Charlie Wilson is dead, but were it not for Tom Hanks, most of us would not have known or cared. The 2007 movie Charlie Wilson's War brought to the public's attention the impact the former US congressman from Texas had on the world. Almost single-handedly, he assured the funding of the Afghan mujahideen that drove the Soviet Union out of the country. The repercussions of his actions are still felt today.
While Wilson's activism helped to hand the Soviet Union its greatest military defeat, it led to a civil war from which Afghanistan has never truly recovered. It also bolstered the military regime of Zia ul Haq in Pakistan, from which that country has never truly recovered. The abrupt US withdrawal after the Soviet Union's retreat - against Wilson's wishes - embittered the region against the Americans.
The US is preparing for its greatest offensive yet in a country where it is fighting its past almost as much as the Taliban. Wilson's legacy should remind the US that its impact in the world creates uncontrollable ripples, and a battlefield victory in Afghanistan is meaningless without a plan for long-lasting security in the region.