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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 26, 2010 11:15am-12:00pm EST

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>> bill kovach, tom rosenstiel, "blur: how to know what's true in the age of information overload." >> veteran investigative journalist bob woodward's new book, "obama's wars," reveals president obama's national security deliberations over whether to send more u.s. troops to afghanistan. the pulitzer prize winners inside account a discourse the issues and conflicts among several of the obama administration's key players. mr. woodward appeared briefly on c-span's "washington journal." the program is 45 minutes. >> host: and on this friday morning the "washington journal" is pleased to welcome bob woodward of the "washington post" here to talk with you about his latest book about presidential leadership at a time of war and it's called "obama's wars." mr. woodward, thanks for being here guessed that thank you. >> host: i watch your chart rose together and as i was
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telling you, i want to start a conversation with your very last thought on that program. i will play for our audience and pick up the conversation from there. let's listen in. >> right here is we are on thin ice, and that not enough has been done to clarify and set the direction of the war, which will not -- it's not just going to define in part the obama presidency your it's going to define where this country is in one year, two years, 50 years. >> host: pretty big stuff that you think you are a pretty important crossroads in history. will you tell me more. >> host: because of this war has been going on since 2001, the longest war ever for this country, right now it's in trouble, this report released by congress this week shows that it is not. if you take in the back of the
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book i print the secret wars that president obama -- president obama issue to the military and his national security team. and he lists more criteria for evaluating progress. and, therefore, risk factors is, they are identified. the first is afghan governments in that war. we dealing with hamed karzai who is i point out in the book intelligence shows is a manic-depressive, on his meds, off his meds. a couple of weeks ago he is out there crying in public. one day he says he is with us. the next day he is going after the united states. he is an unreliable partner. second mix doctor -- second risk factor is the afghan force and how we train in of to get to the point that we can turn it over to them. in the secret debate in the white house, which i describe
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here, the military is pushing for a goal of training 400,000 afghan soldiers and police. they keep bringing this go back to the president. he just says no, what's the evidence? where does this come from? and finally, at the end he just dismisses it and says, your presentation screens credulity. there are, in fact, attrition rates in the police and army, sometimes that are higher than the recruitment rate. third area is pakistan, which is the powder keg of south asia, and in many ways the candidate of the world. week government, all of these safe havens for al qaeda and the taliban, extremists and insurgents. a country that has 100 nuclear weapons. anyway, in the fourth area is
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international support. and as we know, that's on the wing. in this country, the criticism and doubt about the war is great. so you have a situation where the president is for some consensus, got anyone to sign up to the strategy he developed, but sometimes you get a compromise where none really will work. and this may be the point we're at now. >> host: i pull the commentary takes in the "washington times" is one because there is a big piece with the headline is afghanistan worth winning? you have a scene, one of the many, where president obama had all the key advisers around the table, and the first question asked was, should we pull out? is anyone around here believe we should leave? everyone was silent. why is afghanistan worth pursuing fundamentally?
