The Kite Runner- Using Literature as a source for recent times

The post will look at the historical significance in Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 bestselling novel, The Kite Runner. The novel is a coming of age story focusing on Amir born into a Pashtun family in Afghanistan. Recently, as of Monday 10th July I went to watch the stage adaptation of it with another blogger- lauraljpotter. This got me thinking as there is plenty to right about. Particularly, life in Afghanistan during the 1970s, during the Soviet occupation and the Taliban occupation. I also touch upon Afghans who immigrated to the United States of America during the late 1970s and 1980s, mainly commenting on the accounts in the novel. For starters, I will explain the basic premise of the story and provide a general historical account of the country. Minor spoilers of the plot will be announced to emphasise the historical value of this time period.

The story starts in the mid-seventies focusing on Amir’s friendship with Hassan, who is the son of the family servant and the strained relationship Amir has with his father Baba. The themes Hosseini highlights are the following; friendship, identity, love and redemption, spanning across time from Afghanistan in the mid-seventies towards California in 2001. The modern state of Afghanistan was founded in 1747 by Ahmad Shah Duran but long before this happened the area was conquered numerous times. The earliest account we know was in 330BC, when Alexander the Great conquered it. In the 700s AD, Arab armies invaded the area and the inhabitants of the area converted to Islam. Later in 1218, Genghis Khan’s army penetrated the area. This is interesting to note as it explains the ethnic mix of people that live in Afghanistan and this is still visible today, this will be explained in more thorough detail further on. Conflict did not end there as in the mid-1800s Britain and Russia clashed in order to gain control of Central Asia. There was a power vacuum in Central Asia due to the declining Ottoman Empire, Qajar dynasty and Qing dynasty in the region. This was called “The Great Game” as Britain and Russia vied to occupy these territories. Eventually “The Great Game” led to the First Anglo-Afghan War. By the end of the 1800s, Afghanistan was unwilling to allow British presence in the region and refused a mission to be set up in Kabul. This resulted in the Second Afghan War. At the time Britain acquired an empire that stretched all around the globe, it was coined as “the empire, where the sun never sets”. Before the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, Pakistan was still a part of India and in 1893, the British established an unofficial border to separate Afghanistan and British India. A third war ensued between the Afghans and the British. In 1919 the Third-Anglo War concluded. To summarise, what this short piece does is provide a background account to the complex history of Afghanistan up until when the story starts.

Now we will focus on the country of Afghanistan in the sixties until the seventies. It was a different place to what it became in the early noughties. It was a relatively safe and stable country since 1933 when Zahir Shah quelled unrest by becoming king. Before Zahir Shah, since after the Anglo-Afghan Wars there was always a power struggle in order to establish a long lasting dynasty in Afghanistan. In the twentieth century Emir Amanullah tried to rule and incorporate western influences in Afghanistan, but civil unrest in the country ousted him out. However, from what the background account tells us, this proved to happen throughout the course of history. In particular for those who had money and prominence, life in Afghanistan was very good, full of lavish hill top homes and festivities. Life was full of excitement and opportunities were abundant. This was looked at in Hosseini’s novel. Notably, Baba and Amir’s comfortable home, Amir’s schooling, Amir’s birthday celebrations and the Kite flying competition. This reveals that Amir had a stable and comfortable home life. Expanding on this western travellers often ventured through Afghanistan as a pit stop before moving on to India. This particular route was known as the “hippie trail”.

However, that air of stability soon collapsed when in 1973 King Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin. Two ideologies developed during this time in wanting to prevent gradual western ideals that occurred in the royal Afghan court. One ideology supported communism and the Soviets. This group was called the People’s Democratic of Afghanistan. Another ideology advocated for a return of religious values in society. It was the PDPA that ended up being more successful first in 1978, within a year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, plunging Afghanistan into the Cold War as a potential satellite state. They did this to strength the communist ideology of the PDPA in Afghanistan as well as extending their on sphere of influence in Central Asia. However, war ensured as not everyone was happy with the Soviet invasion, in “The Kite Runner”, Babi, Amir’s father did not want the Soviets to take control of Afghanistan. Using Babi as an example, many affluent families in Afghanistan and those who held close ties to royalty were suspected to be reactionaries and many of them like Babi and Amir had to flee to neighbouring Pakistan and as a result became refugees and wait admitted asylum. It was from there that many families moved on to the United States of America, like what Babi and Amir did. Babi and Amir like many Afghans settled in Fremont, California. A majority of Afghans who fled Afghanistan settled in the San Francisco Bay area of California like Fresno, Los Angeles, Virginia and other major areas like Illinois, Florida and Washington. Many Afghan migrants worked in unskilled professions or in the public sector. Some Afghan professions mentioned in “The Kite Runner” were traders, teachers, policeman and gas station attendants. Life was not always easy for any particular new arrivals to the USA but what Hosseini does draw attention to is the fact that it was perhaps easier for some to assimilate into the new American culture, whereas for others it was more difficult. This was looked at in the form of father and son, Babi and Amir. Babi struggled seeing as he had established himself in Afghanistan it was bound to be difficult to pack up and start again, particularly as he was living in a comfortable hill top home in Afghanistan. In Fremont he was living in an apartment block. For Amir, you could argue that it helped him pursue his dreams of becoming a writer as he improved his English, went to college to major in Creative Writing and found love and married Soraya. In essence embracing his new opportunities and attempting to pursue the “American Dream”.

The Soviets tried their best to capture all of Afghanistan, but this did not happen, they found it difficult to penetrate the countryside and this remained relatively untouched. The Soviets eventually realised that they couldn’t continue funding a conquest they knew they could never win. The geography of Afghanistan is testing as it is a heavily mountainous land-locked country. Again, more civil unrest ensued and much of the country was being taken over by mujahedin groups. The capital, Kabul managed to quell this for three years as Najibullah, an ally from Moscow was able to control the area. Eventually, Kabul fell and Najibullah lost control. Even still these rival mujahedin only managed to control the city until 1996, when they were ousted by much younger jihadis. They were known as the Taliban and controlled everyday life in Afghan society from there on in, including the vibrant capital Kabul. Kabul changed drastically under this leadership. Kabul was once a place where men and women could sit in university together and women weren’t told what to wear. This all changed when the Taliban took control and implemented a strict regime on Afghanistan.

In more recent time, in the noughties Afghanistan garnished much negative connotations and further turmoil. Most notably, the War on Terror, Afghanistan was used as a testing ground by British and American forces. After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre all attention went on combating Al Qaeda, the Terrorist group responsible for the heinous act and capturing their ringleader, Osama Bin Laden. The Taliban were told in “The Kite Runner” in the form of one character the antagonist, Assef who frequently tormented Amir and Hassan. He constantly made fun out of Hassan’s ethnicity of being a Hazara. Some people like Assef did not like the Hazara people as they held a belief that they were not true Afghans and how they polluted the country. This was ironic in the story as Assef himself had a Pashtun father and a German mother. Many Hazara people as a result faced widespread discrimination in everyday life. This is something that many Hazara people face even today. Harking back to what I mentioned earlier, there were two different ethnic groups mentioned in the story, one were the Pashtuns and the other group was the Hazaras. The Hazaras were said to be descended from inner Asia and more specifically around Mongolia. This makes sense considering how many times different armies came to conquer and/or settle in Afghanistan. However, this theory is not entirely confirmed and we do not know for sure where they actually descended from.

Afghanistan faced much hardship over the years and history seemingly starting to repeat itself in the form of occupation, then reoccupation, then occupation, then reoccupation an endless cycle it seems over the centuries and something that still lays bare in Afghanistan today; whether that be when Alexander the Great first captured the land or as early in 2009 when Obama increased the number of American troops to arrive in Afghanistan.

When Politics Come to Sport: A History of Protest and Boycott at the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Politics and professional sport have forever been intertwined. Recently this has become more apparent with a number of news stories demonstrating this relationship. The American footballer Colin Kaepernick has made headlines and received a great deal of harassment for kneeling during the American national anthem at matches in protest of police violence against African Americans. There has been a great deal of political fallout over the choice to ban Russian para-athletes in the Paralympic Games, leading to the hacking of WADA. There was also the recent death of Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, famous for her protests against the Soviet Union during her career. My fellow W.U History contributor Matt wrote about Mandela’s use of the 1995 Rugby World Cup back in 2014, so I have decided to focus on the use of political protests in the modern  Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Despite the repeated attempts (and harsh punishments against those do) of theIOC and IPC, the Olympics and Paralympics have rarely been politically free.

Irish athletes protested their inclusion in the Great Britain team. In 1906, the Irish high jumper Peter O’Connor had the British flag raised for his silver medal position; he scaled the pole with an Irish flag and waved that instead while his teammate Con Leahy remained at the foot of the pole to guard him. This led in 1908 to the team name being changed to Great Britain/Ireland and even allowing in several events Ireland to compete separately despite Irish independence not being achieved until 1911.

The 1956 Olympics faced a number of boycotts from countries due to a range of political tensions. The Suez crisis led to Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq boycotting. The Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland also boycotted in protest of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Finally China decided to boycott upon Taiwan being allowed to compete. Supporters of countries such as Australia vocally supported the Hungarian athletes in protest of the Soviet invasion. For the most part tensions never reached a boiling point except during the water polo, which became known as the Blood in the Water match. The match was between the Hungarians and the USSR, with the match turning violent very quickly. The match earned the name after the Hungarian Ervin Zádor was punched by one of the Russian team leading to him bleeding from his forehead. The spectators of the match were mostly Hungarian, Australian and American leading to an almost riot, only avoided by the police moving the crowd out. The Hungarians won the match and eventually the gold medal.

South Africa’s participation in the Olympic and Paralympic Games caused a huge deal of controversy between 1960 and 1992. Not only did many of the African nations protest against the policy of Apartheid itself, but South Africa’s attempts to send only white athletes caused controversy. Many Western countries however continued to try and include South Africa in the competitions; South Africa was only officially banned from the Olympics in 1970. They had been disinvited from the Olympics in 1964 and 1968, due to the protests from African countries.  However, until the Dutch hosted the Paralympics in 1980, the South Africans continued to participate in the Paralympics. They were only expelled by IPC in 1985. With the exception of the a few countries from the Eastern Bloc and Finland, white majority countries did not boycott but a number of countries with non-white majorities did. The 1976 Games also had a boycott because of the continued inclusion of New Zealand, after the protests of a number of African countries. New Zealand’s rugby team had toured South Africa despite the majority of countries boycotting Apartheid South Africa;  twenty nine countries in all, mostly countries from Africa and the Middle East. Upon the end of apartheid, South Africa was allowed to compete with a multi-racial team.

Perhaps the most famous of all Olympic protests was Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico Games. The American pair had placed first and third in the 200m respectively but drew outrage on the podium during the American national anthem. The pair both raised their fists, the well-known symbol of the Black Power movement, in protest of the treatment of Black Americans. Martin Luther King Jnr had been assassinated earlier in the year and despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act, unsurprisingly racial tensions were still high. The pair were booed as they left and were quickly punished by the IOC, leading to their expulsion from the games and Olympic Village. The implications of their protest continued to affect the pair after the 1968 Games. Both were subject to deaths threats and criticism in the US. Neither pair competed again in the Olympics, although both men continued in sport.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were not the only athletes to protest during the 1968 Olympic Games. Czech gymnast Věra Čáslavská had already upset Soviet authorities earlier in 1968 having signed the protest manifesto ‘The Two Thousand Words’ during the Prague Spring, a period of political liberalisation that threatened the Soviet Union’s control over Czechoslovakia. Upon the Soviet invasion in August 1968, Čáslavská was forced into hiding in the Moravian mountains. Having lost her training facilities she trained for the games outside in the forests of Moravia, using logs as beams and potato sacks as weights to defend her titles from the previous Games. She only received permission at the last minute to participate in the 1968 games. While Čáslavská managed to defend two of her medals and gained a further two medals, controversy arose when two judging decisions favoured Soviet gymnasts over her. As a protest Čáslavská bowed her head and turned away during the playing of the Soviet anthem. While she received no punishment from the IOC, Čáslavská was banned from sport events in Czechoslovakia and abroad. This forced her into early retirement. It was not until the threat of ceasing oil exports to Czechslovakia by Mexico was she allowed to leave the country in 1978. In 1985 under the pressure of the IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch she was finally allowed to return to the sport as a coach and judge. After the fall of communism Čáslavská held a number of positions within the IOC.

The 1980 Olympics in Moscow caused one of the largest boycotts in Olympic history. Due to the decision not to hold the Paralympics by the Soviet Union, instead it was hosted by the Netherlands with no boycott. Upon the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US gave the ultimatum for the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan or there would be a boycott of the games. Despite the efforts of the IOC, no compromise was made; in all, mostly because of the boycott (although a few were for other reasons) sixty six countries who were invited to be part of the games did not attend. These were mostly African and Asian countries. Several Western countries did not fully boycott, but did protest by refusing to attend the Opening Ceremony, or athletes competed under the Olympic flag rather than their own.

The following games in 1984 were held in Los Angeles, where this time the Soviet Union and a number of their allies boycotted. However this boycott was on a much smaller scale, only 14 countries. The boycott was called because of claims of security concerns and an anti-Soviet climate. The Paralympics were mostly boycotted again by Soviet countries; however East Germany, Poland and Hungary participated when they had boycotted the Olympics.

Since 1992, despite political concerns, there have been no large scale boycotts or major political gestures at either the Olympics or Paralympics. Despite concerns about the 2008 Beijing Games and possible boycotts being discussed, the Games were largely successful.

The reluctance to boycott more recently has no exact reasoning, but is probably down to several reasons. Primarily I believe this is mostly down to the large cost, in both money and time that athletes – and their supporters – must dedicate to helping their training. Athletes had previously been outspoken about missing their chances to compete due to political interference but were more likely to toe the line. Today they would be less likely to accept their countries’ decisions to boycott, they are less likely to risk their position at the Games by protesting at all. The end of the Cold War has also removed one of the biggest political obstacles, but while there are still tensions between Russia and the USA, the Olympics almost seem to now be seen as an opportunity to compete, in a non-violent way.

Did Cold War Doping Ever Stop?

As the 2016 Rio Olympics draw nearer, the focus of the games is no longer on the athletes taking part to do their country proud, but the poor facilities, the Zika virus and political turmoil within Brazil. But the main concern is Doping (the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs and Steroids).

Image from Wikipedia, official logo of the 2016 games

On the 9th November 2015, the WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) report, stated that Russia had maintained a national doping scheme. For many athletes, there can be nothing worse than realising you have been cheated out of a Gold medal at the Olympics, especially to a cheat. It is an issue that will most certainly shape Rio 2016, an Olympics where many called for Russia as a whole to be banned, but only a few will be.

Image of certain types of Steroids from Simple Biology

Sadly in the Olympics and even the world of Sport, doping is nothing new. As science improved, it didn’t just improve weaponry, but health care, and an improvement in drugs would bring new meaning to the term: making people better. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and East Germany were both frequent users of drugs to improve their athletes chances in competition, with over 10,000 athletes rumoured to have been tested on in East Germany alone.

Uploaded by Grownupcartoons on YouTube

It was well known in the Western World that these countries were cheating. In the Rocky IV film, released in 1985, it portrayed the Italian Stallion Rocky Balboa go toe to toe with the Soviet Union’s Ivan Drago. Even though it is a piece of fiction, it portrays the extreme lengths the USSR would go to, to improve their athletes and win: though in this case, the man who didn’t use drugs would win.

Image of East German athlete Heidi Krieger from the Daily Mirror

Though the nation would win more medals, the athletes would be put through torturous routines, with rumours of East German athletes kept in crates if they didn’t cooperate. Sure the athletes in the short term made athletes better, but their long term effects helped ruin their lives in some cases. The biggest stories are namely Heidi Krieger, and Renate Neufeld.

A bronze medal from the Stuttgart games, 1986, uploaded by the Sale Room

Krieger, now known as Andreas, was doped with steroids from the age of 16, which had significant effects on his body. Krieger had been a promising athlete, winning Gold in the 1986 European Championships. However in 1997, Krieger underwent sexual reassignment, a decision he puts down to the steroids taken in his past. These steroids would change the young girls bodies, and would help virilise them, and damage them psychologically and physically. Fellow athlete Neufeld, found that her voice grew gruff, her periods stopped and that she grew a moustache. It highlights the dangers of doping, something that still hasn’t stopped.

Image from the Telegraph, of the Headquarters of the World Anti-Doping Agency

With Russia’s doping program being unveiled by WADA, we have to ask ourselves, did the Cold War doping ever end? With athletes and sports stars being banned from competing, will this help stop the problem completely, or like it has in the past, will it just be swept under the rug till another day?

 

This is America: Projecting Prosperity in the Cold War

From the late 1940s through the 1950s and into the 1960s, how the United States portrayed itself to the world was seen as an important aspect of fighting the Cold War. The ‘Cultural’ Cold War was seen as just as important, because it was necessary to show the U.S. as not only strong economically and militarily, but also to make the U.S. likable. There was anti-Americanism in the world, and not just in the Middle East and Latin America. It was also found in Japan and Western Europe, who often saw the U.S. as hypocritical. Portraying the U.S. in a certain way was not just about combating communism but strengthening ties between allies. President Eisenhower, who was President between 1953-1961, thought Trade Fairs used to showcase American Culture were the cheapest way of fighting the Cold War. They were the cheapest way of protecting national defence and strengthening ties with allies. Psychological warfare grew as the Cold War started in earnest, and it also became an underlined threat in security reports, with the National Security Council underlining the importance of the cultural side of the Cold War to American security in their report on the United States Information Agency (USIA), a program set up by Eisenhower in 1953 to portray American prosperity abroad, and also run by the State Department.

this is america
Portraying the American Way: a house in the suburbs, a young family, prosperity all built on free enterprise and innovation was the tone of many propaganda pieces. Taken from: http://www.herinst.com

How did the US want to portray itself?

The U.S. wanted to portray its ideals in a way to remind people of why they were arming and spending so much on defence, to protect those ideals. It underlined ideals of social mobility, political freedom, cultural diversity and affluence while portraying the characteristics of American life as one rooted in democratic ideals and the ‘American way’ of productivity and innovation. Characteristics which were focused on often countered that of communist ideals, and focused on a similar sort of rhetoric. These characteristics included:

  1. Religion – Americans were religious, opposed to the ‘godless’ communism of the USSR
  2. Family – American families were nuclear and suburban, which was more socially and emotionally fulfilling and gave better chances to their children
  3. Property – Unlike Soviet people, Americans could own their own homes
  4. The U.S. was dedicated to peace and would not get involved for its own interest, unlike the Soviets who wanted to spread communism

Criticisms: What was it missing?

Tensions at home were often the criticism of Trade Fairs. The U.S. was criticised for its treatment of race. This was usually ignored from propaganda, and when it was mentioned it was to say it was something they were progressing on, or to underline it was a Southern problem not a U.S. one. Racial tensions got so bad in the U.S. that many African-Americans refused to be a part of their propaganda, such as Louis Armstrong. After the Little Rock Crisis in 1957, in which nine black students were prevented entry into Little Rock Central High School, he refused to be the face of black America and jazz in one of the U.S. tours.  Propaganda also ignored issues of poverty in the U.S. Although more affluent shown by its growing suburban life, 50 million people still lived below the poverty line.

A lot of the criticism of propaganda itself was the expense. It cost a lot of money to put together brochures and advertisements and send showcases on tour. Although there were criticisms of subversion of the State Department, these did not focus on subversion by the CIA but by communists, which fed on growing fears in the early fifties by McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Trade Fairs too did not necessarily fare well themselves, and in 1956 they proved no more popular than Soviet Fairs and did less well than the Chinese fairs. There were criticisms that there was no real sense of what American culture was. In Moscow in 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev claimed that the U.S. display felt like a Department Store instead of an exhibit of culture, showing off American Materialism. The message of capitalism was certainly getting through, but was democracy?

Moscow 1959

The Moscow 1959 exhibit is one of the most famous and important fairs in the U.S. cultural Cold War. Not only was it the first time the U.S. had the chance to reach Soviet people since the late 1940s, it was also part of a cultural exchange program between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In June 1959 the Soviet Union displayed their exhibit in New York, and the following month the U.S. exhibited theirs in Moscow. Walter Hixson underlines that this was a new way the Cold War was being fought, especially with Khrushchev’s visit to the U.S., and showed the changing relations between the two leading world powers.

the miracle kitchen
Nixon and Khrushchev look over America’s Miracle Kitchen. Innovative… or ‘simply gadgets’?

The Moscow exhibit portrayed all of American prosperity and advancement, of course continuing its trend with a section on the ‘People of Plenty’, illustrating how the American economic system benefited U.S. citizens through affluence and prosperity. It had also originally had a more self-critical section in which it discussed racial issues in the U.S. and how it could go forward. However, some Southerners reacted badly to this and it was pulled out. The rest of the displays focused on the theme of American prosperity, with ones on Disney, The Miracle Kitchen, and an IBM computer which could answer a series of questions, as well as a display of consumer goods, including Pepsi Cola, which even Khrushchev liked.

The most famous part of this exhibit is that of The Miracle Kitchen, for stimulating The Kitchen Debate between Vice President Nixon and Khrushchev. Although the debate centred around the kitchen and its modern gadgets, it was really one of differing ideologies and underlining the different principles of U.S. capitalism and Soviet communism. When Nixon said these were homes affordable for ordinary Americans, not just the rich, Khrushchev said all Soviet people have a home and don’t need to pay for one. When Khrushchev said the U.S. was a slave to technology, Nixon said it made home-life easier, opening up time for leisure. The New York Times criticised the debate for ignoring substantive issues and claimed it was more of a political stunt than anything, but it did increase Nixon’s popularity at the time and cement the Trade Fairs place in fighting the Cold War in public consciousness.

the kitchen debate
Nixon and Khrushchev discuss their differing positions, and their mutual dislike of Jazz at the 1959 Moscow Exhibit

The Leader of the Free World

Propaganda was used to portray U.S. strength and prestige and its position in the world. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Western Europe had relied on the U.S. for aid. Its image as the leader of the free world was an important one to hold up. It was not just about boosting the U.S.  image but that of capitalism’s. It is important to remember that not long before the 1950s had been the Great Depression, which for many was seen as the great failure of capitalism. Reinventing the system was also a part of this propaganda to describe the American economic system as ‘People’s Capitalism’. No longer just for the few, it proclaimed, but for the many. According to this, capitalism had gone through a peaceful and democratic revolution and was not like the capitalism of the 1920s and 1930s, which led to mass poverty, corruption and Depression. These were all major themes of U.S. propaganda in the Cold War.

 

The Role of Greenland in WW2 and The Cold War

Although Greenland has always been one of the more remote places of the world, its position leaves it with a potentially very significant role to play in any world-wide conflict. The Geographical location of Greenland is important for three reasons, the first being that it is part of the land that forms the ‘GIUK Gap’ which is an important naval choke point in the north Atlantic that is between the landmasses of Greenland, Iceland and the UK. Secondly Greenland is the perfect place for weather stations that are necessary for detecting conditions that may affect weather farther south and East. Finally radar stations are needed in Greenland in order to track aircraft due to it being on the shortest route between Europe and the United States.

Obviously the biggest examples that could include this region are World War Two and the Cold War. But before WW2 in 1934, the importance of the region was first discussed by the USA. In this year a mass flight of US bombers from Washington D.C to Alaska was undertaken in order to demonstrate the capabilities of the U.S. Army’s latest long-range bomber, the B-10, but it did something else: It demonstrated the importance of the Arctic to aviation. At this point the USA was most concerned about Japan and the potential for their attacks on Alaska as Anchorage, Alaska is almost exactly equidistant from Tokyo, New York City and London. That’s part of the reason it’s one of the world’s largest air cargo hubs today. Once WW2 was underway however, they soon saw a similar significance to Greenland as If you fly between the eastern United States and eastern Europe or Russia, or between the western United States and western Europe, you will need to pass over Greenland.

In April 1940, Nazi Germany occupied Denmark on its way to an invasion of Norway, and almost a year later, the United States signed the US-Danish Agreement on Greenland, which permitted the United States to establish military bases in Greenland. Despite its remoteness from densely populated areas, Greenland is considered part of North America and thus falls under the Monroe Doctrine, which states efforts by European nations to interfere with North American issues will be opposed by the full ability of the United States. In July 1940, the foreign ministers of the Americas declared that “any attempt on the part of a non-American state against the integrity or inviolability of the territory, the sovereignty, or the political independence of an American state should be considered an act of aggression.” This was aimed at Nazi Germany, which had by then occupied several European countries that had possessions in North America and the Caribbean. Nevertheless, the Germans were undeterred and  in the summer of 1940, German ships, apparently on scientific or commercial missions, landed people on the eastern shore of Greenland. German submarines secretly landed other parties. These were all attempts to establish weather stations on Greenland (similarly attempted in remote areas of Canada as well) in order to help forecast the weather for Germans submarines at sea and for continental Europe. In the autumn of 1940 and again in spring 1941, German long-range aircraft flew over Greenland. This led to the belief that the United States had the authority to act to establish bases in Greenland to provide for its defense. During the course of the war, thousands of American aircraft flew over Greenland on their way to Europe. American soldiers were stationed in the icy territory as a defense mechanism, and American civilians and soldiers manned weather stations to assist the war effort farther east.

