tv Meet the Press MSNBC December 7, 2009 4:00am-5:00am EST
>> announcer: from nbc news in washington, this is "meet the press" with david gregory. >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, this is "meet the captions paid for by nbc-universal television this sunday, a special hour devoted to the fight against terrorism in afghanistan. >> it is in our vital american issue to send an additional 30,000 troops to afghanistan. >> the debate is intense. democrats divided -- >> i don't believe american lives should be risked for a war that no longer serves our most pressing national security interests. >> and republicans skeptical about a timeline for withdrawal. >> it has to be one or the other -- appropriate conditions or arbitrary date.
you can't have both. >> this morning we'll tackle the tough remaining questions. how will winning be defined? does a withdrawal date give the enemy an advantage. does it make americans safer from terrorist? how will it be paid for in a time of national daepebt and wh are the consequences for the region and the president? with us today secretary of state hillary clinton and secretary of defense robert gates. then the republican view. the ranking member of the senate armed services committee and former gop candidate arizona senator john mccain. finally, analysis from tom friedman of the new york times and bob woodward of the washington post. >> but first, here they are -- secretary of defense robert gates and secretary of state hillary clinton. welcome to "meet the press." >> thank you. >> so much of the heat of the
debate was not about the going in but about the going out. this is what the president said about the scope of this mission. >> these additional american and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of afghanistan in july of 2011. >> secretary gates, is this a deadline? >> it's the beginning of a process. in july 2011, our generals are confident that they will know whether our strategy is working. and the plan is to begin transferring areas of responsibility for security over to the afghan security forces with us remaining in a tactical and strategic overwatch position -- sort of the cavalry over the hill. but we will begin to thin our forces and begin to bring them home, but the pace of bringing them home and where we will bring them home from will depend on the circumstances on the
ground and those judgments will be made by our commanders in the field. >> regard less of circumstances you're saying that withdrawal will take place at that point. >> it will begin in july of 2011. but how quickly it goes will depend on the conditions on the ground. we will have a significant number of forces in there for a considerable period of time after that. >> you both this week have taken tough questions about the issue of a deadline and whether that's a bad thing to signal up front. three years ago, secretary gates, you were asked on capitol hill about another war, another debate, another timeline. that was about iraq. secretary clinton, you were asked as senator in 2005 the same question about iraq and timelines for withdrawal. this is what you both said back then. >> do you believe if we set timetables or a policy to withdraw at a date certain it would be seen by the extremists as a sign of weakness, the moderates would be disheartened and it would create a tremendous impediment to the forces coming
forward in iraq? >> i think a specific timetable would give -- would essentially tell them how long they have to wait until we're gone. >> we don't want to send a signal to the insur jeinsurgent terrorists that we are going to be out of here at some date certain. i think that would be like a green light to go ahead and bide your time. >> that was about iraq. why are your views different when it comes to afghanistan? >> because we're not talking about an exit strategy or a drop-dead deadline. what we are talking about is an assessment that in january 2011, we can begin a transition -- a transition to hand off responsibility to the afghan forces. that is what eventually happened in iraq. you know, we're going to be out of iraq. we have a firm deadline because the iraqis believe they can assume and will assume responsibility for their own future. we want the afghans to feel the same sense of urgency.
