After I completed my interview with Senator McCain on the subject of property rights (see below), he talked with me for a few minutes about Iraq. The Senate is expected to begin debating the subject on or about the evening of September 17. McCain pledged to be in forefront of efforts to rally support for the troop surge. As part of this effort, he plans an appearance in South Carolina with veterans shortly before the debate commences.
I asked the Senator whether he agrees with Bill Kristol and others that the political tide is turning here in Washington with respect to Iraq. McCain answered that he doesn’t have a clear sense of this one way or another, but he’s certain that the military tide has turned in Iraq. He quickly added, however, that this doesn’t mean we’re looking at “a day at the beach.”
I asked McCain for his reaction to yesterday’s Washington Post story about the deterioration of the situation in Basra following the British drawdown of forces. Specifically, I wondered whether events in Basra show that turning the military tide without political progress in a place like Baghdad would produce another Basra or worse in the event of a U.S. drawdown, and whether this reality requires a U.S. commitment of indefinite duration.
McCain responsed that “the Brits never had enough troops on the ground” and never had the situation “under control” because their “footprint” was “too light.” The U.S., he insisted, should never pull out until we have real security in the form of an Iraqi military in control of the situation, something the British never achieved. He added that we are making some political progress in Iraq, for example in Anbar province, though “less so” when it comes to Maliki and his government.
McCain concluded that Basra “will look like a Sunday school picnic” compared to what willl happen if we pull our troops out of Baghdad and other similarly troubled areas.
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