tv Book TV CSPAN November 26, 2010 7:15pm-8:00pm EST
what's true in the age of information overload." >> veteran investigative journalist bob woodward's new book "obama's wars" underscores the issues and conflicts among several of the obama administration key players. mr. woodward appeared recently on c-span's washington journal. the program is 45 minutes. >> host: on this friday morning, the "washington journal" is pleased to welcome bob woodward. his new book called "obama's war." thanks for being here.
>> guest: thank you. >> host: i watched you on charlie rose. as i was saying at the break, i wanted to start with the very last thought on the program. i'm going to play it for the audience. then pick up the conversation for them. >> i'm here -- it's on thin ice. and that not enough has been done to clarify and set the direction of a war which will not -- it's not just going to define in part the obama presidency, it's going to define where it country is in one year, two years, 50 years. >> host: pretty big stuff. you think we are at an important cross roads of history. will you tell me more? >> guest: yes, this war has been going on since 2001. longest war ever for this country. right now, it's in trouble. this report released by congress this week shows that it's not. and if you take in the back of
the book i print the secret ordered that president obama issued to the military and his national security team. and he lists four criteria for evaluating progress. they are four risk factors as they are identified. the first is afghan governance in that war. now we are dealing with hamid karzai who is i point out in the book the intelligence shows a manic-depressive on and off meds. a couple of weeks ago, he's crying in public. one day he's with us, the next day he's going after the united states. he's an unreasonable partner. second risk factor, is the afghan security force. and how are we training enough to get to the point that we can turn it over to them?
in these secret debates in the white house which i describe here, the military is pushing for a goal of training 400,000 afghan soldiers and police. they keep bringing this goal 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 straining credulity. there are, in fact, attrition rates in the police and army sometimes that are higher than the recruit: rate. third area is afghan. many ways the powder keg of the world. weak government, safe place for al qaeda, taliban, extremist, insurgents, a country that has 100 nuclear weapons, anyway. in the fourth area is
international support. and as we know, that's on the wane. in this country, the criticism in doubt about the war is great. so you have a situation where the president has forged some consensus. got everyone to sign up to the strategy he developed. but sometimes you get a compromise where none really will work. and this maybe the point we're at now. >> host: i pulled the commentary page from "the washington times." there's a big piece. you are a scene where president obama had all of the key advisers. the first question asked was should we pull out? does anyone around here believe we should leave? everyone was silent.
why is afghanistan worth pursuing? >> guest: this is the question. it's afghanistan, pakistan, as the president says at one of the meetings, the cancer is in pakistan, not afghanistan. vice president biden makes a compelling series of arguments that we should focus on pakistan, we have enough force, enough intelligence capability, and control of the air over afghanistan that the taliban cannot and will not come back. >>host: there was a lot of discussion in washington about your comments about hillary clinton and joe biden on the next ticket. you know what intrigues people. with all of the coverage in the book, were you surprised that how much attention and blowback about the consequences of the next presidential race? >> guest: you know, it's reported in the book that one of her advisers, mark pin told her,
look, it maybe if 2012, obama is in trouble. he needs to put you, hillary clinton, on the vice presidential ticket. quite -- it's being kicked around. look, it's politics. and it you look at the numbers, hillary clinton has strength with voter groups, workers, seniors, latinos, and women, and obama may need them. the white house is right, they are 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, as we know in politics, people will do anything that's legitimate to win. and sometimes thing that is are illegitimate. >> host: one of the things we are going to do is show some clips from prior books on the program. >> guest: oh my gosh. >> host: before we get to
that. this is the list in front of the current book. you seem fascinated, you can attack the presidency as a journalist from many different levels. you seem to go back to the concept of presidents and the pentagon. and the leadership around the war decision. why does that aspect interest you? >> guest: because it's so important if you travel abroad you discover we are defined by our wars in many ways. i think the country is defined to itself by it's wars. it is a serious moral choice always. people lose their lives, people are maimed. it is the defining undertaking for a nation state. and if you can look at, as i attempt to do here, exactly what obama decides, how he works, who he listens to, what matters, how he loses his cool sometimes,