we want them to make good on what president karzai said in his inaugural speech which is that by five years from now they will have total control for their defense. >> but this is a time certain -- secretary gates you said the withdrawal will begin regardless of conditions. the pace of withdrawal could be affected. this is a date certain. when it came to iraq you thought it was a bad idea. >> i was opposed to a deadline in iraq. if you listen to what i said, that was a date certain to have all of our forces out of iraq. i'm opposed to that in afghanistan as well, but i believe there is an important element here of balancing sending a signal of resolve but also giving the afghan government a sense of urgency that they need to get their young men recruited, trained and into the field partnering with our forces and then on their own. so i think that the beginning of this process in july 2011 makes a lot of sense because the other side of it is open. >> what kind of casualties should americans be prepared to
suffer in afghanistan with this new strategy? >> the tragedy is that the casualties will probably continue to grow at least for the time being. this is what we saw in the surge in iraq. it's because they are going into places where the taliban essentially have controlled the territory and upsetting the apple cart, if you will. what happened in iraq is what we anticipate will happen here will have an increase in casualties at the front end of this process, but over time it will actually lead to fewer casualties. >> secretary clinton, what happens if the strategy isn't working in 18 months' time? >> well, first, david, we obviously believe that it will work. we have spent a lot of time testing all the assumptions. our commanders have a lot of confidence that it will work. but the president has said, and we agree, that we will take stock of where we are every month. we're not going to wait. we're going to be looking to see what's happening. now, we have had the marines that were sent in -- remember,
this president inherited a situation where we had basically lost ground to the taliban. the war in afghanistan, unfortunately, was lost in the fog of the war in iraq. and the president put in troops when he first got there and then said, but let's make sure we know where we're headed and how to get there. and so we're going to continue to evaluate as we go. but the marines went in to helmond province last july and the reports are that they are making headway. we have confidence in this strategy. >> the issue of what was inherited came up this week. the president said pointedly that reinforcements requested of the bush administration on your watch were not provided and that he provided them when he came into office. is that true? >> there was throughout my time as secretary of defense under president bush an outstanding request from general mckirnan
and as the joint chiefs of staffs testified repeatedly. because of the commitment of forces in iraq, we did not have the ability to meet the resource needs in afghanistan. >> so you don't have a problem with that statement? >> no. there was an outstanding troop request on my watch. >> let's talk about the mission. and i want to chart a little bit of the evolution of the president's public statements about this. going back to july of 2008 during the campaign when he talked about america's commitment to afghanistan. watch this. >> the afghan people must know that our commitment to their future is enduring, because the security of afghanistan and the united states is shared. >> tuesday, when he spoke to the country, he seemed to dismiss the notion of what he called an open-ended or enduring commitment to afghanistan saying this -- >> some call for a more dramatic and open-ended view of the war
effort. that sets goals beyond what can be achieved at a reasonable cost. and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. >> secretary clinton, has the president concluded -- as president now -- that in afghanistan the war on terror needs to be downsized? >> no. and i think, david, there is no contradiction between the two statements you just played. we will have an enduring commitment to afghanistan. we're going to be putting in combat troops. we are going to be joined by 42 partners. we just got a commitment of an additional 7,000 troops from our nato-isaf allies and we will most likely be continuing once our combat responsibilities have ended in whatever support for the afghan security forces in terms of training, logistics, intelligence, that will enable them to do what a they need to do. at the same time, we will have an ongoing civilian commitment to afghanistan. so, yes, we don't have an
open-ended combat commitment. we think we have a strategy that will create the space and time for the afghans to stand up their own security forces and take responsibility, but we're not going to be, you know, walking away from afghanistan again. we did that before. it didn't turn out very well. we will stay involved. we will stay supportive and i think that's exactly the right approach. >> but if you have a situation where you're going to begin the withdrawal of troops regardless of conditions on the ground some critics see it as weakness. dick cheney said this to politico this week. if you look at the response from pakistan, the very country we need to get to the baddest of the guys over in their country with al qaeda, there is this as
reported by the new york times -- washington's assertion that american troops could begin leaving in 18 months provoked anxiety in afghanistan and rekindled fears in pakistan that would withdraw leaving pakistan to fend for itself. both face taliban insurgencies. we are studying the policy. we need more clarity on it and when we get more clarity we can see what we can implement on that plan. is what former vice president cheney is warning about about to take place in afghanistan? >> first of all, we are not talking about an abrupt withdrawal. we are talking about something that will take place over a period of time. our commanders think that these additional forces and one of the reasons for the president's decision to try and accelerate their deployment is the view that this extended surge has the opportunity to make significant gains in terms of reversing the momentum of the taliban, denying control of afghan territory and degrading their capabilities.
our military thinks we have a real opportunity to do that and not just in the next 18 months. we will have a significant -- we will have 100,000 troops there. they are not leaving in july of 2011. some handful or some small number or whatever the conditions will permit will begin to withdraw at this time. the piece of this people need to keep in mindhat's different from iraq is our need to communicate a sense of urgency to afghans of their need to accept responsibility. the iraqis, after it was clear the surge was working, clearly wanted us out as fast as possible. in the case of the afghans there are those -- not everybody but there are those who would love the united states army to stay in this rough neighborhood indefinitely. we want to communicate the message we will not provide security forever. they have to step up. >> it seems an important point. beyond july of 2011 there will be a significant amount of u.s.
troops there. there will be about 100,000 once the surge is finished. how many more years should americans expect to have a significant force presence in afghanistan? >> i think -- again, i don't want to put a deadline on it. okay? i think just picking up on president karzai's statements in his inaugural address, he talked about taking over security control in three years in important areas of afghanistan and all of afghanistan in five years. i think we are in that neighborhood. two to three to four years. but, again, during that period we will be -- just as we did in iraq -- turning over provinces to afghan security forces and that will allow us to bring the number of our forces down in a steady but conditions-based circumstance. >> we are also in a more covert way that's not very well kept as a secret at war in pakistan as
well. the baddest of the bad are in pakistan and not afghanistan. what are the pakistanis prepared to do to destroy them? >> well, david, i think what we have seen over the course of this year is a sea change in attitude by the pakistanis. if we had been sitting here a year ago and you asked what they were going to do, there wouldn't be much of an answer. now we can say, they are going to go after the terrorists who are threatening their very existence as a sovereign nation. they have had two military campaigns in the space of the last eight months and they are making real progress. what we are discussing and consulting with them over is how all of these groups are now a threat to them. there is a syndicate of terrorism with al qaeda at the head of it. so we're doing everything we can to support them in what is a -- really a life or death struggle.
the terrorists just blew up a mosque filled with military officers. these terrorists with al qaeda's funding, encouragement, training, equipment, is going right at the pakistani government. >> can a mission be accomplished without capturing osama bin laden? >> i believe it's important to capture and/or kill osama bin laden, zawahiri the others who are part of the leadership team. you can certainly make progress absent that. >> i want to talk about a history you know well, secretary gates, in your work in this region going back decades. this was the editorial in the new york times days after the soviet invasion in 1979. by intervening so strongly on behalf of a wobbly afghan client, the soviet union appears to be sinking deeper into a quagmire. you have said along in this process you were worried about putting in more troops saying the soviets had 110,000 there
and they couldn't win. why is it different now? isn't this mission impossible? >> it's pretty straightforward. first of all, the soviets were trying to impose an alien culture and political system on afghanist afghanistan. more importantly, they were there terrorizing the afghans. they killed a million afghans. they made refugees out of five million afghans. they were isolated internationally. all of those factors are different for us -- completely different. we have the sanction of the u.n. we have the sanction of nato. we have the invitation of the afghan government itself. we have 42 military partners in afghanistan. we are supporting and protecting the afghan people. one of the central themes of general mcchrystal's strategy is to reduce and keep civilian casualties low. so it's a very different situation. what general mcchrystal persuaded me of is that the size
of the footprint matters a lot less than what they are doing there. and the new strategy he put in place of how we deal with the afghans and how we behave, think, will make a big difference. >> i want to ask you an important political question. you have heard the reaction from the democratic party. liberals using terms like echoes of vietnam, that this is risky, a gamble, of vietnam war protester tom hayden talking about the immorality of fighting for the regime in place in afghanistan. you have been on the campaign trail for president, you were a senator and you know the politics well. can you effectively prosecute this war without the base of the party behind it? >> well, david, i think it's clear to anyone who has followed this that president obama has done what he thinks is right for the country. he is well aware of the political concerns raised that
you have just described. i think he deserves a lot of credit for not only delving into this and asking the hard questions, but coming to a decision that has both political and economic costs but which he has concluded is in our vital national security interest. i think that we have to look more broadly at what has gone on in afghanistan. yes, are there problems with the current government? of course there are, as there are with any government. we deal with a lot of governments who are hardly poster children for good governance. but look at what's happened. when president karzai came into office there were a million kids and they were all boys. there are now seven million, 40% girls. there is a wheelt harvest give -- wheat harvest giving people income from the land. there are so many positive examples of what has changed. of course there is a lot of work to be done. good grief. this country was devastated by
three decades of the most brutal kind of war. it's recovering and as bob has said, they really want a different future. >> is the politics of this, the cost of this, will there have to be a war tax? what will you do to keep the democrats in line on this? >> the president has said he will make sure the cost of the war is accounted for in the budget. it is an additional expense. everybody knows that. we have so many important demands here at home. we would not be pursuing this strategy if we did not believe it was directly connected to the safety of our people, our interests, our allies around the world and i just hope that a lot of my friends who are raising questions -- bob and i heard them when we were up there testifying -- will really pay attention to the rationale behind the president doing this. >> secretary gates, you are a hard-nosed realist about this region and
decades. is failure an option in afghanistan? >> no. i don't think it can be given the nature of the terror network that secretary clinton referred to. but we will be monitoring our progress and be willing to adjust our strategy if there are issues. we're not just going to plunge blindly ahead if it becomes clear that what we are doing isn't working. there are other alternatives. frankly, we didn't think the outcome of the long discussions that we had was that those outcomes were probably less likely to work than what we have chosen. we think and recommended to the president the strategy that a he has decided on that we believe all of us including the uniformed military and our commanders in the field offers the very best chance for our success. and that's what we are going to count on. >> you say failure is not an option. the president says we will fight
this fight and fight it hard only up to a certain point. >> and then we begin to transfer responsibility to the afghans. a lot can happen a in 18 months. >> you said when you were on this program in march that you considered it a challenge, the notion that you may stay on for the entire first term as secretary of defense. what do you say now? >> i say that's a challenge. >> will you see the withdrawal of troops through? >> i think that's up to the president. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, david. >> our special hour on of afghanistan continues. up next, on a exclusive interview with the ranking member of the armed services, john mccain. then analysis on what it means with bob woodward and tom friedman. so, what's the problem?
we're back with senator john mccain. welcome back to the program. a lot to discuss and react to. your big issue this week -- the issue of with dadrawawithdrawal. you saerd -- heard secretary gates say july 2011 is a date certain for the beginning of the withdrawal. do you have a problem with that? >> yes. i also support the president's decision. i think it is the right decision. i think it can lead to success. it's a tough decision on his part to send young americans in harm's way. as secretary gates said, casualties will go up tragically, but i think he made the right decision and the reality is he's not only a tough decision to send young americans into harm's way but significant elements of his own party are opposed. i strongly support the decision. the problem with the date
certain now is that not only there is a problem with that itself, but there is a significant contribution between what secretaries gates and clinton were saying and what the president -- >> contradictions. >> contradiction between what his spokesperson said a couple of days ago when he said the president said -- he said -- i'm directly quoting the president -- that the withdrawal date is in stone and i am the chiseler. that's pretty straightforward. what has that done? it's caused reaction like you saw with the prime minister of pakistan. policy-makers throughout the region -- pakistan, india, iran, as well as afghanistan -- are now trying to figure out whether they can really go all in and support this effort or do they have to accommodate because if we leave they will have to stay in the region. so it needs to be resolved.
it needs to be resolved in this way, that we will not leave on a date certain, but we have every confidence -- i do. i have every confidence within a year to 18 months we can achieve success. we were able to do that in iraq. we will leave and not allow the taliban to make comments like taliban prisoners are saying -- you've got the watches and we've got the time. we don't want to send that message. >> privately and during his address to the nation, the president said if you use that logic that's the rationale for forever war. you don't ever leave. >> the rationale for war is to break the enemy's will. do you break their will by saying we're going to be there for a year and a half or so and then we'll begin to leave no matter the circumstances or do you tell them, we're going to win and we're going to break your will and then we're going
to leave? that's a huge factor on the conduct of war especially when you're conducting counterinsurgency. >> this fall i did an interview with you in washington on this poppic. i want to show -- topic. i want to show you what you said. >> i am convinced we could see signs of success in a year to 18 months. >> and if we don't at that point? >> well, then i think we have to make a decision at that time as if we don't. >> how is that different from what you said to what the president is saying now? >> well, i'm saying that we have to make a decision as to what adjustments we need to make to win. if we are not succeeding with one strategy then obviously we have to adjust the strategy. but as i said, i am confident -- as i said then -- a year to a year and a half at great tragic loss of brave young americans we will be able to succeed and prevent afghanistan from returning to a base of al qaeda
and attacks on the united states and our allies. not to mention what the taliban subject the afghan people to which is immense cruelty. >> americans knew why they were going to war in afghanistan after 9/11. >> yes. >> today it's a question mark if you look at the polling. americans do not support this. >> the president, as i expected, with a very effective speech at an appropriate venue at west point has moved those numbers in the right direction. >> what is the likelihood of another terrorist attack on america from that region -- afghanistan, pakistan -- as things stand now? >> i think that the areas around pakistan, afghan border is still a place where al qaeda and other islamic extremist elements can hang out, but i think they are on the defensive and it's a far different situation than if we left and allowed them to restore
safe havens without a threat against them, not to mention the pakistani nuclear inventory and all the implications of that. >> to those who oppose this war, there are a challenging couple of assumptions -- the assumption that hamid karzai, the president of afghanistan who the united states says is corrupt, who stole the election, who cannot secure most of the country is going to somehow become a different leader and afghanistan becomes a different country. that pakistan which supported the taliban for years and is still apparently hedging bets about going after the baddest of the bad in the tribal areas somehow becomes a different country. why do you assume that happens? >> when we started the surge there was serious talk about replacing malaki. there was no surge. it was just sectarian violence. governments succeed with
success. when you are able to provide an environment of security to clear -- the clear hold and build strategy then governments do improve. they are not all perfect. one reason we have the problems we have is because of the corruption and one breeds the other. as far as pakistan is concerned, secretary clinton pointed out, the pakistanis have been doing much better. they have been doing everything we want? no. but they have been improving much better. there are really internal domestic politics that frighten me in a way because of the lack of zadari's immunity expiring and all of those aspects of it. but i believe if we send a clear signal we're going to do what's necessary. we are not leaving until we succeed and that does not mean an open-ended commitment. it means we will adjust our strategy over time, but to send the message that you're going to leave at a certain date is not the way to convince the enemy that you're there to beat them.
