This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from March 27, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal — to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.
That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: We will defeat you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, HOST: President Obama talking about Afghanistan and Pakistan, laying out a new plan in which he wants to send 4,000 additional trainers from the 82nd Airborne, adding to the 17,000 additional U.S. troops heading to Afghanistan.
And there was a heavy focus on Pakistan and increased aid to Pakistan — some $1.5 billion a year in non-military aid.
Let's bring in our panel: Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Juan Williams, senior correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Charles, your thoughts?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I thought if you take away the few gratuitous, and I thought cheap attacks on Bush and his policies, I thought it was a reasonably good plan, one that you could imagine the Bush administration have instituted and certainly John McCain having adopted had he been elected.
And it is essentially an Afghan surge, although you can't use the word because it refers to Iraq, which we're not supposed to speak about in this new era of Obama.
The other thing it does is it learns the lessons of Iraq about a new strategy of counterinsurgency, namely: instead of search and destroy, which doesn't work, you flood the zone and you protect populations. And that's what we're going to do in the east and the south, where you have had a resurgence of the Taliban.
So I think all of that is good.
The one area where I think they are a little bit weak, this notion that we're going to affect the course of Pakistan with a billion and a half a year in aid. If you do the math, this is the sixth most populace country on earth. That amounts to $9 a year per person. You could purchase one left shoe with that if you are a Pakistani.
We are not going to have any effect on the course of the economy and the social development of a country of that size. All that we can do and what I would use the billion and a half, is to direct the assistance to the Pakistani military, because that's the future of the country and our main ally in the fight with Al Qaeda.
BAIER: In fact, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin from Michigan, had this to say: "While I welcome the new focus on Pakistan both economically and militarily, I am skeptical the Pakistanis will secure their border. I disagree with some administration statements that we can't make progress in Afghanistan without success on the Pakistan side of the border."
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, but you have got to understand that you've got people who are working, you know, with Al Qaeda on the Pakistani side who are supporting Al Qaeda elements and Taliban elements who are inside Afghanistan.
And I think that's the theory, is that you have got to make this one whole-cloth effort.
We haven't talked about, though, the idea of putting so much money into a region where we know that Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, is known for corruption. Corruption is rife throughout that government. What exactly is going to be the limit in terms of protecting money from being wasted in that environment?
But I think the key point here from a military perspective is that these are lessons learned, as Charles was saying, from what took place in Iraq, and that rather than thinking that we were simply going to rely on military force, there is an effort here now to build up the civil society in the entire region, to say we are investing not only in terms of expanding police forces and military forces, but we're building up schools, we're building up water, we're building up the kind of infrastructures that will allow for a stable society to exist.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I'm for all those things, but what is most important now is winning militarily. And you can do it through a counterinsurgency strategy.
Look, the Karzai government, any governments in Pakistan or in Afghanistan, one, is going to have to accept the fact there is going to be a lot of corruption. There is going to be a lot of money misspent.
And we just have to accept what I think President Obama does seem to today, and he spoke pretty persuasively as the commander in chief, and that is that our goal is bigger than that. We are just going to have to overlook that, that there is going to be a lot of corruption.
Now, there are other things that Obama can do. For one thing, here would be my one question, and this isn't a doubt, it is a question — is he committed to the long term of winning in Afghanistan? It's going to take a while.
Look, it took three, four, five years to build a strong army in Iraq. It will take at least that long in Afghanistan. At least in Iraq some of the troops there had a background in the Iraqi army. There is not much of that in Afghanistan.
And one more thing: President Obama will be at a NATO meeting in Europe next week. We need more help from the Europeans, who are members of NATO, in sending combat troops.
Now, Obama simply said in his press conference a couple of days ago how much his new presidency is well-liked all around the world. Maybe he could use some of that popularity to convince the Europeans, in particular, to send more combat troops. That's what they need, combat troops, not people to come in and train the Kabul police.
WILLIAMS: But, Fred, I don't understand your point here. Why would you doubt President Obama's commitment to winning in Afghanistan?
BARNES: I said I didn't do doubt it. I just hope he's there for the long term. I know he wants to win, Juan.
WILLIAMS: I mean, gosh, he gave David McKiernan more than what he's asked for.
BARNES: No, he didn't. He didn't give him more. He gave him about 11,000 fewer troops less.
But there will be tremendous dissent soon inside the Democratic Party. It's going to be the Democratic left that's going to give him trouble.
WILLIAMS: I agree.
BAIER: The administration made clear they would give no timelines for how long U.S. troops would be on the ground in Afghanistan.
WILLIAMS: They want to portray it as "the good war." This is not Iraq.
