Nation building and the cost of good intentions

President Obama delivers a televised address from the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 22, 2011 on his plan to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Back when America was bogged down in Vietnam, the debate came down to, "We aren't making much progress there, but if we cut-and-run it will send a dangerous message to the world."

George Aiken, then the long-time Senator from Vermont, had a solution.

He said simply, "Declare victory and leave."

President Obama didn't declare victory the other night, but he declared enough progress to begin the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

For sure, we ran the terrorists out of there, but the question now: Will it be strong enough to keep them from coming back?

For all we spent trying to build a stronger nation there, we are reminded again of what we always forget - that when it comes to democracy, one size does NOT fit all, and when it comes to nation building, we can help others but we can't do it for them.

Perhaps the President recognized that when he said, "America, it is time to begin nation building at home."

Or maybe he was just facing up to the new reality. Whatever our good intentions, we can no longer afford nation-building at home AND abroad. We just don't have the money anymore.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.