All posts by afrieds16

My Research Based Assignment

My RBA will be continuing off my TiC which dealt with the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and America’s responses to this conflict. My TiC presented varying scholarly sources that sought to provide varying (not necessarily conflicting) viewpoints of why this conflict came about. In my RBA, I will take a position in this matter and argue that the United States’ participation in the 1979-89 Soviet Afghan war definitively played a role in its own attack on September 11.

Here is a link to my map:

Stinger Missiles to “We Have Some Planes”

My research topic investigates the American intervention in the 1979-89 Invasion of Afghanistan by Communist Russia and its subsequent effects including the September 11 attacks. This research is important because much of the current US involvement in Afghanistan as well as the chaos that captivates the Middle East can be traced back to the the funding of the Mujahideen in the 1970-80s.

Many other scholarly research and historical analysis on this subject is very critical of the US’s involvement in Afghanistan. For example, one source, Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars, retells the history in an objective light. However, in doing so, the book clearly unshrouds the vast incompetence and ignorance of American intelligence operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East and the inability to recognize terrorism as a real threat until it was too late. The official US documentation of the 9/11 attacks, the 9/11 Commission Report, depict a similarly bleak retrospective on the American efforts in the Middle East. In this report, the 9/11 Commission contends that US investigation operations – including the CIA and FBI – failed to identify terrorism as the serious threat that it was, and had the two agencies acted with more diligence and aggression, the attacks could have been potentially stopped. In conducting my research, I want to examine other factors that could have potentially swayed the attacks. These include the rise of Wahhabism emanating from oil-rich Saudi Arabia in engendering Islamic extremism. Also important are geological factors, including Afghanistan’s existence as a classic buffer state, where its surrounding countries are all vying for territory and power. Essentially, I do not plan on denying the impact and failure of US foreign policy, but I want to investigate whether Islamic extremism was an inevitability in the socio-political context of 1980s Afghanistan and Middle East.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (In 300 Years)

In his essay, Sarantakes recounts the Star Trek episode “Tomorrow the Universe” wherein the Star Trek gang has the opportunity to end Hitler before the rise and fall of the Third Reich would take place. In this case, the allegory of “fascism” is more so a direct reference. There is no stand-in for communism or Red China; Hitler and the third Reich are actually in the episode. In one scene, for example, Spock and Kirk talk in the (depiction of) real NSDAP headquarters. However, the key message of this particular allegory is the moral righteousness of democracy. Upon reflecting on their intervention in the course of history, the Star Trek gang realize that “intervention – no matter how well intentioned – is a mistake.” This realization bolsters the “supremacy of democracy over other forms of government.”

The Star Trek series gives insight into the effectiveness of using fiction to comment on contemporary and current social issues. The notion of fiction is fakeness and for this reason, works of fiction tend to carry less sobriety than those of actual historical research or analysis. But the message present is arguably just as salient towards the reader. For example, Robert Jordan did not actually exist, but For Whom the Bell Tolls imparts an unavoidable disdain in the reader for the fascista regime of Francisco Franco. In the same way, Star Trek carries a moral weight with the watcher. The shows, while seemingly mundane, subtly champions democracy as the supreme and most righteous form of government.

Operation Eggnog and the American Psyche

Quote: “… Collier’s, titled ‘Preview of the War We Do Not Want’. An impressive list of masculine literary, military, and political authorities, from Arthur Koestler to Edward R. Murrow, contributed to the detailed production of ‘Operation Eggnog’ – planned ‘to demonstrate that if The War We Do Not Want is forced upon us, we will win’. While the US-led United Nations force begins by avoiding ‘population centres’, concentrating on ‘legitimate military targets only’, American cities are directly bombed, leading to a retaliatory ‘mission to Moscow’ witnessed by Murrow, and, ultimately, the occupation of the Soviet Union.”

The example of “Operation Eggnog” is representative of the contemporary American attitude and outlook which – as per Farish’s contention – was heightened to a level of deep anxiety and catalyzed by the advent of the atomic bomb.

The appearance of the hypothetical operation in a public issue of Collier’s itself is an indication of the immense fascination that the atomic bomb and its potential for destruction had garnered. The atomic bomb galvanized the American public in a fascination over its destructive capabilities. The fact that people were willing to pay to read about things as morbid as nuclear fallout shows how deeply anxious the American public was. This fascination is a key tenet of Farish’s argument.

