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Both of us remember from our schooldays in Russia how the teacher's proud pointer would roam here and there across the political map as we learned by rote that the Soviet Union covered one-sixth of the earth's surface and that its territory was vast enough to accommodate 2.3 Americas, 40 Frances, or 92 Great Britains. That by itself was supposed to inspire us with patriotic fervor. It was not official propaganda but nationalist feeling.
It is human nature to wish bad luck on one's enemy, and that seems to be the basis for the current suggestion that Afghanistan will become for Russia what Vietnam was for America. But a year after Russia's invasion it is time to realize that this has not happened— and will not happen It is not merely because, as Richard Pipes has pointed out, the Soviet Union has experience in putting down Moslem uprisings in Central Asia, and the Afghan rebels have received nothing like the massive aid that North Vietnam got from the USSR and China. Those are important reasons, but they are not the main ones. Even if the Soviet Union lacked such experience and even if Zbigniew Brzezinski's military mission to Pakistan had been successful and America had managed thereby to deliver to Afghanistan as many weapons as the Viet Cong received, the Soviet Union would not disengage Let us go even further and assume that the war will last for more than a decade and cost the Russians 55,000 lives (the sort of “body-count” familiar in the Vietnam war). Still the Soviet Union would not withdraw For the USSR, 55,000 lives are not what they are for America.
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