McCain in Manhattan This Morning: Defeatism Will Not Buy Peace in Our Time

Just returned from a Hudson Institute briefing at The Four Seasons restaurant this morning given by John McCain. He seems a little tired, and who can blame him? The man is 71, has survived torture at the hands of the Viet Cong and, worse still, the ineptitude and foolishness of many of his fellow Congress members.

It was good to see this American hero, to be sure. He had the expected (though no doubt true and valuable to hear) things to say about the war: al Qaeda’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse in Iraq, credit goes to General Petraeus and our troops. If we retreat prematurely, the consequences will be tragic and dangerous, and here he speculated that one of the short-term consquences will be a surge of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

“How long before the same advocates of surrender in Iraq begin demanding withdrawal from Afghanistan and negotiation with the Taliban?” he asked.

He struck an eloquent note with, “Peace at any price is an illusion and its costs are always more tragic than the sacrifices victory requires.”

On the matter of Ahmadinejad’s day at Columbia, he offered, “It is unconscionable that Columbia, Harvard, [and other] prestigious institutions of higher learning will welcome terrorists and not the ROTC.”

About Iran, he commented (as I have heard him comment previously, at the Christians United for Israel conference in May), that what concerns him about the prospect of that country attaining nuclear capability is not just the possibility of them using such a weapon directly but giving it to a terrorist group such as al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Hamas.

He spoke in some detail about how he would fortify the military and beef up intelligence were he to be elected President, emphasizing the need for more special forces and military intelligence steeped in knowledge of, and ability to infiltrate, other cultures. Here I felt he was strongest, offering ideas that do sound promising.

He would increase the size of the military from 750,000 to 900,o00, he said, and increase training of officers to become fluent Arabic speakers who can do long-term infiltration of terror cells.

Also, he would increase training in advanced psychological tactics for interrogation.

Finally, he said one of the Clinton Administration’s mistakes was dismantling the U.S. Information Agency, which was dedicated to communications. “We need … an independent agency whose sole purpose is getting America’s message out to the world,” he said.

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