I'm an agnostic on Afghanistan, and will remain so until I'm persuaded one way or the other. But one thing that struck me:
"Beyond strategy, it is also time to recognize the obvious: Afghanistan is an artificial state, the rump left over after the Grand Game between Britain and Russia ended in the late 19th century. This Central Asian entity we call Afghanistan is an accident drawn up to suit the interests of outsiders, not those of the myriad peoples of the region. To believe that we can create a strong and stable central government defies historical and cultural realities."
You can say that of virtually ever country outside of Europe, North America, and East Asia. Certainly it's true of the entire sub-Saharan Africa. The thing to remember is that in the 1950's and 60's, as the European empires were collapsing, virtually all of the nationalist movements on earth recognized that they were living in artifically drawn borders, and made the decision to adopt them as permanent. That was one of Jomo Kenyatta's big points: that they weren't tribal anymore, that their old borders were in-and-of-themselves had no inherent legitimacy than any others.
Now why Afghanistan never had a nationalist movement with that level of sophistication is an interesting question, but it's not because it's borders were drawn up by imperial powers. I mean, welcome to the club.
However, I don't think Paul Krugman supported it on the basis of what the White House wants. I know I keep bringing him up, but it's because I think his endorsement changes the political calculus even more than Bill Clinton's does.
Then what have you been huffing and puffing about for the last six months? What does it matter whether or not Obama has been walking away from or back to the public option if it was never going to pass the Senate?
As for me I thought this bill would be a non-starter, only to find myself proven wrong by its support from Bill Clinton, Matthew Iglesias, and Paul Krugman. The greatest of these is Krugman, since so many of the people who have been critical of Obama on healthcare take their cues from them.