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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Syria and the Call of the Quagmire

April 7th, 2017 |

Syria and the Call of the Quagmire

by Paul R. Pillar
After the Soviet Union launched a full-scale invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, President Jimmy Carter remarked to a television interviewer that this event had “made a more dramatic change in my opinion of what the Soviets’ ultimate goals are than anything they’ve done in the previous time I’ve been in office.”  Carter took much criticism for this comment, with charges that he was revealing naiveté and should have known all along about the nature of the regime he was confronting.  But at least the Soviet military intervention was a very large data point—a major departure in Soviet policy that was far different in scale from the use of a particular weapon in one encounter during an ongoing war.  Moreover, Carter did not respond to the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan with a U.S. military intervention there but instead with measures short of military intervention such as a grain embargo, boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, and what would become the provision of materiel to Afghan rebels.  Carter’s main mistake was to interpret the objective of the Soviet intervention as part of a larger drive to seize parts of Asia with a warm-water shoreline rather than, as was actually the case, the more limited goal of shoring up a beleaguered Communist client regime in Kabul.

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