tv Charlie Rose PBS December 2, 2009 12:00pm-1:00pm EST
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> charlie: we're live from new york, washington and miami. president obama today announced one of the most critical decisions of his presidency in a prime time address from the u.s. military academy at west point. he said 30,000 more u.s. troops will be sent to afghanistan by mid 2010. he said u.s. troops would begin leaving in july 2011 the first time he's set a time line for a drawdown. the surge will bring the total number of forces in after fan stan to nearly 100,000. the president said the mission in afghanistan was in the vital national interest of the
united states. he also emphasized the need for cooperation from the afghan and pakistani governments. here are excerpts from tonight's speech. >> president obama: as your commander in chief, i owe you a mission that is clearly defined and worthy of your service. and that's why after the afghan voting was completed, i insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. let me be clear. there has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010. so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period. as commander in chief, i have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 u.s. troops to afghanistan. after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. if i did not think that the
security of the united states and the safety of the american people were at stake in afghanistan, i would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow. our overarching goal remains the same, to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al qaeda in afghanistan and pakistan and to prevent its capacity to threaten america and our allies in the future. these are the three core elements for our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition, a civilian surge that reinforces positive action, and an effective partnership with pakistan. i also know that we as a country cannot sustain our leadership nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse. and the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear. that our cause is just, our
resolve unwaivering,. >> charlie: joining me now here in new york to talk about all of this is jeff green field of cbs news, richard haass of the council on foreign relations in washington, david brooks of the "new york times", martha raddatz of abc news, she just returned from afghanistan. al hunt of bloomberg news. finally in miami dexter filkins of the "new york times" also just returning from his latest assignment in afghanistan. i am pleased to have all of them here on this evening what is called an important moment in the obama presidency. i begin with my colleague in washington, al hunt. al, this speech accomplished what the president needed to do, made the arguments that he needed to make, and what else? >> well, and in a limited way, yes, charlie. i thought it was actually better than some of the instant critics did. i thought it was cogent. it was reasonably candid. i thought he offered a better explanation of why we need to
be there than his predecessor ever did. i thought he was especially effective in pointing out the flaws of the options. either withdrawal or status quo or nation-building, all of which are more untenable or unsustainable than probably the least bad option that he chose. some of that criticism is saying the deadline is... i don't quite understand that criticism. if a year-and-a-half from now this policy isn't working, it's not only a failed policy but a failed president. having said that, charlie, the challenges are so daunting he's dealing with an impatient public. he is dealing with an undependable ally in afghanistan. rife with corruption. a politically dicey pakistan. this is now obama's war. he has really rolled the dice. it's a huge gamble. >> charlie: what struck you about this speech, david? snafd i guess the emotional tone first of all which i would call resolved but also reserved. usually when americans go to war we do so with overwhelming force and with sort of a great moral fervor. no one would say this speech
was characterized by hot emotionality. we're going or at least expand expanding this war with a sense of limits, a limited cost, limited time and sort of limited commitment. so i'm struck... i have no idea how this will play out, but it strikes me as an interesting emotional tone to lead. it will have interesting ramifications first for the american voters. will they be comforted by the sense of limits or maybe made anxious? the afghans? will they be comforted by the sense of our calibration? the taliban. most particularly i'm interested in our troops. they're out there sleeping in she's shallow holes and they can't go into war with a sense of limits or the sense of calibration because the sacrifice they may pay turn out to be the ultimate one. i don't know whether this is good or bad but i'm struck by if you look at the long history of american expansion of wars this strikes me as a very interesting emotional way to go into it. >> charlie: martha? >> charlie, i was struck by the fact that i thought it was
very much like the strategy he outlined in march. very much the same goals. very much the same mission but of course he's adding all these troops. also this was obama's war as soon as he took office. it was even more so when he gave that strategy speech last march. but overall the thing that is most ambitious about this is trying to get these troops in quickly. that's really the difference in this speech, trying to get those troops in quickly. originally i think mcchrystal said it would take about 18 months. now they say it will take about eight months to get 30,000 troops in. president obama didn't explain why he didn't go with 40,000 troops as mcchrystal wanted even though he wants nato troops as well. he went with 30,000 troops although he did talk about the economy and those troops alone would cost $30 billion. >> charlie: dexter? >> well, you know, what struck me was that the president president in one speech said
he was going to ramp things up. then 18 months from now he was going to start taking them back down. you know, it's a very difficult place, afghanistan. it's hard to do anything there in 18 months. it's hard not to be skeptical of the idea that really quite a lot can be accomplished in so short a time. the country just doesn't work that way. its rhythms are very, very different. it's a broken, shattered place. you know, it seems like when you're there that you're walking around the old testament. 18 months isn't a long time. >> charlie: richard? >> well that's his dilemma. he wants to talk about doing enough. he wants to do enough to put this taliban back on its heels. he wants to buy time for the afghan government to build up militarily the police forces, the armed forces and so forth. on the other hand, he wants to reassure americans in particular that we're not going to do too much. we're not going to be there forever. what happens in 18 months?
what happens by the summer of 2011? if it turns out that the process of handing over responsibility for security to the afghans can't go forward that actually the afghans aren't ready to take the baton from the united states? do we simply stay longer? do we actually then double down our air forces or do we start dialing down as the president indicated we would? well, what sort of a message-- and i think it gets very close to what david was mentioning. what sort of a message then are you sending? on one hand these are interests sufficiently important to sacrifice for but they're only sufficiently important to sacrifice for, for 18 months. it's the dilemma, charlie, of when you undertake a war of choice. even though the president said our interests are vit, quite honestly they're not vital. afghanistan is no longery nordiquely important to the global effort against terror. it's not central to what happens in pakistan. what happens in pakistan is what's central. what is is is pakistan's future? the problem is is how to come
up with a strategy that ultimately fits these limited interests? you almost felt the president in some ways was struggling with this intellectual dilemma. the question is whether he could do something that's a compromise that will be acceptable to everyone or whether he's produced a promise that may essentially be acceptable to no one. i think that's his real political.... >> charlie: we'll come back to all of this. jeff? >> i think what we've heard so far explains that it is a discordant speech. no matter what he would have decided he's describing an unappetizing choice in an unappetizing place. he's dealing with a place... i remember reading a book by a very smart fellow named dexter filkins who described afghanistan as a place where in afghanistan the same people shooting at you one day are on your payroll the next. this is an ugly reality. in the last third of the speech he's folding the unpleasant choice into the history of nato and the
gettysburg address and the struggle against hitlerism which is the kind of overreach in a funny way that a lot of people criticized george w. bush for doing in his second term particularly a kind of taking this war and trying to envelope it with a kind of nobility in a almost global historical view. i must say i wonder how this speech particularly is going to play with people who backed barack obama a year ago partly because he was the only major candidate to oppose the war in iraq. whether they're going to say, you know, 90% of his speech or more could have been george w. bush's speech. >> charlie: could you hear george w. bush in this speech, richard? in 2007 when he announced the surge at a time it was sort of the last best effort that the united states had in iraq. this didn't work with a new commander and a new strategy, all was over. >> there's a direct parallel. we have to do more in the short run. that will allow us to do less
in the medium- and long-runs. both of them have the same logic. you need the surge, the number of u.s. forces and the operational tempo of u.s. forces in order to buy time and space for local forces to get up to speed. so they can pick up the burden. in iraq you probably had a better chance of making this work even though it's been far from perfect because you had a much more centralized country, a much greater tradition of a strong central military force. in afghanistan, it's going to be very hard, i believe, given the decentralized nature of the place, given the shifting loyalties inherent to the political culture to get something like this done. as dexter pointed out, 18 months is not a lot of time. even modest things in afghanistan are terribly ambitious. this is something that is ambitious. which is setting the bar awfully high. >> charlie: in fact what martha said about the speed which they emphasized to get the troops over there, i've been told by one general after another it was going to take 18 months to get any troops over there in place and now in 18 months he says they're
going to begin drawing them down. martha. >> charlie, the infrastructure in afghanistan as dexter knows well, they're not really enough airstrips over there to land airplanes to deliver all this equipment, to deliver all these soldiers. there's a stageor area, kuwait, to get into iraq. 99% of this equipment and these people are going to have to go in by air and the generals i've been speaking to over the last couple of months estimated that they could get in a brigade 3,000-5,000 soldiers and marines about every quarter. so as one official told me tonight you have a right to be skeptical about whether or not they can get these troops in in eight months. when you talk about starting to get out and they say this is conditions-based, in july of 2011, remember hamid karzai said he thought it would take five years to train up all the afghan security forces. tonight we have president obama saying, wait a minute. i think we can probably start drawing down about july 2011.
>> charlie: david, do you think the president believes this is do-able in 18 months? or do you believe he thinks that is that this is the only option he has if he accepts the notion that it's in our national security? >> he's a very reluctant war leader. you heard some of the skepticism in the speech almost a sense of melancholy in the speech. he didn't think we can really afford it. he doesn't really have much faith in the karzai government. he doesn't think there's somebody to transfer a secure afghanistan over to, assuming we can secure the place. he is someone who has been dragged into this. i think in part by secretary gates and clinton. in part by the sense that it's just an obligation he has to undertake. one thing which the speech left me really mystified by is not so much how many troops we're going to have there but how they're going to fight. there has been this debate within the administration generally whether it's going to be sort of a topdown
approach where we simply train the afghan army and work on the central kabul government or whether there will be a much greater emphasis on population protection but also on turning around some of the tribes and turning around some of the taliban fighters. i was really struck by the fact that there was the phrase "civilian surge" in the speech bull it was in reference to pakistan not to afghanistan. so a lot of the bottom-up nation-building if you want to call it that, which is what a lot of what our people have been doing there, he sort of skirted by that. i assume if the timetable is 18 months there's not a lot of room for that kind of fundamental security, law enforcement, courts, thing like that because that stuff just takes a lot longer. >> charlie: dexter said a lot about america being a partner for pakistan. and this was the new way of looking at that relationship. is pakistan ready to be a partner? >> well, i mean, what's historically happened with pakistan is that they've been playing double game.
