Trump Gives Weird History Lesson on Afghanistan and Russia

It is sincerely disturbing that the POTUS has this level of understanding of history and foreign policy.

This is just, well, weird and more than a bit disturbing (but, sadly, not surprising), via WaPo:  Trump’s bizarre history lesson on the Soviet Union, Russia and Afghanistan

It really has to be watched to be appreciated.

His understanding of Soviet motivations towards Afghanistan (the invasion wasn’t about terrorism) as well as the effects of that invasion on the USSR are simplistic, and not even really correct.  If I was asking on exam for some of the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union, and a student stated it was because of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan I might give a few pity points, but the notion that Afghanistan “bankrupted” the Soviet Union, and that is why it is now Russia is just ridiculous.

And what kind of logic states that a) the invasion of Afghanistan was the cause of the collapse of the USSR but, b) it was the right thing to do?

Also, it is unclear why he thinks India ought to be fighting in Afghanistan (or, really, why he would want to encourage Pakistan to invade).

This is not the level understanding we need from a POTUS, and yet here we remain.

And, by the way, I am not opposed to a withdrawal from Afghanistan, but this is very much ranging into broken clocks getting the time right twice a day or blind squirrels finding nuts.


FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Mister Bluster says:

    …finding nuts.

    “grab ’em by the pussy” is all he knows.

    It’s the main reason that REPUBLICAN MAN supports him.

    Groping suspect says Trump said it was OK to grab women
    According to the criminal complaint released by the district court in Albuquerque, the accused told police “that the President of the United States says it’s ok to grab women by their private parts”.

  2. Mikey says:

    It’s an almost incomprehensible level of ignorance. It’s like that scene in A Fish Called Wanda where Wanda tells Otto “Aristotle was not Belgian and the central message of Buddhism is not ‘every man for himself.'”

    Holy shit…our President is basically Otto from A Fish Called Wanda.

  3. Jc says:

    And you would think members of his party would correct him, but they just zip their lips and sit on their hands like scared children. I would hope if the Democratic Party ever produces a President as ignorant as the current occupant of the White House, they would at least correct them when they are “on another planet” level wrong on something. I get party loyalty, but where is the red line? It was crossed like months ago

  4. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mister Bluster:..REPUBLICAN MAN

    I doubt that this was reported on Fox and Friends.
    But if it was Trump already has this guy on the short list to replace Pence on the ticket in 2020.

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    After Trump pardons this Citizen he will make her Secretary of Education.

  6. Hal_10000 says:

    Groping suspect says Trump said it was OK to grab women

    I call garbage. Not on the story but on his excuse. This sounds like someone trying to find a way to excuse rotten behavior. It was like the people who would say that oral sex wasn’t “really” sex back in the 90s because of Clinton. It was BS then; BS now.

  7. Franklin says:

    For some reason when I played the video, it was another video from the same conference where he talks about getting $700 billion for Mattis and then $718 billion for Mattis and then Mattis didn’t do too well with it. I know these numbers because Trump repeats them for no apparent reason, probably because they’re the only two things he can remember. And then I went back and found the first video. They’re exhausting to watch. He’s not even a good bullsh–ter. I optimistically believe that everybody has some redeeming quality but I’ll be damned if I can find one here.

  8. Paine says:

    What can you expect when you’re on top? You know? It’s like Napoleon. When he was the king, you know, people were just constantly trying to conquer him, you know, in the Roman Empire. So, it’s history repeating itself all over again. – Dirk Diggler

  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    I don’t think it bankrupted the USSR, but the large number of casualties among the largely conscripted soldiers followed by the humiliation of having to withdraw certainly didn’t help popular support for the Soviet Government.

    It also encouraged independence movements in the Baltic republics, the central asian republics, and western republics by suggesting the soviet military was no longer capable of crushing a 1956 Hungarian Uprising type situation.

  10. mike shupp says:

    Well, have a little charity here. I’m just about the same age as The Donald, and I recall awfully well the beginnings of my college career, making new friends and joining their activities. In particular I’ve always cherished my introduction to the splendid game of Diplomacy and the secret strategy carefully imparted to each neophyte: FORTIFY AFHGHANISTAN AND NEVER LET GO.

    Clearly The Donald was taught much of the same wisdom.

  11. Kylopod says:

    @Mikey: And we have yet another example to add to the long list of buffoonish fictional characters Trump has been compared with!

