Partial Interview transcript; President Obama and Bob Woodward
Obama: ...And so, I'll just give you one example which may seem a little far afield, but I think connects directly. I said very early on, as a senator, and continued to believe as a presidential candidate and now as president, that 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, that ever took place on our soil, we absorbed it and we are stronger. This is a strong, powerful country that we live in, and our people are incredibly resilient. A potential game-changer would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, blowing up a major American city. Or a weapon of mass destruction in a major American city. And so when I go down the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that is at the top, because that's one area where you can't afford any mistakes. And so right away, coming in, we said, how are we going to start ramping up and putting that at the center of a lot of our national security discussion? Making sure that that occurrence, even if remote, never happens.
Audio: Obama on length of the war
Q: The famous 2002 speech, "U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences." If you think about that, undetermined time, undetermined cost, undetermined consequences, isn't this kind of the nature of all war.
Obama: [Laughs.] Well, the ... You are absolutely right that ...
Q: I ask that because you're wrestling with that...
Obama: To quote a famous American, "War is hell." And once the dogs of war are unleashed, you don't know where it's going to lead. When I entered into office, we had two wars taking place. So once you're in, what you're trying to do is to impose clarity on the chaos.
Obama: What you've seen is a metastasizing of al Qaeda, where a range of loosely affiliated groups now have the capacity and the ambition to recruit and train for attacks that may not be on the scale of a 9/11, but obviously can still be extraordinarily...
Q: One man, one bomb.
Obama: One man, one bomb, in Times Square, on a subway... Which could still have, obviously, an extraordinarily traumatizing effect on the homeland. And that makes our job tougher. It means that the information we need to go against those networks is more granular. It has to be more specific. And all those are significant challenges.