so on the one hand while they're happy to receive more than a billion dollars every year from the united states government since 2001, on the other hand, there are elements there inside the intelligence services, inside the military, which have continued to maintain contact with the taliban and have continued to help the taliban. so it's a... when you say we're going to have a partnership with the pakistani government, what part of the pakistani government are you talking about? that's a really really difficult question. i think the other thing when you're talking about pakistan is that anything that the united states does there is overwhelmingly unpopular. there aren't any american troops there. that's the primary reason why. so, it's hard to imagine many things that the united states can do in pakistan right now that it isn't already doing. >> charlie: al, what will be the congressional reaction to all of this? >> a lot of kritism from both
the left and the right. you have obviously the really left wing democrats going to krit time... criticize him. even people like pat leahy was critical tonight. i think the republicans are going to come at him from a different direction. charlie, this will be part of the debate on capitol hill. start with bob gates' testimony tomorrow. a couple things. i agree with every critique and criticism that's been made. again you come back to what his choices were. and maybe richard is right that afghanistan really isn't viable and pakistan is. clearly what would be the pakistan reaction if we had started to draw down now? and maybe david is right that it would be nice to replicate those great nation-building days of yesteryear. there's not the political or the economic will in this country for that. i think the notion of a long- term, expensive, costly war in afghanistan stan is something that you can just not get public or congressional support for. >> charlie: that's why he was
forced to say we'll start drawing down by soldiers by 2011. jeff? >> i don't know what drawdown means. >> charlie, i've heard more skepticism about this from people in the military about the mission in general about whether it can really be successful and going back to what richard said as well. i think a lot of people are scratching their heads saying perhaps there's as good a chance at success by leaving as there is by staying. the military obviously tonight was backing this mission wholeheartedly. you got a statement from general mcchrystal the commander of forces in afghanistan saying he has a clear mission and the resources to accomplish it. but i think in a year they're going to have a real good sense-- and i was over there as you said just a short time ago and talked to several officials over there and officers. they said they thought within a year they would really have a clear idea of whether this is working. then you go back to that question and what if it isn't. >> charlie: the only thing i can say is it seems to me what
i mentioned earlier, the president can say at least i, you know, i tried. i did the last best thing that i knew how to do. but i have decided that that too was not enough because of all the things that richard laid out in the opening. >> it struck me when david said it almost sounds like the president is being dragged into it. i know there's a danger of always going back to history. you read those tapes that lyndon johnson recorded before the escalation in vietnam with richard russell when he's saying there's no way we can win this thing. but if i pull out i'm going to be impeached. you hear the stories of john kennedy's confidence when he said when i'm re-elected i'm going to pull out. if i try to pull out now, i'd be politically dead. they'd try to impeach me. i was just thinking has a president ever goen up before the american people in a situation like this and said, you know, i've concluded that we're not going in? it's just too damned difficult or expensive or not worth it or not in our interest or we
will be caught in a quagmire for the next ten years so i've decided not to commit? from a political sense, however the reaction may be critical-- and al knows this like the back of his hand-- i wonder what the reaction would have been if obama had said you know what? we're going to disengage? i think the reaction qualify been a fire storm. >> charlie: al, what do you think? if he had said just what jeff just announced. >> well, something would have been a fire storm from certain elements. that gets to the question again that richard raised earlier. if afghanistan is not vital to u.s. interests, if we don't have to worry about the taliban taking over even more control than they have now and being a haven for a resurgent al qaeda, then the president probably made a mistake. however, that's a pretty risky gamble. because if that's not the case and there were some attack wherever it be, i think the
fire storm would even be greater. dick cheney is already laying the predicate for that. >> he runs that risk in several years. that doesn't change. to me the real alternative to what the president did was not leaving afghanistan. that option was not on the table to quote unquote abandon or walk away. e real alternative was not to put in more troops or to put in a token number to switch the emphasis much more to training rather than, quote unquote, combat operations, to put a greater emphasis not simply on helping the central government but helping people around the periphery of the country to try and win over some of the taliban, putting slightly greater effort in pakistan. essentially a lot of what the president announced tonight minus the troop increase. >> charlie: he said that they considered that and rejected it because it would lead to a static situation. >> but... a static situation in afghanistan ain't so bad. you know, it's interesting. dave petraeus now the head of central command, formerly the u.s. commander in iraq used to