even barack obama does. it's a window into who he is and the message control in this white house like the clinton white house that george w. bush white house is phenomenal. you know, a few sentences, this is what happened, this is what's going on. because i have 18 months, i'm able to do a total universe portrait. in a sense, it's barack obama, you don't know and have not seen. >> host: well, let's look at one the clips. then we'll go to calls. this is just from september 2008, the war within. one of your several on president bush and the iraq war. talking about the president relationships with the 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 in the military? he never had the generals so
they were close to him so he knew what was going on. so this is all taking place at a distance, or over secure video links to baghdad. and there's not that moment of i kind of call it a come to jesus moment or meeting when he got everyone together and said, look, this is a mess. >> host: compare, contrast, president obama and the generals? >> guest: one the themes here is the relationship between the civilian leadership and the uniform military. and in the obama case, as is laid out in great spread sheet detail as one reviewer said, you see the military resisting and saying look we -- you have to send 40,000 troops. this was last year in the strategy review. you have to have kind of an open-ended commitment. president obama did not buy that. and there are some electric
moments where he confronted the generals and the pentagon and says, look, you promised me three options. and you've giving me essentially one. secretary gates, defense secretary, finally says, yes, mr. president, we owe you that options. president has to take things from memos and things that gates has said to come up with the 30,000 troops and a beginning, a vague beginning, of drawdown next july. so it's cobbled together. again, it's the problem of not having that personal relationship with the generals. when mccrystal was put in last year to be commander of afghanistan, president obama for ten minutes, i asked the
president in the interview, did for this book, you are picking your own. how come? and the president fell off of the question by saying, well, i'm not fdr, this isn't world war ii. and i just said, but this is war. and to -- you know, when i'm picking for somebody to work with, i interview them for hours and hours. these are the most important decisions that you make. need to make a human connection. the book at great length shows the distance that the white house kept general petraeus. time and time again, general petraeus who through much of the book was the central commander in afghanistan and iraq is now
after mcchrystal was fired, is the afghan commander. he says to rahm emanuel, let me be your lead sled dog on this. emanuel says, yeah, yeah, but there's the team building. some of the military circle in a way that all of the cards get turned up, face up, that's where everyone was staying. there is an age, and distance now. on the other hand, the level, the strategic reviews or masterpieces much considering all of the issues, debating them, hearing people out, mind to mind, in terms of substance,
it is a terrific job. on the personal level, which is often more important, the curtain that comes down stays down. >> host: viewer call, seattle. you are on for bob woodward. hello. >> caller: hello. long time listener, first time cooler. thank you for your insight in helping us way informed. why does the military, the joint chiefs of leadership seem to have an agenda. and secondly, how did president obama deal with it differently than president bush? where was he effective and where was he not? >> guest: big question. first of all, the military believe what they argue for. their agenda is out of conviction. i'm absolutely convinceed.
that the theme music and the background here is vietnam. the generals remember vietnam, the famous book the election of duty by h.r. mcmaster, showing that in vietnam, the joint chiefs were not asserttive enough. it's the theme. they didn't have the personal relationship with the civilian leadership. so they didn't tell the leadership exactly what they felt. admiral mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs general petraeus need to be assertive and direct here. that's what they are doing. but the problem is -- the -- i think it's one the other generals in the white house,
general luke makes the point that the secretary of defense, gates, is the final window for a president into the world of choice. in 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's saying, look, 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 that world of choice for the president. and that's a real problem. it's one the unsettled aspects of this as was quoted earlier.
