McCain puts winning in Iraq ahead of winning White House

AP/NY Times:

Sen. John McCain's call for a substantial and sustained influx of U.S. troops in Iraq sets the Republican apart from other White House candidates -- and it could help him or haunt him come 2008.

The Arizona senator's hawkish position that the United States must do what is necessary to win the war might appeal to hard-core Republicans, but it also has the potential to turn off most Americans whose support for the nearly 4-year-old war has diminished.

''I have presidential ambitions, but they pale in comparison to what I think is most important to our nation's security. If it destroys any ambitions I may have, I'm willing to pay that price gladly,'' McCain said Friday, brushing aside scenarios of political fallout.

A decorated Vietnam war veteran considered one of Congress' authorities on military matters, McCain has long said the United States did not send enough troops to Iraq for the 2003 invasion. He has been a vocal advocate of sending thousands more troops to the war zone to calm sectarian violence that has ravaged Baghdad and beyond.

Securing the country, McCain says, would allow for political progress and economic development that has been stunted thus far.


Having recently returned from a trip to Iraq, the senator staunchly defended his position Friday before a standing-room-only crowd at the American Enterprise Institute. A travel companion and ally, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, backed him up.

Outside the conservative policy center, dozens stood in a drizzling rain to protest any escalation of forces. They carried signs and shouted, ''John and Joe have got to go!''

''John's taking a gutsy position, not because he's read any political opinion polls or sifted through the results of the last election, but because he thinks that's what's right for America,'' Lieberman said.

Interjecting, McCain said, ''Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman -- many other presidents have taken unpopular positions for the good of the nation.''

Neither senator would put a precise number on a buildup they seek but said that at a minimum it should be what commanders in Iraq have told them is needed -- another three to five brigades in Baghdad and at least one more brigade in the Anbar province. Typically, about 3,500 troops are in a brigade.


McCain and Lieberman appear to be the lonely voices of patriotism in favor of winning this war. Most of the Democrats are operating under the false premise that we are losing the war. That is an utterly ridiculous reading of the war that the enemy is losing everywhere but in Washington. Too many Democrats are just too ignorant of warfare and history. The Democrats keep wanting to repeat the mistakes they made when they betrayed the South Vietnamese.

Jules Crittenden contrasts with the Pelosi -Reid surrender letter.


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