Victor Davis Hanson: A Tale of Two Surges





Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.

From 2007 to 2009, a surge of 20,000 troops under the generalship of David Petraeus saved a mostly lost war in Iraq. Petraeus’s counterinsurgency doctrine helped win over the population, as the surge in troops gave greater security to Iraq’s government and military. Despite occasional violence, fewer Americans have been killed in Iraq in 2011 (53 in the most recent count) than in any year since the invasion — a quiet that could end with the departure of all American troops soon.
 
By 2009, Afghanistan was spiraling out of control and seemed in need of a similar troop surge. President Obama reluctantly agreed to send 20,000 reinforcements. Two prominent veterans of the Iraq turnaround, Petraeus and Marine general James Mattis, eventually took over command of the war and the surrounding theater to seek a repeat of what they had helped accomplish in Iraq.
 
Yet despite better security in some provinces, a general reduction in violence, and a decline this year in American fatalities, public support for the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time low. The violent country still remains about eight times more deadly to American troops than is Iraq. 
 
Why hasn’t the surge in Afghanistan worked as well as the Iraq surge did?..


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