October 11th, 2009
09:00 AM ET
13 years ago

In war, McCain warns against 'an error of historic proportions'

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said any added military deployment in Afghanistan less than the 40,000 troops reportedly requested by the top U.S. commander in that war-torn land “would be an error of historic proportions.”

When asked by CNN Chief National Correspondent John King whether he thought the war in Afghanistan could be won with less than the troops said to be requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, McCain replied frankly in an interview that airs Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

“I do not,” said McCain, who was defeated by President Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

“And I think the great danger now is a half-measure, sort of a - you know, try[ing] to please all ends of the political spectrum,” McCain also told King. “And, again, I have great sympathy for the president, making the toughest decisions that presidents have to make, but I think he needs to use deliberate speed.”

“I think to disregard the requirements that has been laid out and agreed to” by Central Command head Gen. David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen “would be an error of historic proportions,” McCain said when asked whether 10,000 or 20,000 additional troops in Afghanistan would suffice.

In making the case for a surge strategy like the one he fiercely advocated in Iraq when President Bush was in office, McCain urged President Obama “to act with deliberate speed” in pondering his next steps in Afghanistan.

“Admiral Mullen and General McChrystal and General Petraeus have said the situation is deteriorating. Just over the last several days, as you know, week or so, we've lost 10 more brave young Americans. And the longer we delay the decision, the longer it will be before we provide them with what the needed resources are,” McCain says in the interview.

And pointing to the successful surge in Iraq that involved a broad, troop-intensive counterinsurgency strategy, which Petraeus and McChrystal both played roles in, McCain suggested that rather than delay, the president should follow the strategic advice that the two generals have already set out.

“The strategy that was developed by General Petraeus in particular, but also with General McChrystal as his strong right arm, did succeed there [in Iraq],” McCain tells King. “Should we risk going against the advice and counsel of our best and strongest advisers, those we've given the responsibility - as you know, General McChrystal's predecessor was fired by the president because of the confidence that he had in him.

“So the question is, is do we take a risk and go to a [narrower, counterterrorism] strategy basically that failed before [in Iraq] versus one [based on counterinsurgency] that succeeded? And, again, this is a very tough decision, but I do again argue for some deliberate speed, because our allies in the region are beginning to get the impression that perhaps we are wavering.”

The president and his top military, national security, and foreign policy advisers are in the midst of an intensive strategic review of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. McChrystal is advocating a counterinsurgency strategy similar to the surge in Iraq which McCain championed while Vice President Joe Biden is advocating a counterterrorism strategy focused more on using drones and special forces to rid Afghanistan of al Qaeda militants on the border with Pakistan.

Last week, a remote U.S. outpost in Afghanistan was attacked by insurgents leading to the deaths of eight Americans during the single incident. The fierce firefight has become part of the ongoing debate about how many U.S. troops are necessary to accomplish the United States' goals in the country.


soundoff (231 Responses)
  1. Troy

    This coming from the man who chose Sarah Palin as a running mate. Talk about historic mistakes.

    October 11, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  2. Lerkfish

    Wasn't John McCain the same guy who promised he knew EXACTLY where Bin Ladin was hiding and if elected president would go get him?
    If McCain has that information, witholding it is treason. And if he doesn't have that information, claiming to have it is lying to get elected.

    either way, not a source of information I'd trust on military matters.

    October 11, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  3. estamm

    This country averted an 'error of historic proportions' in November of 2008 when this country decided not to elect this bozo.

    October 11, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  4. Grant

    Obama rushes through a stimulus bill, tries to force a vote on health care before the August recess, pushes cap and trade ... all these are dire emergencies to him and his administration, but not the lives of our brave troops? What a charlatan! Stop smoking the HOPIUM!

    October 11, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  5. Obama=Poor America

    McCain is no expert but i believe David Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen are.

    October 11, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. mrkensr

    idiot_Boehner..what makes you think Obama will get it right?? He has yet to get anything right, except considering the United States as just another country.Oh yea and winning the Nobel Prize? For the apology he keeps giving the world?? Listen to the commanders on the ground and supply the troops..then make a run at bin-laden into Pakistan if needed.