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just make this is the question. it's afghanistan, pakistan that is as the president says, at one of these meetings that cancer is in pakistan, not afghanistan. vice president biden makes a very compelling series of arguments that we should focus on pakistan, that we have enough force, enough intelligence capability, control of the air over afghanistan, that the taliban cannot and will not come back. >> host: there was a lot of discussion this week about your comments about hillary clinton and joe biden on the next ticket. i guess somewhere, you've been in this county long time, with all the substantive coverage in this book were you surprised at how much attention to blowback there was about the contours of the next presidential race? just back you know, it's reported just that one of her advisers, mark penn, told her, look, it may be in 2012 obama is
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in trouble, and he needs to put you, hillary clinton, on the vice presidential ticket. it's been kicked around. look, it's politics. if you look at the numbers, hillary clinton has strength with photographs, workers, seniors, latinos and women. and obama may need them. now, the white house is right, they're not talking about it now because they are worried about the november elections coming up. but after that when they get into presidential election mode, is, we know in politics people will do anything that is legitimate to win. and sometimes things that are illegitimate. >> host: one of the things we will do during this program is show some clips if we can from prior books. but before we get to that and to our calls this is the list in front of the current book,
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"obama's wars." you seem fascinated, using regulate to go back to the concept of presidents and pentagon as the leadership around the war position. why does that aspect interest you? gets back because it's so important to give you travel abroad you discover we're defined by our wars in many ways. i think the country is defined to itself by its wars. it is a serious moral choice always. people lose their lives. people are named. is the defining undertaking for a nationstate, and if you can look at, as i tend to do here, exactly what obama decides, who he listens to, what matters, how he loses his cool sometimes, even barack obama does, it's a
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window into who he is. and message control in this white house, like the clinton white house, the george w. bush white house, is phenomenal. dadt out a few sentences, this is what happened, this is what's going on. because i've 18 months, i'm able to do a total universe portrait. so in a sense barack obama, you know and have never seen. >> host: let's look at one of those clips they will go to calls. this is just of september 2008, a war from within. talking about the presence relationship with his generals. let's listen in. >> the problem is george bush never really solved the dilemma of how, what is the interaction between the civilian and and the military end. he never had the generals so they were close to him so he
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knew what was going on. so this is all taking place at a distance, or over a secure video links to baghdad come and there's not that moment, i've got to call it a come to jesus moment, or meeting where he got everyone together and said look, this is a mess. >> guest: one of the danger is the relationship between the civilian leadership and the uniformed military, and the obama case, as is laid out in great a spreadsheet detail, as one reviewer said, you see the military resisting and saying, look, you have to send 40,000 troops. this was last year in the strategy review. you have to kind of an open ended commitment. president obama did not buy that. and the are some in electric moments where he confronts the
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generals, and the pentagon and said look, you promised me and you're getting the essentially one. secretary gates, defense secretary, five assists yes, mr. president president, we argue that option but it never comes to the president has to take things from memos and things that get has said to come up with the 30,000 troops, and a beginning, a big beginning of drawdown next july. so it's cobbled together. again, the problem of not having personal a personal relationship with the generals. mcchrystal was put in last year, additionally, to be the commander in afghanistan. president obama met with them for 10 years. i asked the president in the interview i did for this book,
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you're picking your eyes and are, how come only 10 minutes? and the president fell off the question i say, well, that would mean i'm an fdr, and i'm not fdr. this isn't world war ii. and i just had quite directly that this is your war. and, you know, when i picking somebody to work with, i interview them for hours and hours. those are the most important decisions you make, need to make a human connection. the book, at great lengths, shows the distance that the white house kept general petraeus time and time again. general petraeus, who through much of the book was central commander in charge of afghanistan and iraq, is now after mcchrystal was fired,
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just the afghan command. and he says to rahm emanuel, the chief of staff, let me be, i will be your lead sled dog on this. emanuel says yeah, yeah, yeah. but there is never that keen building passionate teams building where the generals are included or some of the generals, some of the military in inner circle in a way that all the cards get turned up, face up so everyone knows where everyone stands. this is done at a certain distance now. on the other turn, on the intellectual level, these strategic reviews are a masterpiece. professor obama considering all of the issues, debating them, hearing people out. mind to mind in terms of substance, it is terrific job.
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on the personal one, which is often more important. there is this curtain that comes down and stays down. >> host: the recalls, seattle, washington. you are on for bob ordered. go ahead. >> caller: longtime listener, first time caller. mr. woodward, i've read many of your books. thank you so much for your insight. two-part quick question. why does the military the joint chief, the leadership seem to have an agenda that is driven to what they want to do with holding information and secondly, had president obama deal with it differently than president bush? and where was he effective and where was he not in that interview? >> guest: a question. first of all, the military leaders believe what they argue for. their agenda is out of conviction. i'm absolutely convinced that
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the theme music in the background here is the time -- vietnam. the generals remember vietnam, the famous book dereliction of duty by h.r. mcmaster, showing in vietnam the joint chiefs were not assertive enough. in fact, this team, they didn't have this personal relationship with the civilian leadership. so they didn't tell the leadership exactly what they felt. so admiral mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, general petraeus, know that they have to be assertive and direct here. and that's what they are doing, but the problem is, i think it's one of the other generals in the white house, general lew, makes the point that the secretary of
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defense, gates, is the final window for a president into the world of choice. other words, the secretary of defense should make sure that the president has a series of real options. in this case, gates went along with the military. he is quoted in the book telling the generals look, i'll give you -- i'll get you as much force as you need, or want, for as long as you need, or want. but remember, you've got your battle space in afghanistan, i've got my battle space back in washington. in other words, he closed off the road of choice for the president. and that's a real problem. it's one of the unsettled aspects of this, as i was quoted earlier on the "charlie rose show."