>> you're talking about pakistan. secretary gates says it's been years since there has been solid intelligence about the whereabouts of osama bin laden. >> mm-hmm. >> how important is he to the mission? why don't we have intelligence? and is it pakistan's fault? >> i know as much as you do. okay? everybody i know and every time i'm in the region i asked that question. they say he moves back and forth. they say he has concentric circles of people who warn him. if you look at the terrain, it's the most difficult and rugged in the world. but he is also unable to establish a base for training and equipping people who would come and make a tax on the united states and our allies. yes, i think it's important to get him. i think we need to get him. don't think that al qaeda could not flourish without him if we give them a safe haven in afghanistan or pakistan. >> more broadly, when you
evaluate the president's performance and approach, do you agree with some who say he's made a decision to downsize the war on terror? does that make you uncomfortable? >> i don't have any indication of that. as i said, i respect the decision and support the decision he made. it's behind us now. but that long, drawn out process wasn't helpful to our friends and enemies. >> do you think it helped the enemies that it took as long as it did? >> oh, i don't think -- because i heard from them all the time, it made our allies uneasy as to what we were going to do. it wasn't just the length of time. the leak of secret cables from our ambassador in kabul saying we shouldn't send reinforcement leads turmoil. but that's behind us. the president made the decision. i support it. >> if we could do an express round of the straight talk express on other news items. is there a jobs bill that you
could support? >> if it has to do with tax cuts and small business creation, corporate tax cuts, small business tax cuts, absolutely. in the housing, any effort toward reducing the problems in the housing, home loan mortgage market. 48% of the home loan mortgages in my state of arizona are under water. that's unacceptable. it's a failure on the part of t.a.r.p. >> is stimulus working? >> no, of course not. i guess if you throw enough money at anything there's a result. it's certainly not -- look, by their own figures the administration said unemployment would be at 8%. it's at 10%. i hope it's going to recover, but we have to -- i think it's been an act of generational theft we laid on our children and grandchildren. >> do you support ben bernanke for a second term as fed chief? >> i want to examine it some more. i had a good meeting with him. i'm disappointed in what's
happened with some of the proposals. now wall street's doing great. billions in bonuses, all kinds of things and main street, i guarantee you, come with me to phoenix, arizona, flagstaff, yuma. mr. bernanke's policies have not helped the businesses in my state. >> will health care reform pass with a public option? >> i don't know. the american public opinion is swinging more and more against it. we're fighting the good fight. we are not delaying but this is probably one of the most interesting domestic discussions i have ever been in in my career in the united states senate. frankly, it's been vigorous and enjoyable. >> do you think he'll get reform in some capacity? >> i don't know. i don't know the answer. you still count it up and down. if senator reid gets 60 votes then he has 60 democrats. but i am hopeful american public opinion will be heard in the united states senate. >> now time for your political
analyst hat. do you think sarah palin's brand of conservatism is what the republican party needs in the near term and 2012? >> i think sarah palin has earned herself a big place in the political scene. i'm proud of her. i am entertained every time i see people attack her. she's irrelevant, but they ca t continue to attack her. i'm proud of the work she's doing. >> you thought her book was fair? >> oh, sure. >> kind of said she was thrown under the bus by the mccain campaign. >> oh, we have a wonderful relationship, todd and sarah and i. just saw her recently. i'm very proud of her. we need vigorous discussion and debate in the republican party. she's going to be a part of that in the future. >> all right, senator mccain, thank you for being here.
