But this is going to be harder than it was in Iraq. In Iraq, you had a literate society. You had a society with a middle class. But more important, when our surge began in Iraq, the tide had already turned. There had been the Sunni awakening in Anbar. They had turned against Al Qaida in Mesopotamia, who were largely foreign fighters.
The Taliban are there. When you asked Secretary Gates about the -- the Helmand operation, he said, very tellingly, it's going very well wherever the Marines are present...
STEPHANOPOULOS: They can't be everywhere.
WILL: ... and as long as they're present. They won't be there forever.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Except you write in Newsweek magazine this week, Richard, that this should be labeled the "no exit" plan.
HAASS: Well, wars are always easier to get into than out of, and this is unlikely to be the exception to that. We'll do the surge, and as George has, I think, correctly pointed out, as long as we're there, things will be better. But I think it -- it would have to be the triumph of hope over experience to think that if -- if and when we draw down and we go back, say, to pre-surge levels that any improvements will endure.
That would mean that the Afghan government had picked up tremendous capacity and that the Pakistani government had discovered tremendous will. And I would think both of those are open questions. So odds are to me that the United States will find itself in Afghanistan for some time to come, along, by the way, in Iraq for some time to come.
VANDEN HEUVEL: You know, President Obama is at risk of losing part of his coalition. I'm deeply saddened by this speech, because the facts on the ground don't lend itself to this policy. At a time of true unemployment of 17 percent, we're sending -- we're sending 30,000 troops for 100,000 force at $100 billion when his own national security adviser said there was no vital interest at stake. We're going to destabilize...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... clearly there was.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Yes, but, I mean, this was a few weeks ago, and we're going to destabilize a nuclear-armed country, Pakistan. And, you know, wars suck the oxygen, George, out of reform presidencies. We've seen it throughout our history.
And so the prospect of the reform agenda President Obama ran on is one that is at risk. I think we could have done a very smart counterterrorism strategy at far lesser cost, and we have national security threats around the world. This will limit his options in that area.
And I think, you know, the larger problem is we need a new national security. President Obama ran not as an antiwar president -- anti-Iraq war. And he's not hostage to the mindset in Washington, but he is to an extent...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But he also ran on finishing the war in Afghanistan.
VANDEN HEUVEL: But he's...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Peggy, let me bring this to you, because I think one of the things Katrina says is something that was weighing on the president's mind at the beginning of this process, that this would suck the oxygen out of the rest of his agenda. But by the time he gave that speech, he -- he talked about that, but also seemed quite at peace with the decision.