Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has long supported a 50-year troop presence in Iraq — or the “South Korea model” — set forth by President Bush and Gen. Petraeus. “We have had troops in South Korea for 60 years and nobody minds,” he said in June. On the Charlie Rose Show in August, McCain said the Korea model was “exactly” the right idea. Yesterday on Charlie Rose, McCain changed his position, arguing that the Korea-like presence is not an “analogy” he would use for Iraq. Recognizing the “nature of the society in Iraq,” McCain suggested that Iraqi opposition to a permanent U.S. occupation may make the South Korea model implausible:
ROSE: Do you think that this — Korea, South Korea is an analogy of where Iraq might be, not in terms of their economic success but in terms of an American presence over the next, say, 20, 25 years, that we will have a significant amount of troops there?
MCCAIN: I don’t think so.
ROSE: Even if there are no casualties?
MCCAIN: No. But I can see an American presence for a while. But eventually I think because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it that America eventually withdraws.
In the heat of his presidential run, McCain seems to be tacitly acknowledging that “the nature of society in Iraq” is unlikely to support a Korea-like presence, and the U.S. will therefore have to “eventually withdraw.” But in the meantime, McCain couldn’t care less what the Iraqis want.
UPDATE: Last night, McCain also alleged he was “the only one that spoke strongly against” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s strategy.