Transcript: The President's Interview with Print Media Columnists
And the security process is the fundamental question is, is General Casey right in achieving the balance between independent operations by the Iraqi army and our need to be there? And this is an art, not a science. It is, at what point do you let them go? And I trust his judgment. His judgment is a lot more refined than anybody else's that I hear from, because he's there, he's living this issue, he wants to succeed. He is constantly adjusting our game plan. This stuff about "stay the course" stay the course means, we're going to win. Stay the course does not mean that we're not going to constantly change.
Classic example: I told them in the press conference today, last spring I thought we were going to be able to say to the American people, we'll have a lot fewer troops in Iraq. You know why I thought that? Because that's what General Casey thought. He felt like the situation was progressing to the point where he was going to be able to let them go, to a much greater extent let them go defend themselves to a much greater extent than turned out to be, because of this al Qaeda-inspired sectarian violence. And so he says, look, this thing isn't going to we need more troops, not less. And so what happens is, is that I say, okay, whatever you need. You want more troops, you've got more troops. You want less troops, we'll have less troops, but please give me the rationale why.
What's happening is I'm not remember the pictures in the Oval Office, with them sitting over the maps, picking out the targets in Vietnam? That's not happening in this war. The Commander-in-Chief, through the Secretary of Defense, must empower the military people on the ground, and the embassy, to work and by the way, these guys are working very closely, which is important to implement the strategy. And if tactics need to change, change them. Just keep us posted. And that's what's happening.
Abizaid, who I think is one of the really great thinkers, John Abizaid I don't know if you've ever had a chance to talk to him, he's a smart guy he came up with this construct: If we leave, they will follow us here. That's really different from other wars we've been in. If we leave, okay, so they suffer in other parts of the world, used to be the old mantra. This one is different. This war is, if they leave, they're coming after us. As a matter of fact, they'll be more emboldened to come after us. They will be able to find more recruits to come after us.
Abizaid clearly sees this struggle he sees the effects of victory in Iraq as having a major impact on other parts of the Middle East. He also sees the reciprocal of that, a defeat just leaving the only defeat is leaving, is letting things fall into chaos and letting al Qaeda have a safe haven. And he sees it as a he sees that as an accelerating effect to creating incredible hostility toward people that are moderate in their view. They may not necessarily be as democrat as they want, but they're moderate in their view about the future.