September 11 shall be a time to remember an event and the people who died during it. This is fitting and good, but there is something else that should be remembered during this time. The United States government indirectly allowed the September 11 attacks to occur through several actions. The main cause may be traced over thirty years, to another war in Afghanistan.

In 1979, the Soviet Union started a war in Afghanistan that would have more impact upon the future than most would think. The war encompassed more than ten years and over a hundred thousand dead soldiers. Just as in many other circumstances, the United States government did not appear to have greatly examined the ideology of those opposing the Soviet invasion (the mujahideen) before sending aid. The mujahideen, though universally opposed to the Soviets, were not a band of classical liberal freedom fighters, but a group of radical Islamists. Nor were these fighters entirely composed of native Afghans. Osama bin Laden, a Saudi, was the most notable foreign veteran of this war. Bin Laden’s motives for fighting in the war stemmed from Islamic radicalism—and not from a mere desire to push out the Soviets.

Soon, with the war intensifying, the Russians turned to securing the whole of Afghanistan. During this, the crux of many of their operations relied upon the use of helicopters. Logically, if the mujahideen could shoot down the Russian helicopters, then there could be a drastic turn in the war.

The especially generous American government was ready to supply the mujahideen with what was needed: MANPADS (Man-portable air-defense systems). With these weapons, the mujahideen gained the ability to shoot down Soviet helicopters, and thus turn the tide of the war.

After the end of the war, things in Afghanistan fell into a civil war, and had two more immediately following. Once the Soviets left, Afghanistan did not become a free paradise that proudly displayed the treasures of free markets and free people. Rather, Afghanistan became one of the most backward nations on earth—impoverished and existing mostly under the despotic domination of Islamic radicalism. After the war, these radical Islamists set their sights on new targets. With their original enemy gone, they had time and training to wage jihad upon the West.

In 1993, Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. The perpetrators had either been part of the mujahideen in Afghanistan or were affiliated with them. The funds for this attack came from Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Using a car bomb (detonated in a parking garage) the terrorists killed six and injured one-thousand-forty-two people. Then president Bill Clinton appears to have been more concerned in intruding upon troubles in Ireland, Haiti, former Yugoslavia, Somalia, and other exotic locations, rather than focusing on destroying an organization that would kill more Americans.

The facts are clear, without American support, the Soviets would have destroyed the mujahideen and conquered Afghanistan. And what was the aftermath of the mujahideen victory? The Soviets left, and Afghanistan went down a road of figurative insanity. And, did the mujahideen retire to tend their farms and goat herds, with the foreign-fighters either doing the same or going home? These insurgents by no means stepped out of their previous roles and into quiet lives of contemplation and reflection. This was because they realized that beating the Soviets was only a minute part of a greater plan to impose a new world order. With American help, they were able to gain training, equipment, and experience. This not only enabled them to continue their jihad, but to build the movement even more  through new members. The War in Afghanistan of the 1980s was only a means to an end for these Islamic radicals.

The war drags on in Afghanistan, and our military and government concerned with building Afghanistan up, rather than smashing the enemy; terrorists are crossing into the United States via the Southern border; Islamic terror groups are now prominently operating in Mali and Nigeria; and the Arab Spring has provided a foothold for Islamic radicalism in Libya and Egypt. Worldwide, Islamic terror has spread to Germany, the Balkans, Russia, France, Central Asia, and various regions in Asia and Africa.

Now the United States government stands in a similar position to that in the 1980s. The only difference is that there is more than one “Afghanistan” and no invasion. Just as in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, radical Islam is playing a crucial part in the opposition in the uprisings known as the Arab Spring. Taking it all at face value, the Arab Spring appears to be another example of courageous people rising against their authoritarian rulers. Nothing could be more erroneous. Are there some good segments in these movements, or, at least, some good people? Yes, but within the Arab Spring stands the Islamic radicals. They see a chance to grab power, and are trying to grab that possible power.

Then there is our position in the West. There are two courses of action to take. First, support the rebels. This would directly support Islamic radicals. Second, do nothing. This is not the lack of action chided by Edmund Burke, but the wise decision not to aid our enemies.

At the moment, the United States government, along with some European governments, has had a hand in supporting movements of the Arab Spring— whether in Libya or Egypt. Currently, the violence in Syria is attracting the most attention. The consequences of supporting the rebels should be obvious. The Arab Spring is much bigger than the mujahideen in Afghanistan.

I say in resignation, without a fitting adverb, that if our government and people continue to support the Arab Spring that the horrific and bloody memory of September 11 will only increase in size, destruction, and global scope.

Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac