McCain said he is the only candidate fit to lead during a war.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, called the Democratic presidential candidates' plans to withdraw troops from Iraq "very dangerous thinking" and said Thursday he would send more soldiers into the war-torn country.
"Democratic candidates for president will argue for the course of cutting our losses and withdrawing from the threat in the vain hope it will not follow us here," McCain said in a speech to the Hudson Institute in New York City. "I cannot join them in such wishful and very dangerous thinking. Peace at any price is an illusion, and its costs are always more tragic than the sacrifices victory requires."
McCain said he is the only candidate fit to lead during a war, since he has actual battle experience. He slammed his Republican rivals and said that "tough talk or managerial successes in the private sector aren't adequate" to make tough decisions in wartime.
The GOP hopeful said he would increase the level of Army and Marine troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from 750,000 to 900,000, which he said would cost billions of dollars annually. He said he would also create agencies to deal with public diplomacy to improve America's image in the world.
McCain also criticized Columbia University for allowing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus while banning ROTC, a college-based army training program.
"I fear for our future when terrorist leaders are welcome at our most prestigious centers of learning, universities conceived to strengthen and nurture the ideals of Western liberal political thought, and young men and women who volunteered to risk their lives to defend those ideals are not," McCain said.
- CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich