Commentary Magazine


Topic: Alexander the Great

We Are Not Doomed to Repeat Ancient History Either

Yesterday I pointed out the dissimilarities between our current campaign in Afghanistan and the one waged by the Soviets in the 1980s. Along comes Barry Strauss, one of our leading ancient historians (meaning that he studies the ancient world, not that he himself is ancient!), to dispel any analogies that might be mooted with the frustrating (if ultimately successful) campaign waged by Alexander the Great in the same region. Strauss notes some similarities — namely that “Afghanistan still represents tough terrain for soldiers. It still is a paradise for brigands and bandits.” But he also notes the fundamental difference — “the kind of war that the surge in Afghanistan represents could not be more different than the war that Alexander fought in the region. The surge aims to protect civilians, not kill them. Allied plans aim at defeating warlords through policing, reconstruction, and diplomacy, not by wiping out cities.”

For those interested in reading more on the subject, I recommend Frank L. Holt’s excellent study Into the Land of bones: Alexander the Great in Afghanistan. We should by all means study the past; heck, that’s what I do for a living. But we shouldn’t expect a replay.

Yesterday I pointed out the dissimilarities between our current campaign in Afghanistan and the one waged by the Soviets in the 1980s. Along comes Barry Strauss, one of our leading ancient historians (meaning that he studies the ancient world, not that he himself is ancient!), to dispel any analogies that might be mooted with the frustrating (if ultimately successful) campaign waged by Alexander the Great in the same region. Strauss notes some similarities — namely that “Afghanistan still represents tough terrain for soldiers. It still is a paradise for brigands and bandits.” But he also notes the fundamental difference — “the kind of war that the surge in Afghanistan represents could not be more different than the war that Alexander fought in the region. The surge aims to protect civilians, not kill them. Allied plans aim at defeating warlords through policing, reconstruction, and diplomacy, not by wiping out cities.”

For those interested in reading more on the subject, I recommend Frank L. Holt’s excellent study Into the Land of bones: Alexander the Great in Afghanistan. We should by all means study the past; heck, that’s what I do for a living. But we shouldn’t expect a replay.

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