McCain’s war strategy
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.