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we are in a precarious situation here in this war, and on thin ice. say the second part of your question. >> host: it was how does he do with it differently than past presidents? i think you've covered that. >> guest: just. >> host: collins, mississippi is next for bob woodward. independent like. >> caller: good morning, mr. woodward. >> host: good morning, james. we can hear you. >> caller: i wanted to ask, as long as you been writing books and as long as you have been a person with integrity, to a certain point, do you think it's fair for just anchor people by going, the news like cnn and all these other anchor people, to come on tv, on the news and speak like they are experts, as far as political? and to do you think that the tea partiers are not just people
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that, in looking at the government, but at washington, but in the small towns in government, and small towns, and in these small towns with leaders of government, indices and things were a lot of the crafting is there? >> guest: okay, first about the news media, a lot of people do come on and offer their opinions, or make judgments. sometimes they are deeply informed, and sometimes they are not. it is a mixed bag. the tea party movement, i don't really know much about. i would make this observation though, that there is a tradition in this country of voting people's anger and the resentments. if you go back to the declaration of independence, it's very interesting. two-thirds of the document is a list of grievances against king george the third. we tend to be a group of people
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in this country as diverse as we are, we don't like something, when they have objections that run at a high level, to act particularly in the voting booths. so i'm not surprised that there is a tea party movement, or any of these movements. there's a tradition that goes back to the beginning. >> host: another clip, an old one, and it's from 1994 when you wrote your book, the agenda. this is about the relationship between vice president gore and bill clinton. let's listen. >> vice president gore, i think very much to his credit, and to clinton's credit, but i was surprised to hear that gore, in a moment of frustration, when clinton asked him what do i do about selling and making the
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decisions on this economic plan, gore said to him, you get with a got dam program. that's frank and candid talk. from anyone. i've never heard any vice president speaking that frankly to the president. and as i say, it's frank and direct them at the same time it's to clinch but that he will let people talk to him, candidate because the president needs somebody who will speak the truth. >> host: let's fast forward to this present because joe biden plays a major role in your book. was the relationship between the two? >> guest: very much the same. there's an important scene on these obama's strategy into position. and afghanistan last year. where biden shows up at the white house when he knows president obama is going from residence down to the oval office in the situation room.
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in meeting your, and says he will have to limit the mission here, and the president has developed this six page series of secret orders, and joe biden system, if you don't, you're locked into vietnam. you're going to get into constant escalation and it would be a quagmire. and he said to them, he said if this is not working out what you have done, you are going to have to make some god damned tough decisions. and not mr. president. >> host: next call. you're on for bob woodward on republican line. >> caller: okay, thank you. first of all, one was about president bush's excoriation if you will, which began basically
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in 2006 after the democrats controlled congress i have a. it was day in and day out to blame bush for everything. which they still blame bush. but anyways, and to my mind, i felt a lot safer with george bush as president i mean, safer indoors standpoint. i believe he was the guy that was maybe barely qualified to be president. >> guest: >> guest: let me interrupt, president obama still blames for setting and conditions, particularly the economic conditions, particularly these two wars which bush started and obama thinks that the iraq war was a diversion and they
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should've stuck to afghanistan, and maybe ended it quickly. >> host: what about president obama from the view of the necessity of war? if i talk to president obama about this, and he really gets focus when he talks about war and makes it clear he doesn't like war. he quoted some clichés. war is hell, that the dogs of war, once there unleash, they are hard to control. sees his job as imposing clarity on the chaos of war. i showed him a quote from one of the great world war ii books written by a friend of mine, rick atkinson's, a day of war about the italian campaign. and in a common atkinson probably understands the military and military history better than anyone.