say our goal in iraq was iraq good enough. not iraq perfect. i would say our goal in afghanistan should be afghanistan good enough and a static situation? what's so bad about that? the taliban doesn't necessarily gain ground. you allow the afghans to work out.... >> charlie: a static situation i assume the american public is not prepared for that, a static situation where they're taking casualties and last no light at the end of the tunnel to use a phrase. >> it's not static. >> charlie: by definition not static. go ahead, dexter. >> well, i mean it's not static. the situation in afghanistan is getting worse. it's been getting worse. so now the taliban after eight years of war is now stronger than they've ever been. they're mounting more attacks than they ever have before. the americans are taking more casualties than they ever have before. the status quo is pretty bad. it's a lot worse than it was a
year ago. >> charlie: one second, martha. so what should he have done, dexter? >> well, god, i don't know. you know, one thing that i... if you listen to this conversation, if this conversation were 2006 and we were talking about iraq instead of afghanistan, we'd all have been wrong. i think, you know, iraq in 2006 would look pretty bleak. and over the course of the next year-and-a-half for a lot of different reasons, the surge among them, it flipped. and things got a lot better. and i think there's still a lot of unknowns out there. i got the sense listening to the president tonight that that is kind of what they're hoping for. they're hoping for some remarkable thing to happen as has happened in iraq, as happened in iraq in 2007 and 2008, that it would start to turn. and whether that would be because we have more troops there or because we start to
integrate taliban and flip the taliban or because the afghan army starts to take hold and gel, who knows? we'll see. >> charlie: martha. >> charlie, i think the president didn't have much of a choice about sending more troops in because you had stan mcchrystal saying this was the only way to win. it was the only way to succeed over there. and that things were really going south. and that the taliban had the momentum. you heard robert gates say the same thing over the past couple of months. the taliban has the momentum. it wasn't really status quo. it really wasn't static over there at all. i don't know how the president could come out and say... i think that would be the last choice of him to come out and say we're going to leave it just as it is. i don't know how you just train troops if everything around you is going south. >> charlie: david, what questions were the president asking? what do we know about how he came to this conclusion? >> well, this wasn't... well, one formulation of the coin...
strategy is clear, hold and build. one of the main concerns he has, okay, we clear which is to say get the taliban out of an area. we hold it for a little while. then who exactly are they transferring it over to? and what i kept hearing from white house people and people in those meetings was incredible skepticism about the karzai government. when you heard that skepticism over and over again and it's impossible to overstate how high that skepticism was, you really thought, well, how hopeful are they? but i do think the president was not forced into this by domestic political considerations. that was going to be poisonous whatever way he took. he was forced into it by a sense of we're going to muddle through. i think he clearly knew this would be a muddle. he was constrained and he felt constrained in a hundred different ways and that his options were extremely limited and he thought we'll just muddle through. but i do think what comes out in his speech again is a sense
of his coldness. in this way he is different from president bush who had sort of constant emotional attachment to things and who would not have put an end date to the surge at least beforehand. one of the things that struck me about the speech is obama did not talk about what would happen to afghan women if the taliban took control of certain areas. he didn't hit that emotional cord and say we have a moral responsibility to these people after eight years. there remains at the core of the policy, a, his sense of constraints. b, his sense we're just going to muddle this thing through but also an emotional detachment. that may make it easier to leave in horrific circumstances but it is is sort of the nature of his style of leadership. i have to say i have a few qualms about that because i think it's hard to lead a war with that sense of law professor, emotional detachment. >> charlie: is he betting his presidency on this decision he made with all that... with all the risk that is in this
conversation? >> that's one of those assertions that the that's is easier to make than to back up. you're dealing with the worst economic crisis since the great depression. >> charlie: which he brought up. >> i'm not sure that you can say he's betting his presidency on this. i think part of the back end of the speech the idea of raising the whole question about america's economic woes in the middle of the speech shows you that even in the case of a speech about war, that domestic consideration is very much on his mind. because, you know, people will say whenever a president makes a commitment like this he's betting his presidency on it. it's certainly not going to be helpful. to make an understatement. if this doesn't work out. still fundamentally this presidency will rise and fall on what happens with the economy. >> charlie: rachael you join us from having just completed your program over at ms-nbc.
tell me what you thought of this speech. now that you've had several hours to think about it. >> thinking about it in terms of both policy and the politics, i'm struck by how much we are at a similar situation right now in policy in iraq. even though the bush administration never quite presented it that way, politically. with the bush administration we had them argue publicly and very politically for the surge and then very quietly without making any political hey out of it at all arranged with the iraqi government that u.s. troops would lead by a date... would leave by a date certain. with the obama administration what we've got now is both of those policies, the surge and the leaving being negotiated in public at the same time. ultimately bringing us to a very similar place. ironically at a very similar date that we're going to be out in iraq. >> charlie: go ahead, richard. >> i would bet, you know, the entire farm that we're going to be out of iraq. i actually think that at some point this administration and the iraqi government are going to have to reconsider the u.s.
