Sad Wisdom of Hindsight: Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan (1979-1989)

Book chapter

Baev, Pavel K. (2008) Sad Wisdom of Hindsight: Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan (1979-1989), in Afghanistan: State and Society, Great Power Politics and the Way Ahead. Santa Monica, CA: RAND (37–46).

Read the chapter here

The fundamental difference between the two operations is actually in the present-day twice-lower level of military engagement combined with the sharply higher price of defeat.

The ‘Great Game’ paradigm should be scrapped and replaced by a ‘Come Together’ model.

The most striking difference is the present-day sharply lower threshold of pain coming from both taking and inflicting casualties; the wave of suicide bombings organized by the Taliban (a tactic that would have hardly made much sense against the Soviet forces) exploits exactly this vulnerability. For that reason, this paper has never aimed at compiling a list of ‘lessons’, and instead offered a few suggestive rather than affirmative propositions.

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