Sen. John McCain’s speech at the Virginia Military Institute explains his position on the war:
“I just returned from my fifth visit to Iraq. Unlike the veterans here today, I risked nothing more threatening than a hostile press corps. And my only mission was to inform my opinions with facts. We still face many difficult challenges in Iraq. That is undeniable. But we have also made, in recent weeks, measurable progress in establishing security in Baghdad and fighting al Qaeda in Anbar province. To deny the difficulties and uncertainties ahead is an egregious disservice to the public. But as General Petraeus implements his plan to correct the flawed strategy we followed in the past, and attempts to spare the United States and the world the catastrophe of an American defeat, it is an equal disservice to dismiss early signs of progress. And now we confront a choice as historically important as any we have faced in a long while. Will this nation’s elected leaders make the politically hard but strategically vital decision to give General Petraeus our full support and do what is necessary to succeed in Iraq? Or will we decide to take advantage of the public’s frustration, accept defeat, and hope that whatever the cost to our security the politics of defeat will work out better for us than our opponents? For my part, I would rather lose a campaign than a war.
“However it ends, the war in Iraq will have a profound influence on the future of the Middle East, global stability, and the security of the United States, which will remain, for the foreseeable future, directly affected by events in that dangerous part of the world. The war is part of a broader struggle in the Arab and Muslim world, the struggle between violent extremists and the forces of modernity and moderation.”
“It is impossible to separate sectarian violence from the war against al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is following an explicit strategy to foment civil war in Iraq. The only way to reduce and finally end sectarian violence is to provide greater security to the population than we have in the past, as we are doing now in Baghdad; to encourage Iraqis to abandon their reliance on local militias, and to destroy al Qaeda and other truly irreconcilable enemies of the United States and the Iraqi people.
“Our defeat in Iraq would constitute a defeat in the war against terror and extremism and would make the world a much more dangerous place.
Among the members of the Senate, Sen. McCain has a sense of urgency. He also understands the connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq, while the Democrats in the House want to banish the term terror.
During the bloggers’ conference call he discussed progress in Iraq, the real possibility of ensuing chaos if the US leaves Iraq, and the role of bloggers
James Joyner was able to ask the first question:
I managed to get in first and put the above questions to him. Essentially, he says that he’ll continue to give as many speeches as he can to convince the public. If he were president, he’d go on C-SPAN regularly and give specifics about our progress and work to change public opinion.
In follow-up, I noted that he’s not president and that the guy who currently holds the post has not shown much aptitude for either specifics or public speaking. McCain responded that Bush is decent in the right setting and that he should probably hold a lot of small, informal meetings with reporters where he has a map and points out various spots on the map where we’re having success.
David All took detailed notes on all the questions. David asked the last question, on the role of bloggers; Sen. McCain replies
“I feel strongly that bloggers are a vital part of the information technology infrastructure in the world. I freely admit to you that in 2000, I don’t know and didn’t know if bloggers even existed. I can tell you that I would do two things: 1. Every two weeks I would have a regular briefing on C-SPAN about the good news that we’re seeing on the ground. The second thing would be a call with bloggers every two weeks about the same issue. Now sure, we wouldn’t have time for every question, so maybe we would have to hold a raffle where we take the first 15 names out of the hat to ask their question. If I can make one editorial comment, I think the bloggers have a lot of maturing to do in a lot of areas. But just look at how far they’ve come. I believe historians will look back and note that bloggers have changed the way people communicate with each other and the entire world.”
The call was only 1/2 hour long and I wasn’t able to ask a question, but I am very encouraged to see that there’s at least one Senator who’s earnest on winning.