The U.S. is ``getting better'' in executing the Iraq war, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) offering an unvarnished assessment on Sunday's "CBS News Face the Nation'' with moderator Bob Schieffer and John Harris, National Political Editor, Washington Post.
McCain summary on Iraq to date: Tactics flawed, not enough troops, underestimating the reconstruction challenges, overextending the National Guard.
Sen. McCAIN: I think the tactics have been flawed, and that's been well
documented and chronicled. We didn't have enough troops over there, the
looting shouldn't have taken place, the difficulties in not anticipating the
enormous challenges of bringing democracy and stability to a place that has
been ruled by an absolute, terrible, repressive dictator for many years. That
doesn't mean to me that, therefore, we should then plan on leaving. It means
that we should fix the mistakes, it means that we have to make progress.
Mr. HARRIS: What's your level of confidence that the administration is doing
that, is fixing those mistakes?
Sen. McCAIN: I think we are getting better. I still think we need more
troops over there. I notice that, quote, "maintaining troop levels" is
basically a troop increase. I worry about neglecting Anbar Province, the real
hotbed and base of a lot of this terrorist activity.
But I also believe we are making progress in certain areas. There's parts of
Iraq that are very stable, there's significant progress being made in training
of the Iraqi army. I guess, John, my answer is two steps forward, one step
back, and we should not raise expectations of the American people as to the
difficulties of this challenge.
SCHIEFFER: Well, how many more troops, senator?
Sen. McCAIN: I would--I would say 20 or 30,000, but they have to be the
right kind of troops. But having said that, the fundamental problem, Bob,
we've got to expand, and should have five years ago, six years ago, expand the
Army and the Marine Corps. All these reports about the strain on the Guard
are very valid, those are valid reports. We're asking our men and women in
the Guard to do things we've never asked them to do before, and it's marvelous
the way they've responded, it's incredible, but it's very, very difficult.
And it all goes back to a lack of sufficient number of troops to handle the