Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona has remained critical of U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Grading his former rival’s approach to projecting American power, McCain said that Obama gets an “F.”
McCain, who is also chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Hill that the president “... came to power believing that the U.S. should ‘lead from behind.’ He believed that we had to get out of conflicts.”
The 79-year-old Arizona senator had been the GOP nominee during the 2008 election, when the Iraq War was deeply unpopular and the American people wanted out of the region. McCain’s campaign defended keeping a large U.S. military presence in the country while Obama promised to withdraw.
McCain has pointed to the Islamic State group’s (ISIS) formation in the region as evidence that his strategy was the correct one.
“Well, we can’t lead from behind, and he should have learned a long time ago that when the United States gets out of conflicts, that doesn’t mean that conflicts end,” McCain said. “[The] classic example, of course, is Iraq.”
In a separate interview with The Hill, McCain repeated that his main bone of contention with Obama’s foreign policy was the decision to leave Iraq.
“[Obama] decided to pull everybody out once the surge had won at great sacrifice and squandered all the gains there, which then gave birth to ISIS,” McCain said.
The Obama administration has stated before that it was not the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq but Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s divisive governing that led to the rise of ISIS in the region.
McCain’s criticism has extended beyond Obama. The senator, who was a POW for five years in North Vietnam, blasted the GOP presidential candidates’ refusal to condemn waterboarding during the most recent Republican debate, Huffington Post reports.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas had excused the technique, which simulates drowning and was voted illegal by Congress in 2015, while Donald Trump promised he would institute interrogation techniques “... a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
"It's been so disappointing to see some presidential candidates engaged in loose talk on the campaign trail about reviving waterboarding and other inhumane interrogation techniques," said McCain, who had himself been tortured.
The senator condemned the George W. Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” according to Reuters.
McCain concluded that practices such as waterboarding “compromised our values, stained our national honor, and did little good.”