    By the way, here’s John Cleese explaining what gave him the spark of the idea for the Otto character:

    It was a magazine called Los Angeles magazine and I saw a two-page spread that was an advertisement for a weekend retreat of a Buddhist nature. And somebody was going to be teaching it. His name was Zen Master Rama or something. And there was this rather callous-looking youth with uncertain eyes and a strange sort of haircut that looked like a full dandelion, you know, very fluffy. And I thought he was singularly unimpressive. And then I saw the banner headline across, and it said Buddhism gives you the competitive edge. And I thought this is wonderful, so I wrote Kevin as a man who had read everything and understood nothing, but was very proud of his intellect because he was not smart enough to realize how stupid he was.

    The only thing un-Trumpian there is that at least Otto could read. Trump isn’t even at ape level.

  12. dennis says:


    I would hope if the Democratic Party ever produces a President as ignorant as the current occupant of the White House …

    C’mon, now …

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mike shupp: My experience playing Diplomacy was not as nice as yours. I was in a high school club where the leader of the club was the only one who knew the rules and he would only reveal rules as they benefited him. The club lasted about 3 weeks.

    He also cheated at cards.

  14. mike shupp says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I don’t know what the couinterpart The Donald met at Wharton, but MIT had a Strategic Games Society where the intrepid could go off once a week and slug it out just about anyone interested in Diplomacy, or 1914, or Stalingrad. I won’t blame it entirely for flunking me out once but I’m sure it totally ruined my character. And there’s a web page for it yet, so it looks like SGS has stuck it out for better’n half a century. Ain’t it grand!

  15. Mikey says:


    And we have yet another example to add to the long list of buffoonish fictional characters Trump has been compared with!

    He’s an archetype of idiocy.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It really has to be watched to be appreciated.

    I don’t hate myself any where near enough to inflict that upon my psyche.

  17. CSK says:

    It appears that the Trumpkins haven’t yet figured out a way to rationalize this statement as part of Trump’s 64-dimensional chess strategy, so they’re ignoring it.

  18. @Franklin: I have fixed the video–although the Mattis one was kind of nuts as well.

  19. KM says:

    @CSK :

    It appears that the Trumpkins haven’t yet figured out a way to rationalize this statement as part of Trump’s 64-dimensional chess strategy, so they’re ignoring it.

    They think it’s true so they don’t realize they have to rationalize it away. Trump’s assertion that Afghanistan bankrupted the USSR is not unique as it’s practically “common knowledge” for many Trump’s age. They “know” Afghanistan is a money pit, they “know” the USSR’s fall had economic factors (because communism!!) and they “know” the Soviets were in Afghanistan for like, a really long time and got their commie asses handed to them over and over. So therefore, Soviet insolvency (as demonstrated by the nation breaking up like a large company dissolving) must be the result of all that wasted money fighting the Taliban’s grandpas because those pinkos picked the wrong economic system to worship and were thus poor. QED, libruls!!!

    I’m not kidding, I’ve heard it explained in a similar way by a Boomer who chided me for being a dumb Millennial and “not understanding history”. They took several global and economic issues, smashed them all together and used their own political philosophy to come up with a rationale that is frankly childish. It sadden me to find out this was not limited to that one Boomer but is a fairly wide-spread interpretation of what happened.

    As for the India thing…. the best I can surmise is Trump is vaguely aware India and Afghanistan are geographically near each other (read: on the same continent) and thus thinks they should have to deal with their “neighbors”. I’d be willing to bet if you put a globe in front of him and spot him where India is, he’d point north China-ways and say they share a border or something so why’s India not dealing with this??

  20. Kathy says:

    What’s amazing is that this is history he witnessed while he was an adult. Granted he might not remember every detail, but he should recall the overall picture.

    This is history many of us here witnessed as adults. We’d be hard pressed to make something up that incorporates real elements and gets everything else wrong.

    On the other hand, a few years back this guy at work claimed the US went into Afghanistan at the request of that country’s government. In the early 80s, I knew people who believed the UK took back the Falklands, and that america supported it, because by 2000 Antarctica would be partitioned among the countries nearest the Antarctic Circle; therefore the UK needed the Falklands to gain a share of Antarctica.

    So terrorism was definitely a thing in the 80s. Remember Pan Am 103, the Marine barracks in Beirut, the Achille Lauro, hijackings all over the place, a few bombings, hostages in Lebanon, and many of these turned into movies of the week on network TV.

    But it was all centered in the Middle East, with the perpetrators being mainly the PLO and Muammar Gaddafi. Remember Reagan ordered air strikes on Tripoli? Afghanistan did not become a base for Al Qaeda until much later. Al Qaeda didn’t even become anything before the 91 Gulf War. And at first it attempted to operate out of Sudan, not Afghanistan (Clinton ordered airstrikes there).

    In addition, the USSR (which was an incarnation of the Russian empire, not Russia itself) wasn’t often the target of terrorists. When it began to have terrorist attacks, these came mostly from separatists in other Soviet Socialist Republics. A trend that continued among conflicts after the breakup, with the attacks directed at Russia (remember hundreds of hostages held in a theater int he early 2000s?).