>> thank you. >> up next, more of our special hour an afghanistan. analysis from tom [ telephone rings ] pepto-bismol. nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, and diarrhea. yeah, my son's got all that and he's on his first date. will new pepto instacool cover him? what's he got, a little bit of the nervous stomach? the chimichangas probably aren't helping either. ouch. well, when he feels the instacool sensation, he'll know that pepto's about to kick in. oh, ah-ha. honey, do you feel... the instacool sensation -- yes, mom. thank you, mrs. wagner. you're welcome, sweetheart. [ pepto guy ] have a great date, everybody. [ male announcer ] new pepto-bismol chewables with instacool. yup, you're covered.
what are the hard questions as we move forward on afghanistan? >> there is a lot of misplaced focus on the question of a deadline like how and when we get out. i think it's important to focus on how we start. what worries me is a certain strategic incoherence that i hear as i listen to the key players. the president said we are not doing nation-building in afghanistan. general mcchrystal says we need to raise and train an army and police force of 400,000. how do you have an army not connected to a state? okay? is it going to float there? are we going to pay it? we're americans. we focus on us. we are not focused on the key issue. the key issue is this, in my view -- the surge is happening, but karzai is both the cause of the surge and the beneficiary. he's the cause in that it is his corruption, the crime syndicate his government turned into, which got many afghans to turn to the taliban.
we have to surge basically because he lost his people. that's what's going on. for me, everything depends on who karzai is, what kind of government he built. remember, there is only one reason we have a chance left for a decent outcome in iraq. it's because of the awakening in iraq by iraqi, sunnis and shiites to take on their own extremists. if we don't build a government in afghanistan that the people want to fight for, defend and be loyal to, nothing else works. that's, to me, what we should be focused on. how we get in, not when we leave. >> i think the key issue is whether president obama played his part, did his job. i think by all analysis and evidence now he did. you had this group of people in his national security team who had very different views about what needed to be done. he held them together like there really was a collaboration.
in any collaboration, there will be compromise. now the spotlight really shifts to, i think, three areas that need to be watched and i think he's going to be watching very carefully. the military, can they do their job? can the word that was not in obama's speech was count counterinsurgency which is protect the people. are they going to be able to do that in afghanistan? i know last month -- there are always these assessments. secretary clinton was saying they do them each month. i think the one last month by general mcchrystal concluded that in lots of areas, about half of his force is doing a very good job. the other half is not. that means there is a lot of work to be done. the other area is the intelligence world. there is a lot of -- this is the secret world, the below the line, the classified forces.
there is a lot that can be done here. i suspect a good deal will be that we may not know about. and the third area which tom raises which is the diplomatic area. is secretary clinton, richard holbrook, the special ambassador going to find a way to pressure karzai to change so it is no longer a crime industry cat? in other words -- syndicate. in other words, can we negotiate with the godfather? >> i posed five big questions at the top of the program. one of them was, how will winning be defined? we heard from secretary gates that the time horizon is, at most, five years. that's when karzai wants to take over complete control. he's saying somewhere on the continuum is the life of u.s. force involvement in afghanistan. in that time, a state has to be
stood up, an afghan army has to be stood up, centuries have to be over come and pakistani has to really target the baddest of the bad guys on their side of the border and believe it's in their interest to take out the taliban which is capable of hurting us. five years? is that defining success? is that going to happen? >> i'm deeply skeptical of the whole thing. i would simply say there is h one indicator of success in my view, david. that is a critical mass of afghans willing to stand up and fight for their own government. that's the only reason we've got a chance. >> they have to want it more than we want it for them. >> if we want it more than they do, we are dead because they will hold our coat for the next five or 15 years. without that, nothing happens. the only time the middle east has put a smile on our face in the last 30 years is when it starts with them. camp david started with egypt
and israel in a secret meeting. oslo peace process started between israelis and pakistanis. when they want it and take ownership of it, it works. when they don't, we can be there until christmas 2050. >> does a withdrawal date give the enemy an advantage? >> i think it's pretty clear that's a nonwithdrawal withdrawal date. >> a nondenial denial. >> it's a starting point. it was probably useful to send that message to karzai in the after gap government and our allies and so forth. i think no one has a chris call ba -- crystal ball here. we can sound wise and be wrong. no one knows what will happen. the x factor has to do with the leadership in the military, the intelligence world and the state department.
