NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 19, 2008

How do Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) differ on the Iraq War?  The National Journal compared and contrasted the two presidential candidates.  Below is a summary of McCain's positions on the Iraq War.

Invading Iraq:

  • McCain has been a consistent advocate of toppling Saddam Hussein.
  • "In this age, to wait for our enemies to come to us is suicidal," he said, after successfully co-sponsoring the use-of-force resolution on Iraq in October 2002.

Exit timetable:

  • McCain continues to reject a firm timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops, but said in July that if "conditions on the ground" continue to improve he could support withdrawal of most combat troops over 16 months, a position that brings him closer to the timetable espoused by Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
  • He is at least open to the idea of permanent bases in Iraq anchoring a U.S. presence in the Middle East.
  • More recently, he said he hopes that most troops can be out of Iraq by the end of 2013.

The surge:

  • McCain was one of the strongest congressional backers of the Bush administration's decision to send nearly 30,000 more troops to Iraq in early 2007; he offered a nonbinding resolution to the Senate at the time supporting the surge.
  • He believes that the alternative to securing Baghdad was disaster.
  • He supports the Pentagon's decision to halt the current withdrawal of combat brigades in July 2008 for 45 days, while the U.S. Central Command accessed the impact of the reductions.

Negotiating with Iran:

  • McCain rejects negotiations with Iran.
  • He has repeatedly criticized Obama for his "reckless" willingness to engage with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Source: "McCain on the Iraq War," in "Where They Stand," National Journal, August 30, 2008.


Browse more articles on International Issues