Credit where credit is due, John Bolton sounds fairly reasonable in this interview with the Springfield, Missouri News-Leader:
Question: Should the U.S. engage in long-term nation-building in Afghanistan?
Bolton: “It’s not within our power to create a stable country there. Hopefully, the people will do that for themselves. There are probably ways we can help out. But that’s not the same as saying it’s a strategic interest of the United States. And I say that because on the one hand, you’ve got people who already think we ought to withdraw from Afghanistan — in the Democratic Party on the left side. People who think that, I think is a mistake. On the other side, you’ve got people who say we may be there for a long, long time, doing nation- building. I think that’s a mistake, too.
It’s a fair point, though I do disagree with Bolton’s framing of this along a typical left-right axis. Supporters of our current engagement in Afghanistan include both the Obama administration and a coalition of neoconservatives. On the other side, left liberals like Russ Feingold are joining conservatives drawn from the realist tradition, like George Will, to question the wisdom and utility of a drawn out commitment in Afghanistan
Also, earlier in the interview, Bolton frames American strategic interests in Afghanistan in a way that I *gulp* would largely agree.
“The U.S. has an important strategic interest in Afghanistan, and that’s making sure that neither the Taliban or a l-Qaida can use it as a base for terrorist operations against the United States, No. 1, and No. 2, that their combined efforts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan don’t result in the overthrow of the Pakistani government.”