New: Book Report: The Great Gamble

It's a book about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, telling it from the Soviet point of view, based on interviews with Soviet soldiers. It's like a horror movie where you want to yell at the characters, "No! Don't go in there! Haven't you studied the genre?" But this is one of those stories that defined its genre.

The Soviet Army went in without a goal. It's not clear that they ever really declared war against Afghanistan. Just started moving troops in, took some territory over. They thought they'd be welcomed as folks replacing corrupt leaders with good government, but it didn't work out that way.

Suppliers were supposed to supply the Soviet troops. But suppliers were corrupt and those supplies went elsewhere. Starving, the Soviet troops stole from the locals. Theft did not convince the locals that this was a liberating army... more like a looting horde.

The war dragged on. At first, the Soviet tactics failed them when they went up out of the valleys, into the mountains. They had tanks, good for flat land. Eventually, as the war dragged on, the Soviets got better at dealing with the mountains. But it still wasn't clear why they were there, what they were trying to accomplish, when it would be time for them to go home. The local army wasn't eager to fight the mountain rebels.

Other countries gleefully sent weapons into the area. The USA Stinger anti-aircraft weapons took out many helicopters.

There was death, there was betrayal. There were good things, too.

Eventually, the Soviets pulled out. The war veterans were treated like heroes... for a little while, until the USSR fell apart. Plenty of them were pretty messed up physically, mentally.

It's a sad story.

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Posted 2009-11-30