Perhaps one of the least well-known campaigns of World War II was the hunt for these German weather stations. The United States began doing this in 1940 and the job fell mostly on the shoulders of the US Coast Guard who patrolled with ships and aircraft, looking for German weather ships, or supply boats attempting to reach weather stations the Germans had set up. They were also assisted at this point by native Greenlander trackers who assisted in spotting. On top of these efforts there was also the ‘Sledge Patrol’ which was a 15 man mixed force of Norwegians, Danes and Greenlanders supported by the US who spent much of the war patrolling the coast and hunting Germans as well. On dog sleds, 2 and 3 man patrols would head out for a few months and attempt to find German weather stations in a game of cat and mouse, with the Germans Generally the mice and having to pack up their station and flee if discovered. The Germans did strike back however, in an attack on the Sledge Patrol’s base camp, killing one member of the team, Eli Knudsen, the only loss they endured.

The last land based weather station of the Germans was knocked out in October of 1944. Spotted by the USS Eastwind during a patrol, a landing party of Coast Guard sailors (Who, as part of this role, underwent special training under the supervision of commandos), made a nighttime landing and caught the Germans by total surprise, and were able to capture most of their documents. No more German land based stations were attempted after that, although offshore trawlers were still utilized.

Even before the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949, some in the USA were looking ahead for what they saw as the next global conflict: The war between the United States and the Soviet Union. After WW2 the USA offered to purchase Greenland from Denmark for $100,000,000 but was rejected. For several years Denmark was under pressure from its citizens to get rid of the American military bases, while constantly in a back and forth with the USA who would not drop the issue. Events elsewhere in the world in 1948 and 1949 quickly overtook these events. The Berlin Blockade, Soviet pressure on Finland, the coup in Czechoslovakia, and the detonation of the Soviet atomic bomb in 1949 all pushed the Cold War into high gear. It became politically impossible for the Danes to evict the United States from Greenland altogether.

By 1950, the United States was putting nuclear capable bombers into its base at Thule in northwest Greenland. The following year in 1951, Denmark and the United States signed an agreement that overwrote the 1941 deal where Denmark would keep sovereignty over Greenland, but the United States would be allowed permanent military bases. In the years that followed, the American presence spread. From Thule and other air bases, the United States and Canada built radar stations as part of the Distant Early Warning Line designed to detect Soviet bombers. In 1960, the United States activated the world’s first Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radar in Thule. Greenland throughout the Cold War was used as a vital position from which to defend its North and Eastern borders from potential air, missile and submarine attacks.

The 1951 agreement lasted until 2004, when the United States and Denmark signed a new Greenland defense agreement.

Did the Brezhnev Doctrine Prolong the Cold War?

http://rusopedia.rt.com/images/publications/45/slide_issue_252.jpg
As part of our new challenges task set, here is my challenge, to do a blog post on Leonid Brezhnev as requested by fellow blogger Ali. Brezhnev was General Secretary of the Soviet Union 1964 till his death in 1982, and was the second longest-serving Secretary after Stalin. Other than his famous eyebrows, Brezhnev was well-known for introducing the Brezhnev doctrine into Soviet society in 1968 in reply to the Czechoslovakia uprising. What I am researching within this blog post will be to see how this act in fact prolonged the Cold War.

Firstly before explaining what the Doctrine itself included, I should explain the political climate at the time. The Soviet Union at the time was near to disarray, with some of the satellite states within it hoping to break away from the Soviet Union and liberalise themselves as an independent country. The time was 1968, the year of the Prague Spring, when Czechoslovakian Alexander Dubcek the reformist was First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. This was a big moment because in the April of that year, Dubcek put in place an action plan calling for a more independent state and a new model of socialism which would remove state control over industry and allowed freedom of speech.

