A Long Goodbye
The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Harvard University Press 2011
It’s been twenty years since the Soviet Union collapsed, and scholars still joust over its long- and short-term causes. Amid the myriad factors–stagnating economy, reform spun out of control, globalization, nationalism–the Soviet war in Afghanistan figures in many narratives. Indeed, the ten-year intervention was the one of hottest and bloodiest conflicts in the Cold War, and its traumatic legacies among a generation of Russian citizens continue to resonate.
Interestingly, Artemy Kalinovsky emphasizes in A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Harvard University Press, 2011) that the intervention was a “reluctant one,” which the Soviet leadership quickly recognized as a quagmire. Yet the Soviets postponed the inevitable out of a belief that they could stabilize country, help build an Afghan army, and create legitimacy for the government in Kabul. In the end it took Mikhail Gorbachev and his foreign policy of New Political Thinking to extricate a beleaguered Red Army, and save whatever face possible, despite its all-too-visible scars on the polity. Simultaneously historical and prescient, A Long Goodbye provides clarity to the logic of Soviet decision making in accepting Afghanistan as intractable and as its echoes amplify in our present day.