This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," November 13, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: President Obama and his senior advisers have been looking to history, America's involvement in Vietnam in particular, to guide their decision about what sort of commitment to make in Afghanistan.
But what lessons are they taking, and are they even the right ones? We thought it was worth examining. Take a look at what we found out.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, MARCH 27: The world cannot afford the price that would come to us if Afghanistan slides into chaos or Al Qaeda operates unchecked.
HANNITY (voiceover): In August, General's Stanley McChrystal gave President Obama a strategy for victory in Afghanistan.
OBAMA: Today I am announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
HANNITY: Three months later, that strategy has yet to be implemented. The president has made a public show of hesitation and indecision. In a private, he and his advisers are looking to the Vietnam War for guidance.
They are looking to one book in particular. According to the Wall Street Journal, senior advisers David Axelrod and Rahm "Rahmbo" Emanuel tour through Warden Goldstein's "Lessons in Disaster" and then gave it to the president himself. So we read it, too, and it reaches some very surprising conclusions.
Goldstein argues that if JFK had lived to serve out his term, hat he would have kept the country out of Vietnam. LBJ, preoccupied with his domestic agenda and worried about being portrayed as soft on communism, wound up fighting the war halfheartedly. He let the military establishment take the reins.
In Goldstein's view, LBJ accepted flawed war plans without intervening as he should have.
The books send the unmistakable message that the war was a tragic mistake, that American lives were needlessly sacrificed to a hopeless cause.
Applied to the struggle in Afghanistan, the implication is obvious, a drawdown or even a full-scale withdrawal of American troops. Goldstein's depiction of Vietnam's seems to be weighing heavily on the administration today.
Dan Markey is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
DAN MARKEY, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: They are worried about quagmire. They're worried about losing American faith in the fight. And they simply aren't sure if they have a strategy that's a winning strategy. And the last time that the United States really grappled with these similar types of issues was Vietnam.
HANNITY: A recent Newsweek cover story concludes President Obama risks making the same mistakes, but warns the president away from accepting the lessons in Goldstein's book. It cautions Obama from meddling in General McChrystal's plan by sending fewer troops than his general has requested.
Bing West served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Reagan administration and as a Marine in Vietnam.
BING WEST, AUTHOR OF "THE VILLAGE": If he does not trust his own coach on the battlefield, get another coach. But he just put General McChrystal in there.
HANNITY: The book's gravest error is ignoring the latter years of the war entirely, and Newsweek calls attention to that, too. But as it turns out, those are the years that deserve our attention today.
WEST: The American historical memory of Vietnam is twisted. And it basically says it was unwinnable, and therefore people, brilliant as they were, like national security adviser McGeorge Bundy, Secretary of Defense McNamara, were butting their heads against the wall. That is exactly wrong.
HANNITY: That's why senior officials in the defense establishment are consulting Lewis Sorley's "A Better War."
Sorely argues that General Creighton Abrams, who in 1968 replaced General William Westmoreland as senior commander in Vietnam, implemented a counterinsurgency strategy that actually won the war. It is this period that lessons in disaster overlooks completely.
LEWIS SORLEY, AUTHOR, "A BETTER WAR": If we're going to look at so called lessons of the Vietnam War to see if there is anything we can use from that experience elsewhere, we have to really understand what happened in the Vietnam and apply the right lessons, the ones that would be drawn from a true understanding of it.
WEST: In Vietnam just like in Afghanistan, there are two entirely different views of how the war was fought and what happened. One is this book that is "Lessons in Disaster." And fundamentally the argument there is you could never win it. It was beyond our control.
The other book, "A Better War," says, no, we actually won in Vietnam and then gave it away by cutting or aid later. And we controlled our own destiny.
So you have two entirely different ways of looking at Vietnam and Afghanistan. One way is to say it's hopeless and beyond us. And the other ways to say, we can control this with the right strategy if we want to. Those two views are diametrically opposed.
SORLEY: As the subtitle of my book says, "The Unexamined Victories" of that latter period. The best known writers have basically not written about that period.
HANNITY: Those victories came from the strategy implemented by General Creighton Abrams, one that bears a striking resemblance to the ones proposed by General McChrystal in March. Through a combination of combat operations, pacification and building up South Vietnam's armed forces, the United States helped the South Vietnamese government defeat the communist insurgency. By 1970, the U.S. along with the South Vietnamese armed forces had secured the population of South Vietnam from the Vietcong and fortified the country.
SORLEY: The South Vietnamese government in my judgment has never gotten the credit it deserves for becoming a viable government that was able to take the help America provided it and do something good with it.
HANNITY: Bing West was there.
WEST: In 1970, you could drive a jeep practically anywhere in South Vietnam in the village areas.
HANNITY: The U.S. did not lose the war militarily but because its political leaders lost the will to win. And that is a lesson that for this president is worth considering.
WEST: The narrative is that General Abrams actually won that war. And after we had won it, we just gave it away by cutting the aid to South Vietnam and making a self-fulfilling prophecy.
HANNITY: All the experts we talked to agreed on one thing, the war in Afghanistan is winnable if the president is willing to back it.
MARKEY: The Taliban are not invincible. They do not have invincible partners elsewhere. This is a winnable war.
WEST: I believe after 20 trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, if the United States of America wants to win the war in Afghanistan, it can. It just has to have the resolve to do it.
President Obama now has spent a couple of months openly questioned his own military. And that is just about unprecedented for president to do. So he is sending the signal. He really does not want to be a wartime president who wins the war. And that is deadly.
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