McCain In 2003: We Can ‘Muddle Through In Afghanistan’

Our guest blogger is Jon Soltz, chairman of and veteran of the Iraq war.

Today, video was unearthed in which Senator John McCain in 2003 says we can just “muddle through in Afghanistan.” Watch it:

The video offers a glimpse into the true thinking of those, like McCain, who backed launching the war in Iraq and committing our forces there indefinitely. Particularly, they believed that Afghanistan wasn’t a concern and we didn’t need to take it seriously. In fact, just a year earlier, on CBS’ Face the Nation, McCain said capturing Osama bin Laden wasn’t “that important.”

Five years later, we now see where that poor judgment and lack of insight has gotten us. The Taliban has regained large swaths of Afghanistan, al Qaeda has reconstituted itself, Osama bin Laden still is free, and Afghanistan is in crisis. All of that lends itself to our nation being that much less secure, and in much greater danger of another terrorist attack from extremists from the Pakistan/Afghanistan region.

This is not the way to win the war on terror and keep America safe. That’s why it is so important that we get this strategy right now.

Think about it. Had we not gone into Iraq, as Senator McCain thought we should, our forces would have been concentrated in Afghanistan, we would have crushed al Qaeda, probably captured or killed Osama bin Laden, and secured the country all the way to the Pakistani border.

Had we sent the Iraq surge brigades to Afghanistan, instead of to Iraq, and shown a real commitment there, perhaps our NATO allies wouldn’t have pulled their troops from Afghanistan. And, again, we could have decimated al Qaeda, secured the border region, and maybe captured or killed Osama bin Laden.

And now, we’ve got a third chance to get this right. Unfortunately, while it’s laudable that Senator McCain has suddenly discovered there’s a war in Afghanistan, his hands are tied. A couple of days ago, he called for more combat brigades to be sent there. A few minutes later, the Washington Post reported he pulled back on that and said NATO would have to supply the troops, because we would have to keep our forces in Iraq. Well, the Administration’s commitment to endless war in Iraq and its political unpopularity throughout Europe is what caused our NATO allies to pull troops from Afghanistan in the first place. That’s unlikely to change if McCain continues the Bush policy.

That brings us back to the video. John McCain got it horribly wrong in 2002 and 2003 and showed poor judgment in the real war on terror that led us to where we are today. And now, he’s having a problem figuring out how to get it right. The knowledge of “how to win wars?” I just don’t see it.