commitment to leave iraq completely by 2011 in part because it's not obvious that if all u.s. combat forces withdraw from iraq that the iraqis can maintain stability. the idea that barack obama would want to have iraq an unraveling iraq come into his in box on top of afghanistan and iran on top of everything else he has to cope with i think is unlikely. i thrill it's better than even that the united states and whatever iraqi government wins or emerges from the next set of iraqiy leakss renegotiate their agreement. we keep a residual force in iraq for an indefinite period. i actually think what we're looking at a residual forces in both iraq and after afghanistan for some time to come. the afghanistan speech tonight was not a hard exit. it was only a beginning. no mention was made of the pace. no mention was made of whether it would be an exit to zero or some residual force.
i think it's likely that we will have tens of thousands of u.s. army and marines in places like iraq and afghan stan for some time to come. >> charlie: dexter, is the strategy, the counterinsurgency strategy in terms of the military people you talked to likely to work? do you have enough troops? does mcchrystal believe it will work? >>. >> i think mcchrystal does believe it will work. whether it ultimately will is something else. but i think, i mean, if you just look at at the numbers there will be about 100,000 american troops here. afghanistan is a much bigger country than iraq is and we had 160,000 there. and if you look... and i think one of the really tricky questions here, an unanswered question, is the training of the afghan army and police. ultimately they're the ones who are going to take over for the americans when they leave.
right now in the ninth year of war there's about 90,000 police and about 90,000 afghan army. i mean all the afghans fight but they're unable to... i think i lost everyone here. >> charlie: we can hear you. >> i'm sorry. but the afghan army units again we're in ninth year now of war. they are unable to operate independently. they don't go out at night. they can't sustain themselves in the field. they don't have any logistical capacity. this is stuff which is going to take a very long time. a lot longer than 18 months i'm afraid. >> charlie: he made all these concessions in your judgment because politically he had to. is is is that correct? to keep some kind of... to keep the left and the right within bounds? is that what i hear? >> well, i don't know what
obama's domestic political calculations were but i think he's doing all the right thing here whether it's for counterinsurgency strategy and training the afghan troops and squeezing karzai on corruption. i mean for me it's a question of time. i mean how much time do you have? you've dedicated the resources. how much time is he going to give himself? and again 18 months isn't a very long time in that country. >> charlie: rachael, what will be the pressure from the left? >> i think the pressure from the left will be to explain how year 10 is better than any of the previous other years. how year 11, year 12 looked better than year 7 did. i honestly feel like the issue of the time is being underplayed. the strain on the military, the number of army brigades that could be deployed anywhere else that we might need them in the world, that the strain on the military over time and the blaud extension that we still got in
afghanistan in iraq at least for the next couple of years is a lot to ask. i do think that the left will be happy by the idea that there is going to be at least a start of a time line for leaving. one area that i see some intellectual problems with the argument is in the fudging of the distance... the fudging of the difference between afghanistan and pakistan. talking about the border regions as if they are a distinct country or as if they are part of afghanistan doesn't make sense. at some point we're going to have to own up politically to the fact that we're waging a war using the kri in pakistan. if our civilian leaders won't talk about that and pakistan will only talk about it internally, that will and political crisis ultimately. it's going to be a big mess. >> charlie: martha, there is progress in pakistan though. is there not? >> there is. certainly the pakistani army... but i think the principal problem that the u.s. administration has with pakistan right now is that pakistan is going after taliban who are a threat to them. and al qaeda.
