TRANSCRIPT: Bob Woodward Talks to ABC's Diane Sawyer About 'Obama's Wars'


WOODWARD: Yes, as one person said it -- in terms of the police attrition rate in Afghanistan is so great, it's like pouring water in a bucket with a big hole in it -- more runs out than goes in. So he's -- there's an intellectual engagement here.

SAWYER: But when you look in, does the -- does the whole shape of the White House change when you know the occupant inside and you know his mind?

WOODWARD: Well, it's kind of permanent, isn't it?

It -- it's beyond the individual. What's so interesting is there's the Situation Room over there...

SAWYER: Right.

WOODWARD: There's the national security adviser, there's the Oval Office, there are the political advisers, there's this kind of hot house of action. And one of the things you find is Obama drives them. He really -- I want answers. What about this, what about that?

And it's not exactly a relaxing job for him or for the people who work there.

SAWYER: Where do you rank this tension, military and White House, against any other administration?

WOODWARD: Well, it's pretty high, because we're in this war and it's a Democratic president who didn't start it. He's adopted it.

SAWYER: A post-Vietnam president.

WOODWARD: A post-Vietnam. And one of the things he said to me is while he -- he was not around during Vietnam, he was a young kid. And so this idea of the civilian military tension is really not something he pays a whole lot of Attention to. But it's there in every meeting, every phone call, every decision, because, look, what's the military -- what are they in this for?

To win.

What's the word he never uses publicly?

Win. He doesn't talk about winning.

SAWYER: Well, he talks them back from talking about defeating the Taliban to degrading the Taliban.

WOODWARD: Exactly.

SAWYER: And he has to keep bringing them back and they keep going there again, because they don't -- in the -- he seems to believe in the world, there are not enough resources, or certainly in this country, there are not enough resources to do that.

WOODWARD: I'm not doing 10 years. I'm not doing...

SAWYER: Right.

WOODWARD: -- a trillion dollars. But you're a soldier out in Afghanistan and they tell you, your mission is to degrade the Taliban insurgent. And you -- it's a hot, violent environment. You see an insurgent. What do you do?

Oh, I'm not supposed to defeat him or kill him, necessarily, I'm supposed to degrade him?

What does that mean?

To shoot him in the foot?

So there is a translation problem. What's the president...

SAWYER: Does General Petraeus think you can defeat the Taliban?

WOODWARD: No, he does not. He says to them, he said, no, they're going to be a part of the political fabric.

SAWYER: Right.

WOODWARD: What you have to do is win them over but you win them over by being strong and changing the -- the momentum, as everyone says, has been with the Taliban. You have to change the momentum and so we're on top and then you say, let's go to the negotiating table. And they say, oh, OK. Maybe that's a good idea.

When they're on top, you can say let's go to the negotiating table and they say, no, because...

SAWYER: See you at sunrise.

WOODWARD: Yes, we're winning. Or they think they're winning.

SAWYER: Right.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...