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Forget Afghanistan. Let's nation-build at home first.

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America has a poor record of nation-building abroad. The George H.W. Bush administration and Clinton White House failed in Somalia. The most recent Bush administration bungled it in Iraq, where Iraqis continue to blow one another up now that Americans are increasingly out of reach as targets.

And now, bright as he is, Obama is showing us he learned next to nothing from the nine-year Soviet attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan that helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Not long ago, a friend, a high Canadian government official, met with his Chinese government counterparts. The discussion turned to the subject of the United States. My Canadian friend told me that the Chinese delegate coolly observed, "We always expected the American empire to collapse, but we had no idea it would collapse so quickly."

The Pentagon and the US military command in Afghanistan now find themselves caught in a trap inadvertently set by their own politicians.

The US military speaks of winning the hearts and minds of Afghans when it's almost certainly the case that the Americans will always be seen as "infidel outsiders" occupying a Muslim country, just as the Russians were seen on the same real estate in the l980s.

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