    Sri Lanka and India had worse terrorism problems than the USSR. It’s often overlooked that suicide bombings were invented by the Tamil Tigers in the Sri Lanka civil war, and their suicide bomber act spread to India (India got involved in the civil war in Sri Lanka), claiming the life of Rajiv Gandhi.

    This is all a portion of the events we saw through the news media in the 80s and 90s. And little of it involved Afghanistan.

  21. grumpy realist says:

    IIRC, the US was trying to keep the USSR occupied in Afghanistan (with the hope of turning it into a money pit for them) so started arming and funding some of the “freedom fighters” including Mr. Bin Laden who later on had such an effect on the skyline of NYC.

    So, if you squint at it through a glass darkly, you sort of see how Mr. Bone Spurs got his idea.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    There are important lessons to be learned from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They believed they would quickly overwhelm the opposition. They believed they could stand up a sympathetic government in short order and use it as a base of expansionist operations. They believed they would not suffer significant sanctions from the West. They believed it would show their military as so mighty resistance was futile. All of these proved disastrously wrong in ways we should have, but did not, learn from.

    But this “history lesson” from Trump demonstrates the futility of trying to list his “accomplishments”. Even if he were to do something you agree with it’s only by random chance, not because of insight or strategy. Trump is like a baboon in a zoo cage fling his feces out at the crowd. And the Trumpers are like moronic spectators who think, “We’ll, so far nearly everyone he’s hit is someone I don’t like. At last! Someone is fighting for me!”

  23. CSK says:


    Quite so–but you’d think the fact that Trump is being widely mocked for the statement would cause the Trumpkins to rise in furious defense of it.

  24. Jen says:

    @Mikey: I’ve been making that comparison for two years!

  25. Jen says:

    @grumpy realist: We did indeed. Maybe since Trump doesn’t read someone should show him “Charlie Wilson’s War“?

  26. CSK says:


    The fact that Trump doesn’t/can’t read has always made me wonder who wrote his papers and did his assignments at Wharton.

  27. Joe says:


    And we should all go back and watch The Man Who Would Be King, a really good movie based on Rudyard Kipling’s novel and proving that Afghanistan has always been this way.

  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    I thought the same. Somewhere out there is a guy who cheated for Trump.

  29. Teve says:

    Daniel Dale
    Daniel Dale
    Indian officials tell multiple outlets they are confused by Trump claiming Modi constantly seeks praise for India building “a library” in Afghanistan, since India has funded lots of major projects there but no major library.

    Trump may actually be in dementia.

  30. Stormy Dragon says:

    It’s been pointed out that Trump Afghanistan ramble is apparently the current Russian state propaganda version of the Soviet-Afghanistan war, so this is really just a case of Trump repeating what his boss told him to say.

  31. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:


    And maybe he just doodled something with crayons and clipped a few hundreds to the paper.

  32. CSK says:


    Now that I think about it, it’s also possible that, in addition, Daddy Trump went to the friend who pulled strings to get Trump into Wharton, asked him to lean on the dean, and the dean pressured the faculty to give Trump decent grades. I’ve seen that happen.

  33. Kathy says:


    Do you think this happened before or after Dennison stiffed the teachers who gave him decent grades? I assume it was after.

  34. Jen says:

    @Joe: My husband and I actually did watch that film just a few months ago. The history behind getting it made is fascinating, from who Huston originally wanted for the lead roles (Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart) to the casting of Michael Caine’s wife.

  35. JohnMcC says:

    David Frum has a piece up in The Atlantic that makes the point that Pres Trump’s explanation for the Russo-Afghan War is an exact parroting of Russian propaganda.

    No collusion!

  36. MarkedMan says:

    When the Soviet Union was still a thing, their official history books showed that Soviets had “invented” every major device or “discovered” every major scientific breakthrough since the Revolution. Did Watkins and Crick and Franklin discover DNA? Of course not, it was Sergei Rostapovich. Who invented the transistor? Dmitri Lenin. It was so ludicrous it actually a comedy trope on American television.

    Now, Trump is a moron so it is not surprising that he gets history all jumbled up. But how is it that he gets history wrong in precisely the way Putin’s propaganda machine has been selling their Afghanistan war?

  37. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnMcC: Just watched Rachel on the computer from her 9pm show last night (old guys go to sleep too early to catch her live). She documents several other Kremlin lies that have our Pres has passed on to our foreign policy dialogue: Poland is planning to invade Belarus; Montenegro is a threat to world peace (as they considered joining NATO).


  38. Kathy says:


    Well, now we know what Putin told Dennison during their secret meeting in Helsinki.