Justifying jihad: US politics, propaganda and the Afghan mujahedeen

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Fitzgibbon, Jacqueline
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University College Cork
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Hard-line anti-communists in the United States recognised the potential for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to embroil their super-power rival in a ‘Vietnam-like quagmire.’ Their covert operation to arm the mujahedeen is well documented. This dissertation argues that propaganda and public diplomacy were powerful and essential instruments of this campaign. It examines the protagonists of this strategy, their policies, initiatives and programmes offering a comprehensive analysis heretofore absent. It stretches from the dying days of the Carter administration when Zbigniew Brzezinski saw the ‘opportunity’ presented by the invasion to the Soviet’s withdrawal in 1989. The aim of these information strategies was to damage Soviet credibility and enhance that of the US, considered under threat from growing ‘moral equivalence’ amongst international publics. The conflict could help the US regain strategic advantage in South Asia undermined by the ‘loss’ of Iran. The Reagan administration used it to justify the projection of US military might that it believed was eviscerated under Carter and emasculated by the lingering legacy of Vietnam. The research engages with source material from the Reagan Presidential Library, the United States Information Agency archives and the Library of Congress as well as a number of online archives. The material is multi-archival and multi-media including documentaries, booklets, press conferences, summit programmes and news-clips as well as national security policy documents and contemporaneous media commentary. It concludes that propaganda and public diplomacy were integral to the Reagan administration and other mujahedeen supporters’ determination to challenge the USSR. It finds that the conflict was used to justify military rearmament, further strategic aims and reassert US power. These Cold War machinations had a considerable impact on the course of the conflict and undermined efforts at resolution and reconciliation with profound implications for the future stability of Afghanistan and the world.
US foreign policy , Afghanistan , Reagan , Soviet invasion , 1980s , Carter , Cold War , Propaganda , Neo-conservative , Public diplomacy
Fitzgibbon, J. 2015. Justifying jihad: US politics, propaganda and the Afghan mujahedeen. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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