The National Interest
By: Robert C. O'Brien and Michael Gallager
On Christmas Eve thirty-six years ago, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. This was the first direct use of Soviet troops outside the Eastern Bloc since World War II, "a watershed event of the Cold War."
The Carter administration was already reeling from a series of foreign policy failures. As historian John Lewis Gaddis wrote, the invasion was “only the most dramatic of a series of humiliations for the United States.” The Soviets had deployed nuclear missiles to Europe in 1977 and Soviet-backed Cuban troops had intervened in Angola in 1975 and Ethiopia and Zaire in 1977. The Iranian revolution and subsequent hostage crisis, the rise of the Soviet-backed Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia added to the general sense of crisis.