McCain calls Dempsey's warning against attack on Syria 'disingenuous'

The veteran senator said that, in his long career, he had witnessed many attempts by senior military officials to exaggerate costs and threats.

August 2, 2013 02:45
1 minute read.
US Senator John McCain

US Senator John McCain 370 (R). (photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)


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WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain criticized military brass on Wednesday for allegedly overstating the costs and requirements of US military action in Syria.

Specifically calling Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “disingenuous,” McCain claimed that limited, strategic strikes against key assets of Syrian President Bashar Assad would be much more manageable than the army – and the administration of US President Barack Obama – have let on.

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The veteran senator said that, in his long career, he had witnessed many attempts by senior military officials to exaggerate costs and threats.

“No one is seriously talking about striking Assad’s naval forces as part of a limited campaign,” McCain said in a statement to the Senate. “And no one seriously thinks that degrading Assad’s air power would require hundreds of American military assets. The whole thing is completely misleading to the Congress and the American people, and it is shameful.”

McCain was responding to a letter sent last month by Dempsey to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, in which Dempsey described military intervention in Syria as a fool’s errand.

Estimating that action could cost the $1 billion a month and require “thousands” of ground troops, Dempsey said strikes would be “no less than an act of war” with no guarantee of success.

Dempsey said intervention would likely embolden extremist groups.


“We have learned from the past 10 years... that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state,” Dempsey added.

In his rebuttal, McCain cited a new study out of the Institute for the Study of War, which suggests that US military assets could cripple Assad’s eight primary air fields, fuel capabilities and main command and control units without a single pilot entering Syrian airspace.

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