    October 11, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  7. Thomas

    Would the error rank up there with the invasion of Iraq?

    October 11, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  8. Jean

    John McCain is more of a military expert than the current CIC. a recruit coming out of any service boot Camp is more of a military expert that their CIC...

    October 11, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  9. Gottlied Schlittenfahrt

    McCain's a loser; he lost to Obama. His views are now irrelevant. Why is CNN wasting it's time ad ours interviewing him.

    October 11, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  10. Robert

    It makes no difference what we think of McCain on this one, he is correct that obama put a Gen. in place to run the war and he must have the man power needed to win. If obama is afraid of fighting the war, which it seems he is, then he might as well pull the troops out and stop them from being kill because of a chicken hearted commander and chief. If we pull out which is what obama wants then get ready for the complete demise of the US in the world eyes.

    October 11, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  11. Flo

    Why didn't King remind Mccain Afghanistan is not Iraq? Just because he pushed for the surge in Iraq Mccain thinks this will work in Afghanistan, this is an EGO trip for Mccain who still thinks he should be president. Presisendt Obama is doing this right – thinking of all options before making a decision. The goal has not changed but the strategy need to match the goal and it might not necessarily mean more troops but better planning on the ground.

    October 11, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  12. Another military genius

    McCain advocates the same "send more troops" strategy we used in Vietnam. How'd that work out for us?

    October 11, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  13. the girl

    Mr. Obama is a liar. He has failed in a 'Peter Principle' manner. He belongs back in Chicago politics, organizing. The U.S.A. is a strong nation. Soon strong family morals will once again prevail. We will survive him and his minions.

    October 11, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  14. not-pure-bred 04

    The "My way or the highway" attitude of the Repubs continues on. The Rep from Florida has it right. Regardless of Obama's actions, the Repubs will fight him all the way. If they are such "experts", why did they leave such a mess for Obama?

    October 11, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  15. Steve

    People should study the history of the British in Pakistan and Afganistan when they ruled the territory. Annual campaigns of military force every spring and summer.

    October 11, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  16. Jon Samuel

    To idiot_Boehner: McCain's military record makes him certainly more of a military expert than Obama. The surge worked in Iraq and will work in Afghanistan. Bush took on an incredible challenge to overhaul two islam countries and it will pay off over time. Obama has bigger fish to fry. He would be wise to introduce a surge which would stabilize Afghanistan and free him up to enact his socialist agenda.

    October 11, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  17. Loubo

    If our prez leaves the troops under staffed over there to fight short handed. Then he should be given an additional title for every U.S. service member who dies. Murderer!

    October 11, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  18. Peter

    An error of historic proportions?

    You mean right up there with choosing Sarah Palin as a running mate?

    October 11, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  19. spl

    McCain is a good guy but has kind of a rhetorical tic: he makes more profound-sounding statements with less actual knowledge than almost anyone else in politics.

    October 11, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  20. fedfl

    McCain would know about errors of historic proportions.

    He stopped his Presidential campaign to rush back to Washington, D.C. and save Wall Street.


    October 11, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  21. Moonman

    The GOP has a stand against everything the presidents stands for, they disagree for the sake of disagreeing. I just wonder what would they have done, where we would be if they ever won the white house with such dire circumstances. although I'm glad I didn't have to go through it.
    what a bunch of moron's..

    October 11, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  22. Dave

    No time to point fingers. Our country is in a huge mess and we are in very difficult times at home and in both war zones. We need to support our troops and give the commander's on the ground the tools needed to do their job. The military commanders are the experts and our entire country needs to support them regardless of individual views on the war. Don't play politics with our troops lives. Obama needs to act fast when our military commander's request manpower or equipment support. My last comment; Obama please stop talking down about our country to foreign governments–we live if a great country and have given so much to others–it gives us a black eye and makes us look weak.

    October 11, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  23. Fredo Corleone (the weak one)

    why not send 100,000 and do the job in a week.

    October 11, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  24. Sentinel

    The "error of historic proportions" was the election of the Bush-Cheney administration!!!

    October 11, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  25. James

    Even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day.

    October 11, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
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