When, decades from now, historians compile the record of this Afghan war, they will date the Afghan version of the surge -- the now trendy injection of large numbers of troops to resuscitate a flagging war effort -- to sometime in early 2007. Then, a growing insurgency was causing visible problems for U.S. and NATO forces in certain pockets in the southern parts of the country, long a Taliban stronghold. In response, military planners dramatically beefed up the international presence, raising the number of troops over the following 18 months by 20,000, a 45% jump.
During this period, however, the violence also jumped -- by 50%. This shouldn't be surprising. More troops meant more targets for Taliban fighters and suicide bombers. In response, the international forces retaliated with massive aerial bombing campaigns and large-scale house raids. The number of civilians killed in the process skyrocketed. In the fifteen months of this surge, more civilians have been killed than in the previous four years combined.
During the same period, the country descended into a state of utter dereliction -- no jobs, very little reconstruction, and ever less security. In turn, the rising civilian death toll and the decaying economy proved a profitable recipe for the Taliban, who recruited significant numbers of new fighters. They also won the sympathy of Afghans who saw them as the lesser of two evils. Once confined to the deep Afghan south, today the insurgents operate openly right at the doorstep of Kabul, the capital.
But Obama plans to march more troops in as does McCain. So according to Einstein's definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results - are these folks insane? Or is Afghan life simply not important enough to consider? Probably both.