For what it’s worth.

“The Afghanistan-Pakistan review led by the President has provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task. The clarity, commitment and resolve outlined in the President’s address are critical steps toward bringing security to Afghanistan and eliminating terrorist safe havens that threaten regional and global security.

“The NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) objective is equally clear: We will work toward improved security for Afghanistan and the transfer of responsibility to Afghan security forces as rapidly as conditions allow. In the meantime, our Afghan partners need the support of Coalition forces while we grow and develop the capacity of the Afghan army and police. That will be the main focus of our campaign in the months ahead.

“The 42 other nations of the Coalition will benefit from a strengthened U.S. commitment, as success in Afghanistan must be an international, integrated civil-military effort – from our security and training capacity to the governance and economic development assistance that sustains long-term stability. The concerted commitment of the international community will prevail in bringing real change to Afghanistan — a secure and stable environment that allows for effective governance, improved economic opportunity and the freedom of every Afghan to choose how they live.

“We face many challenges in Afghanistan, but our efforts are sustained by one unassailable reality: neither the Afghan people nor the international community want Afghanistan to remain a sanctuary for terror and violence. The coalition is encouraged by President Obama’s commitment and we remain resolute to empowering the Afghan people to reject the insurgency and build their own future.”

The final magic number settled on by The One: 30,000 troops, roughly halfway between what McChrystal claimed was needed for a medium-risk and high-risk mission going forward. Here’s the transcript of Obama’s speech. I recommend the beginning, where, true to form, he reminds his audience that he’s only trying to clean up Bush’s Iraq-induced mess, and the part where he notes that he wasn’t really dithering because McChrystal never asked for new troops to be deployed this year. Which, of course, conveniently ignores the fact that the general told him we only had 12 months to win the war … three months ago.

This part is cute too, coming as it does from the master of the trillion-dollar deficit:

As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, our or interests. And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces. I do not have the luxury of committing to just one. Indeed, I am mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who – in discussing our national security – said, “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.”

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance, and failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our friends and neighbors are out of work and struggle to pay the bills, and too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children. Meanwhile, competition within the global economy has grown more fierce. So we simply cannot afford to ignore the price of these wars.

We can afford to ignore the price of everything else, but not the $30 billion or so a year — less than one-fifth of the deficit incurred just in the month of October — that it’ll cost to staff Afghanistan with new troops. Exit quotation from Niall Ferguson, writing this week in Newsweek: “This is how empires decline. It begins with a debt explosion. It ends with an inexorable reduction in the resources available for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Which is why voters are right to worry about America’s debt crisis.”

Update: Oh, and as predicted, the moral argument for Afghanistan was almost completely absent from the speech.

Tags: Barack Obama