President Obama told author Bob Woodward, in the face of multiple warnings to the White House of the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil: "We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger."
That cavalier spirit seemed to guide the president's insistence on an exit strategy from the war in Afghanistan, according to Woodward's book, due out Monday, titled Obama's Wars. In a preview in today's Washington Post, where Woodward began as a reporter nearly 40 years ago and is now an associate editor, the book details a bitter back and forth with military leaders-who repeatedly put forth plans to expand the war-that eventually led the president to devise his own strategy.
"Obama is shown at odds with his uniformed military commanders, particularly Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command during the 2009 strategy review and now the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan."
The president is quoted as telling Mullen, Petraeus, and Gates: "In 2010, we will not be having a conversation about how to do more. I will not want to hear, 'We're doing fine, Mr. President, but we'd be better if we just do more.' We're not going to be having a conversation about how to change [the mission] . . . unless we're talking about how to draw down faster than anticipated in 2011."
Many consider Woodward to have written the textbook on investigative reporting since his Watergate exposés with Carl Bernstein. He wrote four books on the Bush presidency, including the highly critical State of Denial, but he has come under harsh criticism for fabrication and exaggeration, particularly from former CIA director George Tenet on events surrounding 9/11. Nonetheless, Woodward received rave reviews and extensive media exposure for his Bush take-downs, and it will be interesting to gauge reaction to Obama's Wars next week.