But I'm going to tell you something. The liberal base of the Democratic Party has war fatigue already.
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I think Fred's question is a good one. We don't know. His intention right now is to prevail. But the issue is in two years, three years, if we're still there and we're still in what is essentially a stalemate, is he going to be in favor of prevailing, or is he going to speak about exit strategies? And nobody knows the answer.
BAIER: Regional powers are ready to shut down any missile launched from North Korea. The panel is locked and loaded on that, because the Friday lightning round is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: We've drawn a line in the sand, saying if you launch that missile, there will be consequences. What kind of consequences, short of military consequences?
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: What we are saying is that we believe that a launch would violate the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718. That would, you know, in our view, trigger certain actions by the United Nations.
And we would hope that the North Koreans would take a deep breath here and begin to reconnect and start working with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: The secretary of state talking about the rocket that is on the launch pad in North Korea and could go at any day right now according to U.S. officials. We talked about it last night. It's a story we're watching. We wanted to bring it up in the lightning round.
Let's bring it up here — Fred?
BARNES: I was expecting Secretary of State Clinton to say "strong letter to follow." Look, that's pathetic. Unless you have the Chinese with you to really put pressure on the North Koreans, the threat of invoking Resolution 1718, I just don't think that will have any effect on the North Koreans at all.
They are up to no good. They are always up to no good. They will continue to be up to no good until the U.S. and the Chinese — we can't do it without the Chinese. And they help sometimes and sometimes not.
WILLIAMS: And don't forget the Japanese and South Koreans. That whole region needs to get together and act in some concerted fashion, because they are the ones that will be threatened if the North Koreans go ahead with this.
But, again, the world turns to the United States as the world's cop.
Also, don't forget, Kim Jong Il is holding two U.S. hostages from Al Gore's TV network. We don't know if that is a bargaining chip in the middle of all this game.
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, China is not going to do a thing and we are not going to do a thing. We're not going to deter this launch.
All that we can do, because this launch or the next or the next will demonstrate a capacity to actually hit the United States with a three stage rocket, to wipe out San Francisco or any city on the West Coast, is to build and maintain and test a missile defense system.
Democrats have to overcome their theological objections, which they have had for 30 years, and support a system which is going to be our only defense against a North Korea that has the bomb and will soon have the means of delivering it onto the United States.
BAIER: One quick question, Charles:If — the North Koreans say if it's a launch and we try to shoot it down, that's an act of war. But what about the launch itself, if it heads towards the U.S.? Is that an act of war?
KRAUTHAMMER: We have the capacity to shoot it down in the last stage if it were to head into the western United States. But you could tell earlier if this will have that trajectory or be an orbit missile, which it likely will be.
BAIER: Sorry, I interrupted the lightning round.
Next up, the director of national intelligence says to reporters that if Guantanamo Bay detainees are released in the U.S., some of them may need taxpayer assistance — Juan?
WILLIAMS: That seems logical, because you don't want them to go back to being terrorists. So you have to make sure that they are on the path so some kind of rehabilitation.
I don't know exactly how you rehabilitate them. I don't know who is going to be willing to hire them. I don't know who wants them in their communities.
But the fact is if mistakes were made and these people committed no crimes and they are released to the United States, we have to do something to ameliorate the idea that they would suddenly become violent criminals in our community.
KRAUTHAMMER: This isn't logical. This is insane. You can't make it up. What are you going to do, establish in a string of Al Qaeda falafel shops — eat here and we won't kill you — or establish a few Ward Churchill fellowships and terrorist studies at the University of Colorado?
I would kill three birds with one stone and give these guys a GM dealership in Pakistan.
BARNES: I don't know, food stamps, Charles, rent supplements, get them on Medicaid, assign a social worker to them. You don't think that will work?
There is one underlying problem here: Guantanamo — closing it. There's no reason to close it, except Obama promised it during the campaign. Why are they finding it difficult to put people places? Because they are closing Guantanamo. And they should leave it open.
BAIER: Final four — Fred?
BARNES: Well, let's see -
BAIER: Hurry up.
BARNES: Louisville, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and UNC. Earlier I liked UNC to win, but the team playing the best now by far now is Connecticut.
WILLIAMS: I remember Oklahoma as one of my picks and Pittsburgh, Missouri and Kansas.
BAIER: All right, Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: Villanova, Gonzaga, Missouri, Arizona. Why do I pick them? None of them has a chance. Each is a lower seed and I want people to know that conservatives are believer in the meek inheriting the earth.
BAIER: Here's mine: UNC, Louisville, Missouri and Villanova. Check us. We will go back to it. I promise.
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