Cold War In The Middle East: Afghanistan

1937 words - 8 pages

What factors motivated United States and Soviet interest in the Middle East during the Cold War?What impact have they had on contemporary problems in the region?Discuss with reference to at least one example.The Middle East has played host to more foreign 'visitors' than most regions of the world. Over the latter part of the 20th century Afghanistan's private party was crashed by the Soviet's and the United States in a decidedly Cold War fashion. Whether that interference is responsible for any of the contemporary problems the country faces today has been the talk of political academics. While promising to shower their hosts with economic and strategic gifts the cold powers instead ...view middle of the document...

Centuries old, with its sparse terrain host to a multiplex of nomadic tribal and ethnic groupings, Afghan society was organised into local and regional structures of self-rule (Saikal 2004, p.18-19). The traditional bearers of authority were clan and village elders, khans, mullahs, and Sufi figures and held steadfast to principles of group solidarity. This made the state government a relatively weak force outside the capital of Kabul. Nevertheless the determination of external powers to bring Afghanistan's ungovernable tribes under the control of a central state was compelling. The British Empire had been unsuccessful in attempts to do so, yet both Soviet's and North American's decided to swim against histories current.After WWII the United States and USSR had emerged as the remaining superpowers. The ideological arrangements of the two were in opposition and political tensions between the communist and capitalist divide seeped globally. Both superpowers possessed nuclear weaponry and that knowledge kept the two from direct conflict. Instead they each attempted to assert their influence globally while confining their rival's. Promises of economic development and nationalist appeals were made to influence Middle Eastern politics. When soft power tactics failed to impact political direction they funded and armed domestic groups who would fight against their rivals/ those aligned with them, albeit the driving motivations between patrons and beneficiaries were fundamentally different. The economic imperatives deployed in Afghanistan failed to improve development and stability in the country. Instead it was the proxy wars that have impacted on contemporary security and developmental problems in the Middle East.'Modernization' had been used before as a justification for foreign intervention in Afghanistan without success. British imperialists employed it during colonisation and the USSR and United States were no different in their narrative (Cullather 2002, p.516-518). Afghanistan suddenly became 'underdeveloped' as its interest to the Soviet's, and by that virtue the US, increased. Economic aid to the country increased ten-fold. Today Afghanistan remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world (UNCTD 2013). It has not come close to harnessing the vast natural resources or any internal capacity to fund development. For all the economic aid and policy the USSR and US pumped into Afghanistan there is little to show. This lack of impact is down to a lack of understanding of the local conditions in Afghanistan. For example aid was increased to agriculture sectors for cultivating uninhabitable land in the Helmand valley. The newly fertilized land was settled into by local groups only for them to be told that the land needed redistribution into flat, large scale land plots and trees removed. That was met with armed protests by the settled farmers. (Cullather 2002, p.534).The goal in pursuit was, not actually to alleviate poverty ...


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