Obama Reconciles War and Recession

Before an audience of West Point cadets and military and White House officials, President Barack Obama announced his plan for a 30,000-troop Afghan surge and strategy that includes civilian engagement, partnering with Pakistan, and deadlines. After acknowledging that "Afghanistan has deteriorated," the president told his military audience that he understood the human cost of war, and took seriously "ask[ing] even more of you." He emphasized the existential threat to America that the region poses—"In the last few months alone we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror"—and pushed for diplomatic and multinational "partnerships.” The president rebutted three arguments against his plan: First, to "those that suggest Afghanistan is another Vietnam," he argued that the current mission has international support and began due to an attack on American soil. Second, to those who would argue to maintain the status quo, he cited "slow deterioration" as the inevitable outcome. Finally, to those who propose an even heavier troop increase—as Gen. Stanley McChrystal does, albeit by only a small margin—the president argues against "nation-building": "As president, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibilities, our means, or our interests." He promised to be "candid" discussing the economic price of war and said his plan will cost $30 billion in the next year.