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Realism tells us that states are unitary actors and foreign policy ends at the water’s edge. This essay questions this view in the context of recent US policy on Afghanistan. In early 2008, Senator Barack Obama won several early primary victories and gained a substantial lead in the Democratic presidential nomination contest. Both Democratic senator Hillary Clinton and to a lesser extent the apparent Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, questioned Obama’s leadership ability. The future president responded in part by announcing his intent to expand the US military presence in Afghanistan. The policy of increased militarization crystallized publically in response to domestic campaign pressure rather than because of events on the ground in South Asia.