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just waxed elegant in a paragraph about war corrupts everyone, and no heart goes out and staying. so i handed this to president obama, and said, what do you think of this? and he read it and he said, i'm sympathetic to this view. go back and read my nobel peace prize acceptance speech. iran home and dug it out, and there, obama says, sometimes war is necessary but it is never glorious, and it is a manifestation of human folly. this is the man who i do think george bush liked war. but bush was willing to go to war, for reasons that he felt were necessary. that, you know, will be debated in history. obama, once out of afghanistan. >> host: next call, des moines, democrat line. >> caller: yes.
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thanks for c-span. mr. woodward, i would first like to say thank you. you are a true patriot that i appreciate everything you did. you brought down a corrupt president, and i wish that maybe we could do something about this situation. first off, i've got a good friend of mine, he was over in falluja, and he lost 34 of his fellow marines that were friends of his. >> guest: this was in the iraq war. >> caller: yes, sir. and to think of it is, what i want is an investigation on when we started pumping oil out of iraq, there's $9 billion that is unaccountable for, and the pentagon was in charge of this. and i think there should be an investigation. i talked to one of our congressmen here, from iowa, and i told him there's not one congressman or one senator has
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said anything about this $9 billion that disappeared. >> guest: okay, i would say one thing. we find in the iraq war and in the afghanistan war, there is all kinds of money floating around in the system for account for it are not very good. i met specifically aware of $9 billion of missing money or time accounted for funds. what happens, one of the very important distinction characteristics between iraq and afghanistan is that in iraq, they have all this money that goes to the government from their oil. in afghanistan, they do not. afghanistan is a poor country. >> host: i want to clarify one thing to read that you talk about how the military was arguing we need to train 400,000 police and afghan military. the president talked about the
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fact it would cost 8 billion to do that, and an annual i think passionate is the intention to united states will continue on its and paying for the afghan military? >> guest: no. hopefully not. but, you know, this is one of the question marks, and this is one of the reasons president obama kept saying, i'm not going to spend a trillion dollars, because his budget director gave him a memo saying 10 years more in this war will cost $889 billion. there are all kinds of numbers thrown around. we know from the war in afghanistan and iraq that all of those numbers are global, that it always costs more. >> host: this of you want to click occasion. you said a minute ago the present would like out of afghanistan. he asked does afghanistan -- does obama want out of advocate passionate afghanistan but one in pakistan?
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>> guest: kind of the senate of all this is pakistan. i don't think he wants -- know, in fact i'm sure he doesn't want a war with pakistan. they are our allies. what he wants to do is put more pakistani cooperation to go after these safe havens, where al qaeda resides. bin laden is probably in pakistan. the taliban insurgency leadership is in pakistan. a and i recount how the intelligence people have photographs and communications intercept just showing that the taliban insurgents go from afghanistan back into pakistan, and train, we armed, r&r we can, then they load up trucks with weapons, and they are waved through pakistani checkpoint to go into afghanistan to kill american and other coalition
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soldiers. i quoted the cia director saying we have to get boots on the ground, these drone attacks from the air are not enough and has been quite neatly sums it up, this is a crazy kind of war. >> host: michigan, this is the on the republican line. you are on. >> caller: good morning. i've got a couple of quick questions. one i would like to find out if you are telling, are you a democrat or a republican? and number two, i would like to find out how you voted. i think was in 68 and 72 when nixon was being voted on. >> guest: a fair and good question. because i live in the district of columbia, which is so predominantly democratic, i am a registered democrat, but i am a
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devout neutral. and to put that into practice, i take my young daughter into the voting booth, and she votes for me. she is now 14, and we've been doing this since she was about age four. she is now quite informed, and they let you bring somebody, a child with you into the voting booth. and she actually makes the selections. >> host: this is an e-mail from doctor betty baker. mr. woodward, how can we call this conflict obama's wore? >> guest: well, it's an interesting question. because obama is commander-in-chief, this is his war. this is a scene in which lindsey graham, republican senator talks with obama about this and makes
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the point to the president that this is also the republicans war, not just the democrats war. a number of people have pointed out indeed that's true but it was republicans george bush started the war. unanimous, almost unanimous support from the congress. this issue of the draft is out there. i don't think we will get to a draft in the future, but i think one of the interesting things is, there's such a separation in the society, secretary gates gave a speech about this a couple of weeks ago, which i thought was quite good, that they're a group of people who serve and then all of us, they are our circus but we are really a where or committed to them at the level we should be committed. and i've asked people in the