not necessarily the al qaeda who are a threat to the u.s., and that's where the rub is. that's where they really want to see progress on who pakistan is going after. but rachael has a very good point there about what is going on in pakistan and the c.i.a. is indeed waging the war there. we don't know a whole lot about it. we don't know a whole lot about these drone strikes. we don't really hear who pulls the trigger or makes the decision, who makes the high- value target list. we're left asking a lot of questions without a lot of answers. >> charlie: one of the arguments some people make is is that the president was boxed in by the release of the mcchrystal memorandum to him. is there any credence to that argument? >> well, it's what he asked for, charlie. i mean, he outlined.... >> charlie: he didn't ask for it to be published. >> he didn't ask for it to be public and stan mcchrystal didn't make it public. it was leaked. once that was leaked in effect he was boxed in by what i was
saying before. i mean everybody then knew what stan mcchrystal was asking for. whoever leaked that to bob woodward might have had an agenda. who knows? once that was out there, the president really did have to deal with it in a different way. i think in some senses by saying originally that he was skeptical of what stan mcchrystal did and using those kinds of words and that kind of language left him in a position to... too, where he was on the defensive. and the military was then put on the defensive. i think you still see a few scars with the military by the way president obama handled that. >> charlie: al, there's a question also of paying for this. any momentum there for some kind of special taxation that will pay for this war? >> no, there will be a lot of talk about it, charlie, but the talk is let's tax millionaires. they want to take million airs for the war and millionaires for the health care. they want to tax millionaires
for the deficit rejection. unfortunately we don't have enough millionaires in this country to get all that revenue. this will be more talk than anything else. i would defer to martha on this. i had white house people tell me when they're talking about the beginning of that exit strategy in 2011 they're talking about this additional surge. they're not talking about the 63,000 troops are there. the picture they paint under a best case optimistic scenario is still 70,000-75,000 u.s. forces there on election day 2012. again dexter filkins, the greatest war correspondent of our times who knows afghanistan, they talk about this full and frank discussion the president had monday night for an hour with karzai and yet he didn't bring up any specific problems of people who ought to be sacked or corruption issues that ought to be dealt with. i'm not quite sure how they proceed on that. >> or how they figure out who should be sacked. you're right, al, they are not talking about the major force there. they're just talking about the
surge forces starting to draw them down. >> the point about the tax notion of paying for this war. it's almost unimaginable to me that they're going to be able to do this even if they wanted it. first of all, al is is right about millionaires. i didn't realize bloomberg paid that well. >> you'll have to talk to charlie rose, jeff. >> the more serious point about this is you've had two wars now since nine and the idea of calling for a tax to pay for those wars has been absolutely a non-starter. i think it is the first time in the history of american engagement we haven't done this. you're going to have a situation where the same opposition that's going to be criticizing obama for setting even the hint of a withdrawal, that john mccain was already on it are also going to be saying this is just another example of big government obama wanting to raise our taxes whether it's to pay for health care, the war or anything else.
it's just not politically going to happen. >> it is remarkable that it's been a new form of fiscal conservatism to think that things can be paid for by borrowing and must be paid for only through borrowing as long as we call them national security things. but anything else that's not a national security factor can't be added to the deficit because everybody is so concerned about their fiscal conservative credentials. >> charlie: on nato allies, what are they prepared to do? >> you'll get a few thousand extra troops. the brits will go up to 10,000. they're the most significant. the french will be somewhere close to 4,000. the rest will be scattered around so there will be the numbers of a broad coalition. he'll have 30 or 40 countries contributing in one way or the other. the bulk of the troops will still be american and the british will have 10,000 or so combat troops. they'll be the second most significant. france and a few others will have a role. but i think over time you'll see shall some peeling away of that. this war is widely unpopular for those countries in europe
that are taking casualties. >> charlie: because they don't believe the argument the president makes that it's in the national security or because they simply are tired of iraq and afghanistan? >> there's some intervention fatigue but not that they've been that involved in it. political culture has changed a little bit in a lot of these countries. the willingness of these societies to take casualties is less than it was. there's a kind of strategic pessimism particularly about afghanistan. a lot of historical analogies areut out not always terribly accurate. but there's not a lot of confidence. how do i put snit the investment. the human and military investment will come up with returns that are commensurate. you're seeing throughout europe a certain bushback. nothing like iraq. there's nothing viral about it because there's not the hostility to afghanistan but there is a kind of tiredness and strategic pessimism about what it is we can accomplish and whether it's really going to be worth it.
>> can i ask a question about this? >> charlie: please. >> in the speech obama rejects the vietnam analogy because he says unlike vietnam we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. in iraq we heard the argument that we were joined by many nations most of them who are miniscule, two or three people. what's the reality in afghanistan? is this an accurate description of what's going on, that we have a broad coalition that are really engage snd. >> you have more than 30,000 non-american forces so they're real. some of them are in high combat areas. some of are not. some of them have done a decent job of training. most have quite honestly have not. this is a legitimate coalition unlike the second iraq war it's not as big as the first iraq war under the 41st president which had hundreds of thousands of non-american forces as part of the international coalition but this is real. >> charlie: i keep coming back to the president. in my reading, you've always been fascinated by the idea of howell it's mind worked and how he approaches these issues
and what kinds of questions he's asking. help us understand how you think he finally made this decision because what was it that he thinks he got out of had this review that he didn't know going in? >> he thinks he made them all tougher and harder. he thinks that he accelerated-- and whether it will actually happen we'll see-- but he thinks he accelerated the troop escalation. so he thinks he toughened them. he asked tough questions. it was actually interesting to see how he used people. he used joe biden quite effectively. biden was out there with little nods and winks from the president hitting hard against richard holbrooke, hitting hard against mcchrystal. he really, you know, this is a white house that cultivates a culture of debate. they had quite a brutal debate. they play rt down in public but the no-drama obama that's purely external.