we're in a precarious situation here in the war and on thin ice. got to save the second part of your question. >> host: it was how did he deal with it differently? i think you've covered that. >> guest: yes, i think i did. >> host: collin from mississippi is next. >> caller: good morning. >> host: good morning, we with here you. >> caller: i wanted to ask mr. woodward, as long as you've been writing books and as long as you've been a person with integrity to a certain point, do you think it's fair for just anchor people like on the news like cnn and all of these other anchor people to some on tv on the news and speak like they are experts? and do you think that the tea
partyers are not just people that is looking at the government in washington, but hometowns and government and small towns and these small towns with leader of government in the cities and things where a lot of the corruption is at? >> 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 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 interesting. 2/3 of the document is a list
of grievances against king george iii. we tend to be a group of people in this country as diverse as we are who kind of when we don't like something, when we have objections that run at a high level, to act particularly in the voting booth. 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: i have another clip. this is the old one. it's from 1994 when you wrote "the agenda." >> vice president gore, i think were much to his credit and to clinton's credit, 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
decisions on this economic plan, gore said to him, you get with the god damn program. that's frank and candid talk from anyone. i've never heard of a vice president speaking that frankly to the president. and as i say, it's frank and direct at the same time, it's to clinton's credit that he will let people to talk to him candidly. because the president needs somebody who will speak the truth. >> host: so let's fast forward to this president. because joe biden playing a major role. what's the relationship? >> guest: very much the same. there's an important scene on the eve of obama's strategy and troop decision in afghanistan last year. where biden shows up at the white house when he knows president obama is going from
the residence down to the oval office. he's in there, and he says you are going to have to limit the mission here. and the president has developed the six page series of secret orders. and joe biden says to him, if you don't, you are locked into a vietnam. we are going to get into escalation. and it will be a quagmire. he said to him, if you -- if this is not working out, what you've done, you are going to have to make some god damn tough decisions, man. not mr. president, but man. >> host: next call. south carolina, you are on for woodward. >> caller: okay. thank you. first of all, i wanted to make a few comments.
one was about president bush's excoriation if you will which began in 2006 after the democrat-controlled congress so heavily. and it was like day in and day out to blame bush for everything. smoke and which led us to know they still blame bush. but, anyway, and then it's safe than george bush is president. safer in the wars at the stand point. i believe he was the guy that was maybe barely qualified to be president. >> guest: you know, one of the things that's interesting if i may interpret, president obama still blames president bush for setting the conditions particularly the economic conditions, particularly these two wars which bush started and obama thinks the iraq war was a
diversion and they should have stuck to afghanistan and maybe ended it quickly. >> host: what about president obama's view of necessity of war? >> guest: i talked to president obama about this. he really gets focused when he talks about war and makes it clear he doesn't like war. he quoted some cliches. war is hell. that the dogs of war, once they are unleased, 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. a day of war by italy italy -- n campaign. in it, he probably understands the military and military
history better than anyone just eloquent in a paragraph about how war corrupts everyone. and no heart goes unsustained. so i handed this to president obama. what do you think of this? he read it. and he said i'm sympathetic. go back and read my noble peace prize acceptance speech. there obama says sometimes war is necessary, but it is never glorious, and it is a manifestation of human foully. this was a man -- i don't think president bush wanted to go to war. he's a man that was going to go to war for reasons that were necessary. that will be debated in history. obama wants out of afghanistan. >> host: next call, des
moines, sinclair, democrats line. >> caller: yes, thanks for c-span. mr. woodward, thank you, you are a true patriot. thank you for everything that you did. you brought down a corrupt president. maybe we should do something about the situation. first of all, i got a good friend of mine. he was over in fallujah, he lost 34 of the fellow machines. >> guest: this was in the iraq war? >> caller: yes yes, sir. the thing of it is, what i want is an investigation on when he started pumping oil out of iraq, there's $9 billion that is unacceptable for. and the pentagon was in charge of this. and i think there should be an investigation. i talked to one the congressman here from iowa. i told him there's not one
congressman or one senator that has said anything about $9 billion that disappeared. >> guest: okay. i'll tell you one thing we find in the iraq war and in the afghanistan war, there's all kinds of money floating around. and the systems for accounting for it are not very good. i'm in the specifically aware of $9 billion of messing one or unaccounted for funds. what happens one of the very important distinguishing characteristics between iraq and afghanistan, in iraq, they all of the 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 from reading. you talked about how the military was arguing that we needed to train 400,000 police
