Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been a regular face on the Sunday morning talk shows this year, primarily because, as ABC’s George Stephanopoulos has said, he “is the leading GOP voice on Afghanistan” (despite the fact that he has consistently been wrong about the war there.)
McCain made his 14th Sunday show appearance since January on CNN today to discuss Afghanistan. During the interview, McCain again called on President Obama to ramp up U.S. troop levels there, modeled after the “surge” in Iraq. “Many see a parallel to Iraq in the sense that it’s been eight years in Afghanistan now it has been billions of dollars” and “we have shed American blood there,” host John King said. But McCain didn’t want to go there:
MCCAIN: First of all, rightly or wrongly we were focused on Iraq. I happened to believe we had to win there. Whether we should have gone in or not, weapons of mass destruction, you covered on other days.
McCain probably doesn’t want to discuss “whether we should have gone in” to Iraq or WMD because at the time, he got it all wrong. Just like Bush administration officials, he hyped the Saddam-Al Qaeda link and Iraq’s non-existent WMDs and said war in Iraq would be easy and that Sunnis and Shias would “probably get along” after Saddam because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.
And as New York Times columnist Frank Rich noted in a scathing column today on McCain, it isn’t all that clear how much the “surge” contributed to reducing violence there or if that strategy can be transferred to Afghanistan. But also, Rich noted that, “What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan”:
Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.
If McCain has been so demonstrably wrong about these wars in the past, why is the Beltway media so eager to call on him time and time again for his views on Iraq and Afghanistan?