Explaining the new violence in Syria, Mr. Rosen concludes, in this, the second of a series of stories from Syria:
Opposition members feel they have been pushed to violence by a brutal regime that shows itself incapable of or unwilling to fulfill its promises of reform. However, this level of opposition violence cannot overthrow the regime. It does allow the regime to justify its narrative of fighting armed groups. In addition, it allows foreign backers of the regime, such as Russia, to justify their intransigent support for it.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Steele has recently written a book of his own reporting experiences from the early days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and he helpfully destroys a few myths we may have about wars in Afghanistan. In an excerpt of his book, reprinted today, he describes an explosion that may have been a suicide bomb, as early as 1981.
Perhaps the biggest myth of the Afghan war is that the Afghan mujahideen had defeated the Soviet Army and forced them to retreat, Mr. Steele writes.
The reality is the Afghan mujahideen did not defeat the Soviets on the battlefield. They won some important encounters, notably in the Panjshir valley, but lost others. In sum, neither side defeated the other. The Soviets could have remained in Afghanistan for several more years but they decided to leave when Gorbachev calculated that the war had become a stalemate and was no longer worth the high price in men, money and international prestige.