Obama And McCain Debate The Troop Surge

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., remarks on the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2006, during a news conference at his his office in Phoenix.
AP Photo/Matt York

Sen. John McCain supports President George Bush's planned troop surge in Iraq, while his fellow Senator, and likely opponent in the 2008 race for the White House, Barack Obama would rather see a "surge in diplomacy."

A showdown between Congress and the president looms after President Bush said he would send 21,000 more American troops to Iraq. Meanwhile, a new poll indicates that the public is overwhelmingly against the plan.

President Bush argues that he has the authority to send the troops to Iraq, but some in Congress say he needs their approval. Democrats are preparing to bring what they say is a bipartisan resolution of disapproval.

Appearing on Face the Nation Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a potential presidential candidate, said a stronger case for Bush's proposal should be made, but that a change in strategy is needed.

"I can't guarantee it will succeed, but I can guarantee catastrophe if we fail or continue the present strategy — and that is that we will go in and we will clear and hold and build," McCain told Bob Schieffer. "As most people know, we have gone in to clear and left, and the insurgents have returned. This is a chance under the new leadership of General Petraeus and Admiral Fallon to have a chance to succeed. Do I believe it can succeed? Yes, I do."

According to some Democrats, this plan is the McCain Doctrine. McCain is one of the few politicians who is speaking for a troop increase when most others are calling for a drawdown.

"I think maybe I could call it McCain Principle that when I vote to send young Americans into harm's way and to carry out a mission that I'm committed to seeing that mission through," he said, "and to see that it succeeds."

McCain said that the people supporting the resolution of disapproval should take it a step further and vote to cut off funding. He said he sees the resolution as little more than a political ploy to damage the president. He wouldn't however, filibuster it.

"The American people deserve this debate," McCain said. "I think we can make our case in that debate and convince some of our colleagues, who are frankly and understandably agonized and frustrated by this whole situation."

Another probable presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), said rather than increasing troops, the governemnt should be bringing them home in a phased withdrawal.

"Senator McCain and the president seem to believe that only a military solution can accomplish our goals there," he said. "And every objective observer that I've talked to believes that in fact what we have is a political problem between Shia and Sunni, and it's important for us to get that political track moving. That was absent from the president's speech."

Obama said Congress needs to find options to constrain the president, but also needs to make sure that the troops have all the supplies and equipment they needs. He said he wasn't ready to support the resolution proposed by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) to cut funding for the war.

"I personally think that, if there are ways that we can constrain and condition what the president is doing so that, four to six months from now, we are beginning a phased withdrawal while making sure that the troops on the ground have the equipment that they need to succeed, then that is going to be the area that I'm most interested in supporting," he said.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told David Sanger of the New York Times on Friday that recent American raids on the Iranians in Iraq came after President Bush issued a specific order several months ago to undertake a broad military offensive against the Iranians in Iraq. McCain said that doesn't signal the opening of a third front, but a that Bush is taking the threat posed by Iran very seriously.

"Everybody knows the Iranians are playing in Iraq and they are trying to drive us out of Iraq so they can assert their age-old ambitions for influence in the Middle East," he said. "Everybody knows that. If there's Iranians in Iraq who are doing bad things, go after them, and let's get them."

Obama said he supports a "surge in diplomacy" in tandem with a phased redeployment. The U.S. has to bring in the regional powers like Iran and Syria, he said. The problem is, he said, Bush's plan is already set in motion.

"The president has already begun these additional deployments," he said. "And we, unfortunately, are not going to be voting on funding for several weeks, perhaps months."