan, billions disappeared and remain unaccounted for. Have we done any comprehensive audit of where the more than $76 billion in aid the American taxpayer has forked over to the Ukrainian military went and how it was spent? Despite a 2018 ban on U.S. aid going to the neo-Nazi Azovs, can we really be sure that money and weapons have not been steered to them from a government that was the target of corruption investigations a fortnight ago? Are we unwittingly helping to create a far-right version of the Taliban out of our desire to hurt Russia at any cost? And why is anyone who dares to ask these questions automatically branded a “Putin apologist”?
From the 1950s to the present day, the history of U.S. foreign policy has been to stumble from one quagmire or disaster to another. Each one featuring different versions of the same mistakes driven by antiquated Cold War Era dogma that still holds some sway in D.C., courtesy of the Bill Kristols, Liz Cheneys, Max Boots, and John Boltons of the world. In our never-ending and voracious quest to feed the military-industrial complex beast with one foreign war after another, the U.S. has staggered from Vietnam to Beirut, from Kuwait to Somalia, from Iraq to Afghanistan. Is Ukraine next? With the exception of South Korea, each place we leave seems to become worse than how we found it, with thousands of our own in body bags or hospital beds, trillions in bills we cannot pay, and credibility shattered across the world. What will happen should we, as we did with Afghanistan and Islamic fundamentalism, be so blinded by our zeal to give Putin a defeat that we set the stage for a rise of resurgent Nazism in Eastern Europe in its wake?
There was a time when Joe Biden was deeply concerned about any action that would escalate the war in Ukraine by provoking Russia. Since then, the U.S. has greenlit sending the Ukrainians fighter jets, missiles, heavy battle tanks, and Lord only knows how much war materiel like rockets, small arms, and GI socks. It is becoming clear that this is not just a covert CIA action as we saw in Afghanistan, but rather a full-on proxy war between the U.S. and an enemy with the same GDP as Texas that has posed no existential threat to the U.S. in thirty years. It’s one thing to clandestinely funnel Stinger missiles to the mujahideen; it’s quite another to openly support with massive aid and sophisticated arms shipments a country with which Russia, wrong as its actions may be, is currently at war. Russia is a major nuclear power.
And lest we forget that from 1941-1945, they lost 23-26 million people expelling the unimaginably brutal Nazi invaders from their soil. One can only imagine how our eagerness to arm this hated enemy’s descendants, right on their border, is being processed inside the halls of the Kremlin.
And yet, for some D.C.-embedded think tanks, not even heavy armor and fighter jets are enough to stop the Russian bear. In his most recent paper, Michael Rubin, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, floats this idea with a straight face: “Can Biden Deter A Nuclear Attack On Ukraine? Yes, If He Gives Ukraine Tactical Nuclear Weapons.” What could go wrong?
One must ask, do we really know the players, the stakes, the history, and the potential unintended consequences of this slow but steady escalation in what, at the moment, is the latest border war between ancient enemies may unleash? The strengthening of the Azov Battalion could end up being the least of our concerns. One tactical nuke, such as the kind Rubin would like to give Zelensky, is all it takes to bring the world to the brink of annihilation.
In the meantime, I’m reminded of Japanese Lt. Fuchida Mitsuo’s apprehensions before his navy suffered its disastrous defeat at the Battle of Midway: “Our forces plunge through a boundless fog. Like stagecoach horses driven blindly forward by a cracking whip.” Am I the only one who feels this way? We must be less binary in our view of this conflict. And less myopic. Otherwise, today’s mujahideen could morph into tomorrow’s Taliban all over again. And that is when it gets really dicey.
Brad Schaeffer is a commodities trader, musician, and writer whose articles can be found on Substack. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, National Review, The Federalist, The Daily Wire, Zerohedge, and other news outlets. He is the author of two best-selling novels: Of Another Time And Place and The Extraordinary.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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