McCain’s Escalation Numbers Game

Ed. note — correction appended below the fold:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is the most prominent advocate of escalating the war in Iraq. Yet, as some have noted, his “straight talk” on the issue has been extremely muddled.

Below, a timeline of McCain’s multiple positions on escalation:

October 27, 2006 — McCain Calls For 20,000 More Troops in Iraq:


Reporters asked him to elaborate on his statement last week in Iowa that more combat troops are needed in Iraq to quell a “classic insurgency.”

“Another 20,000 troops in Iraq, but that means expanding the Army and the Marine Corps,” he said. [Link]

January 4, 2007 — McCain Calls For 30,000 More Troops In Iraq:

MCCAIN: I would advocate two additional combat brigades in Anbar province, four in Baghdad, with one in reserve. That’s around 30,000. [NBC, 1/4/07]

January 4, 2007 — McCain Suggests 20,000 Troop Escalation Is Too ‘Small’:

LAUER: The president seems to be settling on the 20,000 number. Is this a numbers game? Will 20,000 do the job, in your opinion?

SEN. MCCAIN: I’m not sure. … I have not seen the exact plan, so it’s hard for me to know. But to make it of a short duration and a small size would be the worst of all options to exercise, in my view. [NBC, 1/4/07]

January 5, 2007 — McCain Says He Is ‘Not Specific on Numbers’ About Troops in Iraq:

QUESTION: How many troops are you calling for in Iraq?

MCCAIN: We are not specific on numbers, we don’t have — we are talking about 3 or 4 combat brigades, in Baghdad, and one or two more in Anbar province. We are not that much detailed oriented. [AEI “Future of Iraq” Conference, 1/5/07]

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A previous version of this post included a section claiming that McCain had called for 100,000 more troops in Iraq, citing this Chicago Tribune article. Subsequently, we learned that the Tribune had inaccurately truncated McCain’s remarks. McCain actually said he believed that 100,000 soldiers should be added to the overall U.S. military, not to the U.S. force in Iraq. CNN has published a more accurate account of McCain’s remarks.