It is also worth quickly mentioning that the relations between the Soviet Union and the USA had been steady, they would soon be entering a period of Détente in which both sides entered a period of strained relations. Since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 between Kennedy and Khrushchev, both sides had been relatively neutral towards each other, with no direct conflict of interests.

 Image of Alexander Dubcek.

Although Dubcek stayed loyal to Moscow, Brezhnev got worried over the changes he saw within the country, the fact that the villains who had been purged had since been pardoned, the fact that press censorship had been eased, and even things like some plays had come back to light and the dress sense of the Moscow people changed, with men growing their hair and woman wearing shorter skirts. To Brezhnev this was worrying, due to the fact that he felt that his reign was now under increasing threat of being over thrown. This in turn led to Brezhnev meeting with Dubcek in July 1968 to discuss re-imposing strict communist ideals, and to reign in his counter-revolutionary methods. However when Brezhnev noticed that nothing was changing after his chat and after Tito of Yugoslavia visited the country, he decided to act.

The meeting between Dubcek and Brezhnev.

After a meeting in Bratislava on 3rd August 1968, in which Brezhnev read out a letter from Czechoslovakian communists asking for help, he announced the Brezhnev Doctrine. This is a very important moment in the Cold War, because although there was no direct conflict between the East and the West due to it, it did send out a very clear and aggressive message. The Brezhnev Doctrine announced to the world that the USSR would not allow any Eastern European country to reject communism. Although you can argue that there had been the agreement between the big 3 near the end of the Second World War that the Soviets had their Eastern Sphere of influence to act as a buffer zone, it pretty much stated that for the long-term there was going to be conflict if anybody tried to step out of the Iron Curtain.

 Tank heading into Prague

To really enforce his point, Brezhnev used force. On 20th August 1968, with the help of 500,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 2,000 tanks, Brezhnev’s forces moved into Prague taking control of vital communication points such as the airport before making their presence known on the streets of the capital. With the soldiers expecting a warm welcome from the Czechs as Moscow had promised them, they were soon disheartened to find strengthened yet unarmed resistance. Eleven Soviet Soldiers and 72 civilians were killed, and the majority of the Czechoslovakian people did not fight, just stood in front of the tanks and put flowers in the soldiers hair.

Colour image from the Prague Spring

In the end Brezhnev put Gustav Husak, a supporter of the Soviets as the leader of the KSC. But in the long-term, this show of force really did help to prolong the Cold War. With the Romanian’s at the time having broken free from Soviet Control and improving relations with the West in this détente period, it made it look to other countries like they could too. The Czechoslovakians were angry that the Soviets were controlling and running down their economy, making the country suffer from poverty.

 Image showing just how outnumbered the Czechs were

The Doctrine not only enforced further communist rule over the country, meaning that 47 anti-communists were arrested and half the leadership of the KSC was arrested, but it sent shock waves right the way through the rest of the Iron Curtain. People in the West were horrified by the idea of the Doctrine, and countries within like Yugoslavia and Romania were worried what the future will hold for them. Therefore it is easy to see that in fact the Doctrine did prolong the Cold War, due to the fact that after giving out such a clear message to the people, it was easy to see that the countries within the Soviet Union were not going to get out.

Cartoon of Prague Spring http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/record-image/standard/13774

It’s not just in the East where I feel that the Doctrine was used, but also in their future actions, such as their war in Afghanistan 1979-1989 which was effected by this. The idea that no matter what, communist control was going to rule did prolong the Cold War, because it will without a doubt have been seen by America as an aggressive act. Although you can argue that the Eastern European countries were under state supervision already within the Soviet Sphere, it pointed to the fact that there was a possibility for future countries to not be able to escape. Therefore in conclusion to the question set at the beginning of this post, yes, the Brezhnev Doctrine did in fact prolong the Cold War due to the fact that at the time, the political climate in the East was that they had some hope of being able to make it out of the Communist rule. Yet as soon as this Doctrine was put in place, it completely shattered any hopes of this and meant that the countries would stay under the rule with little or no uprisings against it.

Another Cartoon of the Prague Spring

http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/record-image/standard/13786