internal they do have drama. there were even accusations within this debate that various sides notably the state department and the defense department were withholding documents from obama because they didn't want him to see stuff. that was the kind of sometimes brutal accusations that were made one to the other. that's, i think, obama sees that as important in a war debate. i think at the end of the day i think he would agree with al and i agree with al that they were all terrible options. he was going to pick the least bad one. i think he thinks he's done that. you saw the sense of reluctance on his face tonight. the one thing i don't know and maybe martha and dexter know the answer to this. we sort of did have a little surge over the summertime. presumably as he was making this decision about whether to escalate the number of troops he was getting reports back from the marines and the soldiers and the striker brigades know went in to afghanistan over the summertime. presumably the reports if there are any and if there are any earlier indications of whether that's working or not
would have helped him make this sgigs. i simply don't know what happened over the summertime is begin to go bear any fruit or not. >> in some places it is. i can tell you, david, one of the places i was was logar province. they went from 300 soldiers to about 3,000. there really are some areas that have improved dramatically. they've been able to build up the economy in areas like that and build up the markets and pave some roads. they say they've seen real progress there. >> if i could jump in there. >> charlie: please, dexter. >> well, i was in helmund province over the summer. that's in the south the center of gravity for the taliban. it's some of the hardest fighting and the hardest terrain that i've ever seen. i mean including iraq. it was extremely difficult. i mean the conditions were really hard. the marines were fighting every day. they were in places where no american or european troops have been in for years in some cases.
there was no government to speak of. there were no afghan police. it's really really hard. and again i mean when you look at something like that and you see, i was in a village along the helmund river in the south. there's nothing there. you know, except a lot of taliban and a lot of villages. i mean that's just a lot of work. i mean they've got a... they've got not just to defeat the taliban but build an afghan state there. >> charlie: you know what i was surprised. whatever general mcchrystal said in the memo that he had to do and why he needed 40,000 troops, there was not more in this speech of why the president believed it was do- what it was that general mcchrystal and other military people might have promised him was possible if they had the resources to do it. >> do you think maybe that he and his team of thinkers and writers have looked back on history the and seen what has
happened to presidents who predicted light at the end of the tunnel or mission accomplished and maybe this was part of what we've been hearing about the notion that he was deliberately not making promises because he didn't want to be jammed down his throat in two years.>> crlie: wk their expectations of karzai is, dexter? >> i think they're pretty low. he's now in his ninth year of ofers. the government he presides over is corrupt from top or bottom as any afghan will tell you. there is barely a public transaction that you can, to be done in afghanistan that doesn't require a bribe. i mean, i made a bribery sently just to get into the airport. it is shot through from top to bottom with corruption. how do you persuade karzai-- i mean, i think this is the dilemma. how can you squeeze karzai to make the changes that he has to make to straighten his
government out, to make it more efficient and more accountable and more honor? if you're not threatening to take troops out you're putting them in. i don't know where the leverage comes from. i think that's a real tricky... that's the real tricky part. >> charlie: richard. same question. >> it's the dilemma here. it's also true with pakistan. you can be generous or you can be the opposite of generous. you can introduce sanctions or threaten to do less. it's not clear you get what you want either way. in the history of the u.s.-pakistani relationship is one of frustration. when we've done more, we haven't necessarily gotten more. when we've done less, we certainly haven't gotten more. it's quite possibly the same thing will be true of afghanistan. there will be no clear correlation between what it is the united states invests and does and what the united states gets out for it. that's another reason i would think the president and those around him to have be awfully careful about defining success or goals in anything but the
most basic ways there's no way to be certain. >> charlie: is it possible they're going to try to by-pass the karzai government and work with a new group of people from the provinces? >> there will be a little bit of that. martha i think was just talking about in places like certain provinces, afghanistan has a history and a culture of not being heavily centralized. it's not iraq. kabul is not baghdad. one of the ideas is not simply to try to push everything through central police and military. but instead to work with various people in' periphery. so i think you're going see some more of that in the coming months. >> charlie: this is one of the things that was in this speech, rachael. as he wound it down, he said finally we must rely on the strength of our values. the things that we must believe in must not change much this is why we must promote our values by living them at home which is why i have prohibited torture and will close guantanamo bay.