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obama administration, what do we owe these people who serve? >> host: this viewer tweets mr. woodward, did you discuss iran at any time, iran and violent, and it is about iranian nuke program? >> guest: just a little bit. unit, we don't have a war or open shooting war with iran at this point. it's one of the components of this precarious national security picture that the president is dealing with, however can't i've talked to bob woodward about his new book, "obama's wars," our next call from him comes from orlando. jennifer on the independent line. good morning, jennifer. >> caller: good morning. i have a comment and a question. carl bernstein wrote an excellent biography of out -- >> guest: i agree. >> caller: i agree with bernstein in that hillary does have a problem with telling the truth. also it's no coincidence that
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all the blue dog democrats who oppose president obama's health policy were also hillary's supporters are present. you made it seem that you are the ones that first mentioned hillary wanted to play musical chairs with vice president biden and switch positions in 2012. i don't think you are correct that hillary clinton, through her stooges like sally quinn, and others, started floating this idea around over a year ago to run as vice president. do you believe the trail of hillary is accurate? >> guest: carl's book, a woman in charge, which i've read, is the strength of that book is that it is very balanced account of hillary clinton. and it has some criticism and it also praises her drive, intelligence and focus. but i have not, and no one i
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know of, has suggested that she floated this outcome or that she wants to change jobs with vice president biden. in the book, when hillary clinton has decided to accept the post of secretary of state, she talks to one of her political advisers who says, well, it's a no-brainer. take the job. you'll get foreign policy experience. you will kind of heel the relationship with obama, that as you may recall was quite bitter during the primary season in 2008. and if, in 2012, when obama is running for reelection, presumably, he may be in trouble, politically, and need to put hillary clinton on the ticket because of her strength with former voting groups, seniors, working-class voters,
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women and latinos. so this is how all of this surfaced. i mentioned it in an interview a couple of days ago, and it became one of the minor media feeding frenzy's. >> host: speaking of hillary clinton, this e-mail, would you concur that the political interest in a state whenever possible is better served by economic strategies rather than military intervention? >> guest: well, in a perfect world we wouldn't need military intervention. and it could be done through economic relationships, through diplomacy is, and so forth that i don't think in our lifetime. >> host: let me move to how much diplomacy was discussed as an option to military at the meetings that you report upon. >> guest: richard holbrooke was the special representative, is the kind of master diplomat. he's the one who negotiated the
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dayton accords back in the clinton administration, that really brought peace to the balkans. and he has said, and makes the point, you don't fix the war with military victory. and i think everyone agrees, the taliban insurgency is part of the fabric and that's always going to be there. so you need some sort of diplomatic settlement, and that's inevitably how we get out of this war, i presumed. >> host: then the reports this week that the taliban might be at the table for talks is one that you would've expected based on your reporting. >> guest: yes. in fact, i report that there were secret talks through the saudis, and, you know, but this is all very preliminary. the taliban still thinks they have the edge. >> host: so why would they
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negotiated? for bob ford next, boston. this is a call from ed on republican line. your own. >> caller: good morning, mr. woodward. >> guest: good morning. >> caller: the russians pulled out of afghanistan after nine years. and if it wasn't for charter wilson maybe it would've been longer been longer. so between the russians, we are at nine years, 18 years. are we fighting a war or are we fighting a culture? and what are our chances of winning a battle with a culture? >> guest: that's an interesting question. i don't think we have a battle with culture that i think it's a battle, it's an overhang from 9/11 because the taliban provided sanctuary to al qaeda and bin laden. that attacks of 9/11, in part, only in part, came from afghanistan. but al qaeda is not in
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afghanistan in any significant way. so in a way, and this is vice president biden's argument, you know, why don't we just focus on the cancer, the problem, pakistan. this is an interesting point is the intelligence people get into this, in the book, trying to say what do we know about the enemy. one of the first rules of war is know who the enemy is, and what they care about, and how they operate. and there is an intelligence expert named derek harvey who works for general petraeus, and general petraeus said harvey up with a special intelligence unit called the center of excellence, to actually get on the ground with people in afghanistan and learn about the tribes and villages, do this kind of homicide detective work, to
