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Is Obama taking cues from Reagan in Afghanistan?

AFP/AFP/Getty Images In recent interviews and speeches, Barack Obama has been painting himself a pragmatic realist on foreign policy. As we noted yesterday, such an approach seems somewhat curious for a candidate running on the theme of change. With that in mind, I found a line from Eli Lake’s recent essay in The New Republic ...

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AFP/AFP/Getty Images

In recent interviews and speeches, Barack Obama has been painting himself a pragmatic realist on foreign policy. As we noted yesterday, such an approach seems somewhat curious for a candidate running on the theme of change.

With that in mind, I found a line from Eli Lake’s recent essay in The New Republic on Obama’s foreign policy particularly galling. Lake quotes Susan Rice, an Obama advisor likely on the short list for a high-profile position in his administration:

She described Obama’s opinion of America’s historic involvement with insurgency and counterinsurgency. She applauded the 1980s arming of the mujahedin resistance to the Soviets: “[S]upport for the Afghan resistance to Soviet aggression was the right decision in the 1980s.”

While that policy may have shaken up the Soviets when they withdrew in the late 1980s, let’s not forget that the United States is paying the price in Afghanistan now. As violence grows in Afghanistan, two familiar faces, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, are showing up on the other side, U.S. News reports:

Ironically, these two warlords—currently at the top of America’s list of most wanted men in Afghanistan—were once among America’s most valued allies. In the 1980s, the CIA funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons and ammunition to help them battle the Soviet Army during its occupation of Afghanistan. Hekmatyar, then widely considered by Washington to be a reliable anti-Soviet rebel, was even flown to the United States by the CIA in 1985.

As Obama continues to iron out his foreign policy, which has targeted Afghanistan as “a war we have to win,” he should be loth to forget how we got there to begin with. Or has he been too busy on the campaign trail to watch “Charlie Wilson’s War?”

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

In recent interviews and speeches, Barack Obama has been painting himself a pragmatic realist on foreign policy. As we noted yesterday, such an approach seems somewhat curious for a candidate running on the theme of change.

With that in mind, I found a line from Eli Lake’s recent essay in The New Republic on Obama’s foreign policy particularly galling. Lake quotes Susan Rice, an Obama advisor likely on the short list for a high-profile position in his administration:

She described Obama’s opinion of America’s historic involvement with insurgency and counterinsurgency. She applauded the 1980s arming of the mujahedin resistance to the Soviets: “[S]upport for the Afghan resistance to Soviet aggression was the right decision in the 1980s.”

While that policy may have shaken up the Soviets when they withdrew in the late 1980s, let’s not forget that the United States is paying the price in Afghanistan now. As violence grows in Afghanistan, two familiar faces, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani, are showing up on the other side, U.S. News reports:

Ironically, these two warlords—currently at the top of America’s list of most wanted men in Afghanistan—were once among America’s most valued allies. In the 1980s, the CIA funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons and ammunition to help them battle the Soviet Army during its occupation of Afghanistan. Hekmatyar, then widely considered by Washington to be a reliable anti-Soviet rebel, was even flown to the United States by the CIA in 1985.

As Obama continues to iron out his foreign policy, which has targeted Afghanistan as “a war we have to win,” he should be loth to forget how we got there to begin with. Or has he been too busy on the campaign trail to watch “Charlie Wilson’s War?”

Patrick Fitzgerald is a researcher at Foreign Policy.