As Americans were remembering the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Sunday was criticizing President Barack Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, but at the same time, he acknowledged that public opinion would not stand for an escalation of military force.
"Whether we should have gone to Iraq or Afghanistan, I believe we should have," McCain told Fox News' Chris Wallace. "I don't think we should ever forget that those attacks originated in Afghanistan. And I think we did the right thing there. But I also think we have learned a lot of lessons and frankly I don't think you are going to see the United States of America in another war in that part of the world."
"You have criticized president Obama for his decision to pull all of the U.S. surge troops, 30,000 troops out of Afghanistan by a year from now, by next September," Wallace noted. "That will leave 70,000 on the ground, but all the surge troops will be gone. What about the argument that we have seriously degraded the Taliban, we have eviscerateed al Qaeda, that Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, will never be a reliable partner? And the argument that you hear from both Republicans and Democrats, it's time to focus on home?"
"I understand why people would want to focus on home," the senator replied. "On the issue of the troop withdrawals, I try to support the president as much as I can... But there is no military person anywhere that recommended that these withdrawals would take place before the second fighting season. There is no military person that doesn't believe we need a residual force in Iraq far in excess of the size that apparently is being planned. In Libya, that conflict could have been over a long, long time ago if we had used the full weight of American air power.
"You have can't lead from behind in this country. And the fact is there is a perception in the world, rightly or wrongly, that the United States is in the decline and that we are in many ways withdrawing to Fortress America. We can't afford to do that."
Wallace went on to ask how McCain could be sure the U.S. would never again be at war in the Middle East.
"I don't think american public opinion would stand for it," McCain said, but added that the U.S. would be at war in the area for a long time.
"I am confident that the things we stand for and believe in overtime will prevail over the forces of evil, but it is going to be a long hard struggle."
Watch this video from Fox News' Fox News Sunday, broadcast Sept. 11, 2011.