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Cold War Powers In Afghanistan Essay

1827 words - 7 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 did little more than create an internal atmosphere of division and rivalries. And then left it to stew. Security and intra-state conflict remain big challenges for the national government. Outlining the history of the Cold War in Afghanistan and its impacts on the troubled region, although in hindsight, can prevent similar antagonistic situations occurring in the Middle East. It will also provide greater understanding and appreciation for local context, a key variable not appreciated by megalomaniac outsiders.The Middle East is a region of vast geo-political importance. The ensemble of countries which constitute the Middle East are situated in the crux of three meeting continents. Historically this made it a vital route for trade and passage. The area holds two thirds of Earth's oil reserves, fuelling most of the global economy. Assured access to oil at a 'reasonable' price was a high priority after the 1973 OPEC embargo on prices and subsequent oil crises. Afghanistan itself is nestled between Pakistan and Iran. It shared a northern border with the USSR before its collapse in 1991.Most countries in the Middle East achieved independence after years of colonialism. Afghanistan became an independent state in 1919. 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...

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