and afghan military. the president talked ab the -- talked about the fact that it will cost $8 billion to do that. will the united states continue to pay for the afghan military and police? >> guest: no, this is one the question marks. this is one the reasons that president obama kept saying i'm not going to spent $1 trillion. his budget director save him a memo saying ten years more 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 lowballed. that it all costs more. this viewer wants the clarification. you said the president would like out of afghanistan. does obama want out of afghanistan but in on pakistan? >> guest: what the president
realizes in of kind of the center of all of this is pakistan. i don't think he wants -- no, in fact, i'm sure he doesn't want a war with pakistan. they are our allies. he wants to win more pakistani cooperation to go after the safe havens where al qaeda resides. bin laden is probably in pakistan. the taliban insurgency leadership is in pakistan. and i recount how the intelligence people have paragraphs and communications interpreted that the taliban insurgents go from afghanistan back into pakistan. get trained, repardonarmed, r &r weekend, load up trucks with the weapons and they weight in pakistan check points to go into afghanistan and kill american
and other coalition soldiers. i quite lyon minute net that, the cia director. as panetta sums it up, this is a crazy kind of war. >> host: steve from michigan. you are on. >> caller: yes, good morning. i got a couple of quick questions. one i'd like to find out if you are telling, are you a democrat or republican? and number two, i'd like to find out how you voted, i think it was in 68 and 72 when next son -- when nixon was being voted on. >> guest: fair and good question. because i live in the district of columbia, which is democratic, i am a registered
democrat, but i'm avowed neutral. to put that into practice, i take my young daughter into the voting booth. she votes for me. she's now 14. we've been doing this since she was about age 4. she's now quite informed. they let you bring a child with you in the voting booth. she actually makes the selections. >> host: this is an e-mail. mr. woodward, how can we call this conflict obama's war? this is the people's war. people who are morally comfortable with men and women serving tours. if we can't reinstate the fact, boots on the ground engaged to win. hopefully the president will garner the the courage to do so and not fear the position. >> guest: it's interesting. because obama is the commander and chief.
lindsey graham, the republican senator talks with obama about this and makes the point to the president this is also the republicans war. not just the democrats war. a number of people pointed it out. indeed that's true. it's george bush that started the war. almost unanimous support from the congress. this issue of the draft is out there. i don't think we are going to 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. there are a group of people that serve. and all of us there are surrogates. but we aren't aware or committed to them at the level that we
should be committed. and i have asked people in the obama administration what do we owe these people who serve? >> host: this viewer name brian tweets. >> guest: just a little bit. you know, we don't have a war or an open shooting war with iran. at this point. it's one of the components of the precarious national security picture is the president is dealing with. >> host: talk with bob woodward about his new book "obama's war." good morning, jennifer. >> caller: good morning. i have a comment regarding hillary lincoln -- hillary clinton and a question. there was a book, called "a woman in charge."
hillary does have a problem about telling the truth. all of the democrats who opposed president obama's health policy were also hillary supporters for president. you made it seem like you are the one that first mentioned that hillary wanted to play musical chairs with vice president biden and switch position with 2012. i don't think you are correct, hillary clinton through her stooges started floating the idea around a year ago. my question is do you believe your friend bernstein's portrayal is accurate? coo fiving, and accurateless. >> guest: the strength of the cook is it's a balanced account of hillary clinton.
it has some criticisms, and it talking about her drive and talents. i have no question that she wants to change jobs with vice president biden. in the book when hillary clinton is deciding to accept the post as secretary of state, she talks to one of her political advisers who said, look, it's a no brainer. take the job, you'll get foreign policy experience. you will heal the relationship with obama that as you call was quite bitter in the primary season in 2008. and if in 2012 when obama is running for reelection, he maybe in trouble politically and need to put hillary clinton on the ticket because of her strength with four voting groups, seniors, working class voters,
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 the mayor media feeding frenzies. >> host: speaking of hillary, do -- >> guest: well, in a perfect world we couldn't need military intervention. it could be done through economic relationships, through diplomacies and so forth. i don't think in our lifetime we are going to live in that world. >> host: let me move to how much diplomacy was on. >> guest: richard holbrook is
the master diplomat. he's the one who negotiated the dayton accords back in the clinton administration that really brought peace to the balkans. and he has said and makes the point that you don't fix this war with the military victory. everyone agrees, the taliban surge si -- insurgency in afghanistan is part of the fabric and always will be. so you need some sort of diplomatic settlement. that's how we get out of the war, i presume. >> host: then the reports this week that the taliban might be at the table for talks is one that you would have expected. >> guest: yes, i report that there were secret talks through the saudis and, you know, but this is all very preliminary.
