“The Soviets are not so much in danger from the West, but from the soft underbelly of its southern boarders.” I’m paraphrasing something that Professor Theofanis Stavrou said roughly 30 years ago when I was a student in his 18th, 19th Century Russian history and 20th Century Soviet history classes. He was suggesting something incomprehensible to me at that time – namely that the economic, ideological and military might of the United States was less of a threat to the Soviets than the effect of the largely Islamic countries chained across its southern boarder. Dr. Stavrou, by the way, was the most brilliant mind and most electric lecturer of my entire college career.
At the time Stavrou was enlightening me, a Congressman from Lufkin, TX, was leading the largest and most successful covert operation in U.S. history – along part of that southern border, namely Afghanistan. That Congressman was Charlie Wilson, the 12 term Texas Democrat, whom the Dallas Morning News described as a “colorful, consequential Texan.” If the name rings a bell, it’s probably because you’ve at least heard of the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and the fantastic Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Charlie Wilson died Wednesday at the age of 76.
Preceding him in death, in 2006 was George Crile. Crile was a 25 year veteran of CBS News and 60 Minutes as a producer and correspondent. Crile wrote the book Charlie Wilson’s War in 2003. If you tossed Playboy Magazine, Tom Clancy and a history of Afghanistan into a blender – you’d get Charlie Wilson’s War – political intrigue, playboy lifestyle, arms dealers, Soviet villains, inside the Beltway backstabbing – it has it all. Once you pick it up, it will be hard to put down. And the movie just doesn’t do it justice.
RIP Charlie Wilson.