On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) appeared separately on “Fox News Sunday” to warn that the United States needs to stay active in the Middle East in order to fight the War on Terror.
McCain said that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were correct, but also talked about mistakes that were made.
“I don't think we should ever forget that those [Sept. 11, 2001] attacks originated in Afghanistan. I think we did the right thing there, but I also think we've learned a lot of lessons,” McCain said.
McCain was particularly critical of the use of torture by the United States in the War on Terror.
“It's probably not the time to bring this up,” McCain acknowledged in answering a question about the use of torture, “but Abu Ghraib and the torture of prisoners hurt us a great deal and did provide a propaganda tool for our enemy, including al-Qaida, and I regret that.”
McCain also believes that we have a “vastly improved capability” to deal with the threat of terrorism since the 9/11 attacks.
The threat from terrorism, however, is not over, according to McCain, and he warned against reducing United States' influence in the Middle East. McCain criticized President Obama's decision to pull American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of next summer, and for not committing more resources to Libya.
“There is a perception in the world, rightly or wrongly, that the United States is in a decline and that we are, in many ways, withdrawing to 'fortress America.' We can't afford to do that,” McCain argued.
While al-Qaida is “on their heels,” McCain worries about other “breeding grounds” for terrorist organizations, such as Yemen and Somalia.
“This threat will be with us for a long period of time,” McCain said.
McCain is hopeful, however, about the revolutions, dubbed the “Arab Spring,” taking place in the Middle East.
“The Arab Spring is a repudiation of al-Qaida. The Arab Spring proves that people can peacefully demonstrate and change their government, and it's a repudiation of the strategy and tactics of terror and murder that al-Qaida had employed.
“Don't get me wrong, there's going to be two steps forward and one step back in the Arab world, but I think that, over time, this repudiation of al-Qaida will work to our advantage, but we're going to have problems there, and issues and threats as long as you and I are around,” McCain said.
Though Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is one of the most liberal senators on other issues, she agreed with McCain that there will be a long struggle ahead fighting terrorism.
While acknowledging that many would like to see U.S. troops come home from operations in the Middle East, “the problem is,” Feinstein said, “it's not over.”
“Al-Qaida has metastasized. It's in different places. It's making progress in Yemen. You have a Taliban that still controls territory in Afghanistan.... I think that al-Qaida will continue … out of Yemen, with new explosives to try and come after us. If we let them, they will.
“McCain is right. You can't just pull out and let Iran dominate northern Iraq,” Feinstein argued.
Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of defense under President George W. Bush, made a similar argument, sitting on the panel with Feinstein. If the United States too quickly pulls back militarily from the Middle East, “I think we'll get hit again in some way that we can't predict,” Wolfowitz said, “and if we get hit again, we'll be at war again.”