'This Week' Transcript: Panetta

Now, you know, I think President Obama, he managed to escape any short-term political peril in naming General Petraeus to succeed General McChrystal, something with broad bipartisan support here in this town this week. But I think this comes with a potential longer- term political cost, Jake, because he's now putting out in Kabul the godfather of counter-insurgency, the guy who wrote the Army field manual on this. So that at the end of this year, when the White House has a strategy review, and next spring as they start to debate what will the pace of that drawdown be, he's going to have -- General -- having Petraeus there is a much more formidable advocate for delaying this drawdown or really attenuating it compared to what McChrystal would have been.

TAPPER: George?

WILL: And when I saw the godfather of counter-insurgency in Tampa about two months ago, it was clear to me that he read the crucial paragraph in the president's December 1st speech about the withdrawal deadline. The phrase "conditions-based withdrawal" is making the deadline all loophole and no deadline. That is to say, you can stay as long as you need. We just hope the conditions will be good then, and that hope is not a policy.

WRIGHT: One of the things that's so important is the fact that, as David pointed out, there are different -- the division that was represented in the McChrystal firing is still there. And it's going to play out over the next year, because the political timeline is what the White House is thinking about. The military is thinking about do they want to be seen to replicate the Soviet experience? After a decade, they still haven't managed to succeed. And here they are, the mightiest military in the world, fighting alongside the mightiest military alliance in the world, against a ragtag militia that has no air power, has no satellite intelligence, has no tanks, and the United States can't defeat that. What kind of image does that leave at a time when the United States leaves, it is not only superior moral power but the superior military power in the world?

TAPPER: David?

SANGER: You know, Rajiv is exactly right that putting General Petraeus in place bolsters the argument for continuing a counter- insurgency. But if you listen to what Director Panetta said today, all of the other evidence that we have that the application of more troops, at least so far, has not quieted the Taliban.

It also bolsters Vice President Biden's case, that in fact applying more troops is not necessarily going to turn this around. And that's why I think we're headed for a much bigger collision later in the year on the strategy.

WILL: And the collision is going to be between the president and his base. The president, going into the 2010 elections, looking forward to 2012, hoped for three things. Rapid creation of jobs, the health care bill becoming more popular after it was signed. Neither has happened. And third, radical improvement in Afghanistan. The biggest number haunting the White House has to be enthusiasm deficit between Republicans eager to vote and Democrats tepid about this. And Afghanistan is going to do nothing to energize his base.

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