From today’s White House Press Briefing:
Q In the Woodward book the President is quoted as saying that a surge would also help here at home, since for many a measure of success is a reduction in violence. What role, if any, did domestic politics play in the formulation of the surge?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think — you know, I haven’t read the book. I think what that would refer to would be that the President has said multiple times that it’s very important that your country understand what the Commander-in-Chief is asking its military to do. And clearly Americans want to win wherever we send our troops, and we don’t want our troops to be put in harm’s way, where they don’t have a clear strategy to win. I think that’s probably what it’s referring to.
Read the rest after the jump…
Q It also says that Generals Casey and Abizaid lost the confidence of the President. Is that true?
MS. PERINO: Why don’t you ask Generals Casey and Abizaid that. I don’t think that it’s true, but it’s not something that I’m going to answer from here.
Q Since we’re on Woodward, the overall impression is left that the decision to go forward with the surge was one that was taken despite strong opposition at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military leadership. What do you — is that an accurate portrayal?
MS. PERINO: I do think that it is. I think that the surge is no doubt one of the most important foreign policy and military decisions that have been made in a generation. And it was fundamental to the change that we have seen today in Iraq . We are working now to cement those gains and to be able to continue to watch Iraq evolve into a country that can sustain, govern and defend itself.
Having been here and watched somewhat from — you know, from the outside, from the press office watching this policy development process develop over a couple of months, three months, where people were working around the clock, he brought together — Steve Hadley and the President brought together the most — the best minds in military strategy, in economic strategy — from the State Department, from DOD, from all different places to pull together and try to figure out what was the strategy that would help us win. And that’s the strategy that we ultimately ended up with.
I think that when it comes to this book, I don’t necessarily think that the conclusions are supported by a lot of the facts in the book. The surge was not just about sending 30,000 troops; it was a fundamental change in the way that we were working to secure the population, for example. And sometimes in Washington when you can’t attack the results of something you attack a process.
I would submit to you that President Bush initiated and oversaw a very comprehensive, thorough, well-managed process that in some cases and some people might say that it was too slow in its development. But when you are making a decision where you are asking young men and women to put their lives on the line, that it was the right type of assessment. It was sober; it was very clear-eyed; it was brutal in terms of the amount of hours.
And I also take issue with the notion about a war within. I can’t imagine that anybody in Washington would be shocked that if you bring people together to talk about one of the most difficult problems in our time, that they might have a disagreement over what is the best option. And in fact, we should all want that to happen.
In addition, there is no possible way that you can have such a debate in public. We’re not going to have this debate on CNN or FOX or MSNBC or ABC, CBS, NBC. There’s just no way to do that. There are discussions that need to be taken in very private quarters so that everybody can feel confident that what they’re saying and laying out there on the table will be held in confidence, and that the President can get the best advice and not be constrained by any options that might be put on the table.
Thankfully, the policy that the President decided on and announced on January 10, 2007 has been the right one. And now the President is weighing his options for the next announcement in terms of troop levels in Iraq . And I, last week, said that that would be likely this week. I’m going to upgrade that to probable this week, and we’ll probably have more for you within the next day or so.