we must make it clear that america will speak out on behalf of their human rights and tend to the light of freedom and justice. >> a reference to george w. bush's second inaugural in talking about tyranny around the world. notably not at all the same commitment. he's not making the same commitment because he says he doesn't want to make promises that the united states capable of meeting or we don't need to be making. this is a speech about pragmatism really. i to think that if we're talking about counterinsurgency theory and we're talking about this being a counterinsurgency-led initiative now in afghanistan, we're kidding ourselves if we think it's going to be based around shoring up the karzai government. the president couldn't bring himself to call karzai the legitimate ruler of afghan staff after this last election which he describes as being marred by fraud. it's hard to believe our troops are there in order to
make him seem legitimate. we're dialing back what it is we're trying to do. >> charlie: we need to fix your mike. dexter, was that you or whom? >> there's one thing that has gone unmentioned here. that is that as unpopular as the karzai government is. as difficult the relationship is between the afghan people and the american and the european forces, the taliban are not very popular in afghanistan. they are not a popular movement. in the south they are certainly more popular than they were. but virtually every poll that's been taken-- and it's hard to take polls in that country-- suggest that the afghans have seen the taliban movie before. they don't want them back. i think when you ask the question on what basis does president obama believe that
this is do-able, i think that's probably the main one. you know, when the taliban goes into a village in afghanistan, you know, they don't ask for people's ppks. they just take what they want. >> charlie: and behead the rest. >> charlie, i want to pick up on what dexter just said. i think if you asked richard holbrooke who was a young foreign officer in vietnam the differences between vietnam and afghanistan, he probably would not cite most of what the president did tonight. but i think what he would say is exactly the point that dexter made. that for whatever their merits the vietcong had a lot of popular support compared to our allies over there. i think he would argue that's not as true in afghanistan and that the enemy there is not nearly as smart as the enemy in vietnam. >> charlie: therefore he thinks he can do it in 18 months. >> i think he can have a lot of pessimistic moments too. >> charlie, one thing you have
to remember here is that they are really at the end of the beginning in after... afghanistan now. it's the way the military views it. this is really just getting started. the comparisons to vietnam and over the last few months people were talking about that and they're just puting in my troops. i think the military views this as the first time it's been properly resourced, and they feel from this day on, they're just getting started. that may be very depressing to hear for americans. but i think they are really just looking at this has now they can get done what they had hoped to do. >> charlie: now we can show you what we can do. >> again there's no guarantee. they don't think there's any guarantee but they are really just getting started with. president obama is too. i mean we can all about this tonight and say look at this speech. he has to keep talking about this month after month after month. things are going to happen there that aren't good. you send in more forces, the same thing that i was talking
about. i mean the brigade that i met ten months ago they've lost dozens and dozens of soldiers and had more than 260 wounded since january. you're going to have that happen again over the next monday morning months... over the next many months. watch president obama and whether he maintains that coolness and when bad things start to happen he's going to have to continue to convince this nation this war is worth fighting. >> on that subject, charlie, i've tried to talk to military experts here and tried to get them to talk in a wonky way about military strategies. they keep coming back to the subject of obama's resolve. does he actually have it? is he going to look at the names of the war dead every morning? is he going to go to dover. is this just an unpleasant task. he'd rather be talk about health care or jobs or something else? i actually thought he did quite a good job in the speech tonight of projecting that resolve. he seemed to make clear, i've
made a decision. this is the way it will be. i'm going to stick with it. i took his tone and from what else i've heard from the white house that he really is resolved and that the people who are serving in uniform who are wondering if he's going to be there as long as he needs to be, i think a lot of those questions will at least be... have been ameliorated tonight or deserve to be emile rated. >> charlie: is there anything he said that... he should have said that he didn't because he did say that these storms... we send in the midst of these storm the message that must be clear that our cause is just and our resolve unwaivering. >> his conclusion the last 20% he had about four different concluding paragraphs. somebody should have told him, you know, you only need one. he's so proud of his writerly skills which are formidable but somebody should have said
you have too much there. i would have liked to have seen him how we're going to fight the war and how it's going to work. and our moral responsibility to the people of afghanistan and especially tell the story about how there are schools the girls are going to school there. i would like to have seen more of those personal anecdotes that people get a sense of what life is like over there and to some degree it has apparently improved. >> charlie: i've got about a minute. >> the first thing is that the obama speechwriting staff which is highly skilled needs a blue pencil. he talks too much all the time. the last third of this speech could just as easily have not been given. when you were talking about the values that we all treasure the inevitable push back is did you just come back from china? i'm being rhetorical. it seems to be a particularly dangerous road to take when you're talking about a country like afghanistan. i think the speech would have been better served if it was realistic and with even more of a kind of grim we don't
have a lot of good choices here. this is the best one i can come up with. we're going to give it a shot. leave out the, you know, the waving flags. >> charlie: do you think he took the only option he really could tonight. >> that would have been the best argument he could have made. there are no good choices here. >> there's no good choices. >> charlie: 30 seconds. >> more could have been done with less but what he's done is like his predecessor ironically enough put a war at the center of his presidency. this is not something that i think barack obama would have predicted for himself. >> charlie: when he's got a lot of other things on his plate. >> exactly right. >> charlie: thank you all. thank you all for joining us this evening. we'll see you tomorrow night. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org