Wash. Post: McCain's Iraq proposal "more measured" than Democrats' -- but article ignored significant questions regarding its feasibility


In a November 15 Washington Post article on U.S. Central Command head Gen. John P. Abizaid's upcoming testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, staff writer Ann Scott Tyson compared Sen. Carl Levin's (D-MI) proposal to begin withdrawing U.S forces from Iraq in the next four to six months with Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) plan to increase troop levels in the region. She added that one of the reasons the Democrats cite in support "for drawing down U.S. troops in Iraq" is "the strain on the all-volunteer military from repeated combat zone deployments." But while Tyson went on to depict McCain's proposal as emblematic of the Republicans' "more measured approach to redefining Iraq strategy," she omitted the details of his plan and ignored altogether significant questions regarding its feasibility.

From Tyson's November 15 article, headlined "U.S. Commander in Iraq to Face Democrats Eager for Troop Cuts":

Democrats say a driving factor in their push for drawing down U.S. troops in Iraq is the strain on the all-volunteer military from repeated combat zone deployments, as well as from billions of dollars' worth of equipment wear and tear that has hurt the military's preparedness should another conflict break out.

Some Democrats on the committee, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), advocate increasing the size of the Army, which has about 500,000 active-duty soldiers, to improve readiness and ease the strain on the force.

Leading Republicans, for their part, are arguing against a timetable for troop withdrawals while urging a more measured approach to redefining Iraq strategy.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), set to become the committee's ranking minority member, made it clear that he vehemently opposes a timetable for withdrawing troops and instead favors a substantial increase in U.S. ground forces in Iraq.

If the United States begins a phased withdrawal, "chaos will ensue, and that chaos will spread throughout the region," McCain said in an interview. "We need to get more troops into the equation to try to get Iraqis trained," he said, adding that "the Iraqi military is doing better but is not yet prepared to take over."

McCain, who has advocated increasing U.S. forces in Iraq for years, said that of a string of U.S. mistakes there, "one of our greatest failures was not having enough troops from the beginning."

While Tyson noted McCain's ongoing support for "increasing U.S. forces in Iraq" and his "vehement[]" opposition to Democrats' withdrawal proposals, she failed to explain how his proposal is "more measured" than the Democrats' plans and offered no specifics regarding the number of troops he advocates sending to the region, the number of additional overall troops he says is needed to facilitate this increase, and the timeframe in which he believes this action must be taken.

During an October 27 campaign event for Republicans in New Hampshire, McCain proposed sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq, which he said "means expanding the Army and Marine Corps by as much as 100,000 people." McCain subsequently asserted on the November 12 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press that "[w]e're either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months."

But as Media Matters for America has noted, news outlets such as The New York Times and CNN have reported on McCain's plan without questioning whether it is realistic to expand active Army and Marine forces by 100,000 in the "next several months."

Posted In
Elections, National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
The Washington Post
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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