Tantamount to this atomic anxiety, the “operation” manifests other key notions with which the American public sympathized. The “operation” is captioned “the war we do not want,” thereby exerting American superiority and virtuosity. Moreover, the authors go on to detail the fact that Americans would attack only legitimate military targets first and avoid population centers. The only instance where population centers are bombed is if such a bombing occurs in America. The effect is to say: ‘we do not want to make war, but we will reciprocate if attacked first.’ This is remarkably in-line with the doctrine of Massive Retaliation posited by John Foster Dulles three years later. Moreover, the “operation” reflects the deep naiveté that Americans fostered towards nuclear potential: “if the war we do not want is forced upon us, we will win.’ This baseless exertion reminds one of the “Burt the Turtle” videos that were compulsory in elementary schools. It’s clear to see that if war were to have broken out, millions of people would have died. The illusion that a nuclear war could be ‘winnable’ was nevertheless sustained as it appealed to the contemporary American social anxiety towards a nuclear exchange, thus corroborating Farish’s argument.

Through the lens of Farish’s argument, I think it may be easy to see the bombing of the World Trade Center as analogous to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I think these two events worked in drastically and disparate ways. One key difference is that the 9/11 attacks were conducted on American soil on an American target. The incessant imagery paled to the tangible destruction wrought by these attacks. Americans didn’t need to delude or fixate on images of falling towers – they dealt with the aftermath, they lost the people, they felt the anguish and pain first hand. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on the other hand, were felt on a second-hand basis. No Americans died there. In fact, the bombings precluded a conventional attack on the mainland which probably would have cost many American lives. Thus, the nuclear bombings in 1945 engendered nothing more than anxiety. On the other hand, 9/11 engendered the despair and the anguish and the desire for revenge and the unity. The image of a destroyed Hirsohima and Nagasaki had a far greater impact on the Americans than did the videos of the tower falling.


Horne and a Post-9/11 Dialogue

In his summary of Gerald Horne’s thesis – that “white supremacy and anticommunism were the major forces shaping post-World War II life and politics in the United States” – McDuffie contends that this thesis explains the cultural and political movements post 9/11.

The devolvement from a state of patriotic fervor and unity into partisanship and anti-intellectualism harkens back to Cold War containment times. Horne’s thesis (explaining 1950s socio-political movements) is remarkably applicable to contemporary times. By substituting anti-communism for anti-terrorism (or in a more general sense, anti-otherism) it becomes clear that the Horne thesis offers a veritable perspective on the subtle post-9/11 movements. The notion that white supremacy is a “major force” in post-9/11 culture is easily visible through (in McDuffie’s words) the emergence of the Tea Party, and its large attraction to a disgruntled and insecure white populous.

Zero Dark Thirty, the Absence of Evidence, and the Fear of the Unknown

The September 11 attacks inaugurated a renewed era of containment culture in America. The trauma of 9/11 and the pervasive threat of terrorism engendered a new sense of insecurity and anxiety in the American public which responded by inflating its sense of patriotism and unity against a perceived threat. After 9/11, war was (quasi) declared, the “Patriot” Act invoked to provide for security, and “terrorism” became the ultimate enemy of the American people, to which our indomitable military and diplomatic strength was dutifully and righteously dispensed towards ending.


The movie Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatization of the American manhunt for Osama Bin Laden. The movie begins two years after the September 11 attacks and follows Maya (Jessica Chastain), a CIA analyst, over the next eight years as she gathers intelligence on the al Qaeda network, ultimately culminating in Bin Laden’s execution.

The film reflects containment culture through its insight into the power of perceived threats. In a scene from the movie, a CIA analyst who works alongside Maya, discusses a high level courier in the al Qaeda network, who may or may not exist. When the courier’s existence is called into question, the analyst retorts “we don’t know what we don’t know.” This quote is a hallmark of the “war on terror” and echoes the actual remarks made from then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who, when questioned about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, said “unknown unknowns – things that we don’t know that we don’t know” are the most threatening to America; in other words, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. The US didn’t know with certainty if there were WMDs in Iraq, but that didn’t mean that there weren’t.

This notion of unknown unknowns directly reflects the epistemological characteristics of Containment culture circa 1950-60s, when McCarthyism and perceived (and often irrational) threats of communism captivated the country. While terrorism doesn’t pose (to use Biden’s words) an “existential threat” to national security, it’s the perceived threat of terrorism that creates the sense of anxiety and fear of the “unknown unknown” on the same scale that ICMBs and nuclear weapons did in the 1950s.