Who's Up For Nation-Building?

Time's Bobby Ghosh suggests President Obama ran on one Afghanistan policy in 2008 and is implementing another: as Richard Holbrooke, the U.S.'s point man on Afghanistan and Pakistan, has laid out his plans for the latter, a scaled-back vision of U.S. involvement centered on defeating al-Qaeda has morphed into something much larger: namely, nation-building. This goes beyond the debate between counterinsurgency and counterterrorism--a discussion of the scale of military operations; it's a larger endeavor of economic development and constructing government institutions. And, as D.B. Grady points out on this page, Afghanistan has a long way to go.

Obama may have a tough time selling Holbrooke's preferences, some say, to the same congressional liberals who called for an early exit from Iraq, citing cost and demanding the billions be spent on U.S. health care and education instead. The nation is so consumed with health care at the moment that it doesn't get talked about as much, but once that's over, a big question in U.S. politics may be: how badly do Democrats want to scale back operations in Afghanistan, and how much will cost have to do with it?