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answer these questions about who the other side is. and as harvey got in there, he said to general petraeus, it's the blind leading the blind. we don't know enough. we now know a good deal more, whether it is enough to inform what we do on the ground in terms of fighting the insurgency there, and then also protecting the population, which is the kind of hearts and mind strategy. >> host: another clip from 2007 on president bush being in a bubble. let's listen. >> we specifically were asking you get as a device for people like brent scowcroft, who was national security adviser to bush's father, and as president bush said no, i'm in a bubble. i don't have outside advisers. i rely on my work, and, you
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know, i think that's part of the critique of bush, that he didn't aggressively or have a system of considering downsides to decisions. >> host: how does that compare with this? >> guest: the president doesn't use too many outside advisers. one of his outside advisers is colin powell, the former secretary of state and chairman of the joint chiefs. at a crucial point, obama called call in and asked him, first powell says to him, look, don't be guided by the left or the right here. don't be driven by the media. do what you think is right. on these of the strategy decisions last year, powell comes in and says, just because the military is unanimous in their advice doesn't mean they are right. you're the commander-in-chief. there's only one
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commander-in-chief. there are other generals you can get. if necessary to about five minutes left with bob woodward. >> caller: yes, good morning. the morning, mr. woodward. listen, i have a nephew in the 101st airborne. might daughter was deployed to afghanistan. me and my family palu more attention than i think the most americans to what's going on over there. i have to question. the first one is, vice president joe biden was put on the ticket supposedly because of his expertise in foreign affairs. however, when it comes to this war in afghanistan, his ideas seem to be ignored, i believe. he was advocating some kind of a limited outpost type of strategy. and to me that seems like the most logical because we went in there, to find bin laden and
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eliminate or weaken al qaeda. and now it's turned into a nationbuilding plan. what happened with the? and my second question -- >> guest: let me just answer that will get a lot of people have read the book, because vice president biden comes into these meetings, and i have the notes, and you see exactly what he says, and he makes very strong argument for more limited effort here. the president didn't reject it though. he accepted some of it, and in the secret orders he issues, he tells the military, look, the goal here, and you're right to call it a modified nationbuilding, is to come in two areas in afghanistan, clear, hold, built-in transfer. clear in area of the insurgents. hold it with our military and let the afghan military.
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build schools, sewers, protect the population with the hearts and minds as i was saying. and then transfer, and obama is very direct with the military, said don't go into any area where you can transfer. transfer means turn this over to the afghan police, and the afghan army. >> host: rochester, minnesota, paul, independent line. >> caller: good morning c-span in mr. woodward. quick question. first, let me say i have about 600 dvds dvds, and decrease eye opener i've ever seen is the recent independent film called why we fight, based mainly on president eisenhower's prophetic warning to this nation about what he called the rise of misplaced power by the military industrial complex. besides recommending it, i wonder if you have seen it? >> guest: i have not. i'm sorry, but what is
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interesting is president obama's preparing his speech last year, when he went to west point, you may recall, and announced he was going to send 30,000 more troops, but we would begin some sort of withdrawal, maybe token, maybe more, next july. the president, in that speech, quoted eisenhower's famous speech about the military industrial complex, but the part of the speech president obama quoted is the part in which president eisenhower said a president needs to not just think about national security, foreign affairs and the wars, but there needs to be a balance among national programs, including domestic programs. and, of course, this is internally any means in the white house, the president is very passionate advocate for some sort of refocusing, getting
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away from these wars, to his domestic agenda train fight these are photographs this point of general david petraeus. in the book you call general petraeus and president obama, let me find the exact words, two of the most driven -- let me find here -- to the most ambitious driven end of their age. how well is the relationship? >> guest: yes, it is, and they have a close the deal. they haven't closed the deal that i know of, on a personal level. and they look at this differently. president obama wants to limit general petraeus is quoted in saying privately, this is the kind for we are going to be fighting all of our lives and our kids lives. >> host: last call for you, kenny, republican line. you're on, kenny. ..


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