the taliban still thinks we have the momentum and edge here. >> host: why would they negotiate? >> guest: exactly. >> host: ed from boston on the republican line. good morning, you are on. >> caller: good morning, mr. woodward. >> guest: good morning. >> caller: the russians pulled out of afghanistan after nine years. if it wasn't for charlie wilson, maybe it would have been longer. the russians at nine years, we at nine years, are we fighting a war or culture? what are our chances of winning a battle with a culture? >> guest: yeah. that's an interesting question. i don't think it's a battle with culture. i think it's a battle -- it's an over hang from 9/11 because the taliban provided sanctuary to al qaeda and bin laden and the attacks of 9/11 in part -- only in part came from afghanistan.
but al qaeda is not in afghanistan if any significant way. so there are -- in a way and this is vice president biden. why don't we focus on the cancer, the problem of pakistan? but i -- you know, this is -- this is an interesting point in the book crying to say what do we know about the enny? one of the first rules of war, know who the enemy is and what they care about and how they operate. and there's an intelligence expert named derek harvey who works for general petraeus. general petraeus set harvey up with a special intelligence unit called the center of excellence to get on the ground with people in afghanistan and learn about the tribes and villages do this
kind of homicide detective work to 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 know now a good deal more whether it is enough to inform what we do on the ground in terms of fight at the encourage -- insurgency there and protecting the population which is the hearts and minds strategy of counterinsurgency. >> host: another clip. being in the bubble. >> we were asking, do you get outside advice from people like brent scowcroft. this president bush said no i'm in a bubble. i don't have outside advisers.
i rely on my war cabinet. you 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 president? >> guest: the president doesn't use too many outside advisers. one is secretary and state of of the chairman and joint chiefs. first powell says to him, look, don't be guided by the left or right here. don't be driven by the media. do what you think is right. on the eve of the strategy decision last year, powell comes in and says, just because the military is unanimous in their advise doesn't mean they are right.
you are the commander in chief. there's only one commander in chief. there are other generals that you can get if necessary. >> host: about five minutes left. next is orlando. joe, democrat line. >> caller: good morning. good morning, mr. woodward. listen, i have a nephew in the 101st airborne, my daughter is deployed to afghanistan. my and my family, we pay more attention than most americans to what's going on over there? i have two questions. the first one is vice president joe biden was put on the ticket supposedly because of his expertise in foreign affairs. however, when you comes to the war in afghanistan, his ideas seem to be ignored, i believe. because he was advocates some kind of limited out post type of strategy. and to me, it seems like the most logical. we went in there, what for?
to find bin laden and eliminate or weaken taliban. and that's turned into a nation in ploy. what happened with that? my second question is. >> guest: let me answer that one. a lot of people who have read the book, because of vice president biden comes into the meetings and i have the notes and you see exactly what he says. he makes very strong argument for a more limited effort here. the president didn't reject it though. he accepted some of it. and in the secret orders that he issues, he tells the military, look, the goal here and you are right to call it a modified nation building. it's to come into the areas of afghanistan clear, hold, build, and transfer. clear an area of the insurgents, hold it with our military and afghan military, build schools,
sewers, protect the population, win the hearts and minds, as i was saying. and then transfer. and obama is very direct with the military. he said don't go into an area where you can't transfer. transfer means it turn it over to the afghan police and afghan army. >> host: paul, independent line. >> caller: good morning, c-span and mr. woodward. quick question, first let me say i have about 600dvds. the great eye opening is called why we fight eye eugene direcki. mainly on president eisenhower's warning to the nation about what he called the rise of misplaced power by the military industrial complex. besides recommending it, i
wondered if you have seen it. >> guest: i have not. i'm sorry. what's interesting is president obama is preparing his speech last year when he went up to west point and announced he was going to send 30,000 more troops. 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 that 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 in the meetings in the white house, the president is very passionate
advocate for some sort of agenda. >> host: here's a photograph of apologies. you call this -- let my fine the exact words. two of the most driven -- let me find it real quickly here. two of the most ambitious driven men of their age. how will the relationship play out? it's dependent on one another. >> guest: yes, it is. they haven't closed the deal. or they hadn't closed the deal that i know of on a personal level. and they look at this of differently. president obama wants to limit, general petraeus is quoted in the book saying privately, this is the kind of war that we are going to be fighting all of our lives and our kids lives. >> host: last call.
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