can they really do something? can the generals get out there and drive the forces on the ground? that's where this is going to be won or lost. >> the other question had to do with whether the strategy makes americans safer from terrorists. tom, you referred to this in a column this week and i will put it on the screen in terms of the reverberations of policy. iraq was about thor war on terrorism. the afghanistan invasion was about the war on terrorists. to me it was about getting bin laden and driving al qaeda of a sanctuary, period. i never thought we would make afghanistan into for way and if we did it would not resonate beyond its borders the way iraq might. is this the antidote to terrorism -- getting afghan right? >> let's widen the aperture a little bit. what's going on since 9/11 is a war in a slum over what degree it should embrace modernity.
>> we have been drawn into it and dived into it to some degree. there is a jihadist minority that wants them in the last era. there is a small group that wants to move into the future. we had a civil war. we had people who believed bad stuff. they believed you can discriminate against people because of the color of their skin. we defeated those people so badly that three generations later their offspring haven't forgotten it. if they don't have a war within a slum, nothing changes. the most important story of the week was the one secretary of state hillary clinton referred to, the bombing in rawanindi, a suicide bomber walked into a mosque and blew it up in the middle of friday prayer. where was the mass protest in the muslim world against that? in pakistan, we saw a million people take to the streets to protest a cartoon that insulted
the prophet mohammed. unless you get millions protesting that saying that is haram, forbidden, there is nothing we can do to win this war. >> bob, what about -- >> i think the lives of the average afghan come into play here. how are they living? what's going on with them? we are sending our military to protect them. this isn't an abstraction. it is about our military forces going and eating goat with them. smoking bad cigarettes. using the same toilet. for them, it's not a toilet, it's a pot. and those people, can you win them over and show that you're protecting them so they get vested in our success? what's going on in pakistan and the theory of all of this which
you were very, very smart on, tom, is not part of their lives. the whole strategy is to connect with real lives and make those people so they are going to say, we're signing up with you, not the insurgents. >> let's bring it back to domestic politics here. the left doesn't like this war, this strategy. how is this going to get paid for, bob? does there have to be a war tax to pay the additional $30 billion to send 30,000 more troops? >> one of the lessons going back to vietnam is the commander in chief has extraordinary authority in this area. they say, we're committing the troops. there is no way -- i emphasize no way -- that the congress is going to deny money to the troops who are in the field. it's going to be complicated, expensive. here's the problem i have with this. is the strategy decisive? and the answer is no. you talk to people inside and
they say, this is our best effort, but we can't guarantee it. and when you can't guarantee something where the stakes are so high we could be in trouble. >> the last question i pose -- what are the consequences of failure for the region and for the president? what's interesting is that the president has effectively said in effect failure is an option because we can't fight this forever. this week the war in afghanistan, the war on unemployment came together. what's more consequential for the presidency? >> i tell you how you bring them together -- there is a gasoline tax of $1 a gallon that you raise the money to pay down the deficit, pay for health care and at the same time take away the funding that's going to people indirectly to draw a bull's eye on our back. the fact that our politics can't allow us to do the very thing we know is critically important, shame on us. >> the consequences of failure?
>> i think obama and secretary gates and secretary clinton made it clear. they're not going to let this fail. what they are really saying, what the real meaning of all of these speeches and interviews and language is this is what we are going to do now. let's see what happens on the ground. let's see where we are each month. i don't think they are afraid to come back and say, you know what, this didn't work. we're going to change it and make sure it works. let's go to the nightmare. if there is another serious attack, terrorist attack in this country, then everything changes and obviously that includes the afghanistan/pakistan strategy. >> we have to clear and hold and they have to build. if they don't, it's about them, david. >> we'll leave it there. thank you very much. you can read an excerpt from tom's best-selling book "hot, flat and
before we go today, in our take two web extra, a special conversation with two columnists about the global implications of the president's decision on afghanistan. plus, we are going to get their take on issues facing the world in 2010, all in the "meet the press" take two web extra up this afternoon on mtp.msnbc.