McCain’s war strat­egy

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

John McCain is pre­sent­ing a case to the Amer­i­can peo­ple that he will be a bet­ter com­man­der-in-chief than Barack Obama be­cause he has been right on Iraq since its in­cep­tion in March 2003. As The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ported Aug. 21, even Pres­i­dent Bush ad­mits that Mr. McCain got it right be­fore he did. “John rec­og­nized early on that more troops would be needed in or­der to achieve the se­cu­rity nec­es­sary for the Iraqis to make the po­lit­i­cal progress we’re see­ing now,” Mr. Bush said. “And now that the surge has worked, it proves that John’s judg­ment was cor­rect.”

Mr. McCain be­gan to call for more troops just a few months af­ter the presi- dent de­clared, in May 2003, that the “United States and our al­lies have pre­vailed.” Mr. McCain trav­eled to Iraq in Au­gust 2003 with a con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion and stated on Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio on Aug. 29: “We need more troops.” On “Meet The Press” he asked for 20,000 more troops. And did so again in a speech to the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions in Novem­ber 2003. In a sub­se­quent pri­vate meet­ing with then-De­fense Sec­re­tary Don­ald Rums­feld, Mr. McCain un­suc­cess­fully lob­bied for more troops. Mr. McCain made count­less pub­lic ap­peals for an in­crease in troops. By early 2006, Mr. Bush hoped to with­draw troops while Mr. McCain, ex­as­per­ated, re­peated: “You know, I’ve al­ways said that we needed more troops over there. I have said that for years.”

The Democrats’ victory in Novem­ber 2006 proved to be a turn­ing point: Mr. Rums­feld re­signed; and Mr. McCain went on a fourth trip to Iraq. By De­cem­ber, lead­ing Repub­li­cans be­gan to call for a with­drawal, even if this meant de­feat. Yet Mr. McCain, Sen. Joe Lieber­man, Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham and Gen. David Pe­traeus de­vised an al­ter­nate strat­egy: Surge un­til victory. In De­cem­ber that same year, in a three-page let­ter to Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain in­sisted on the new ap­proach: “Only the pres­ence of ad­di­tional coali­tion forces will give the Iraqi gov­ern­ment the op­por­tu­nity to re­store its au­thor­ity and to in­stall the gov­ern­ment [. . .] The ques­tion is one of will.”

On Jan. 10, 2007, dur­ing a na­tional tele­vi­sion speech, Mr. Bush at last an­nounced that he would send ad­di­tional troops to Iraq. For the next nine months, Mr. McCain and his al­lies worked to pre­vent Congress from ter­mi­nat­ing the fund­ing to the troops or set­ting a time­frame for with­drawal. In Septem­ber 2007, Gen. Pe­traeus re­ported to Congress that the plan had worked to re­duce vi­o­lence and sta­bi­lize Iraq.

Mr. McCain’s voice was alone. It was his vi­sion and re­solve that has been a pil­lar in lead­ing us to­ward victory in Iraq.

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