Meet the Press   |  April 28, 2013

Using lessons from Iraq to move forward on foreign policy

Sen. John McCain of Arizona discusses mistakes made in the Iraq War and how the lessons learned from that conflict apply to future foreign policy decisions.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> but, senator, as the bush library was dedicated this week, again the specter of iraq and the legacy of iraq was debated in this country, are we not more skeptical about talk of more limited military action, no-fly zones, incrementalism, as you say, as well as the strength of the opposition? aren't there lessons from iraq that need to be taken into mind here?

>> well, one of the lessons obviously, and we hear this a lot from the administration, is that we had false information about weapons of mass destruction with iraq . in had this case there is significant evidence that the -- physical evidence of the use of chemical weapons and, by the way, the administration has said, well, they want the u.n. to investigate. the only problem with that is bashar won't let the u.s. in, so it's a bit ludicrous. so the fact is that whether he has used those chemical weapons or not, he's done virt hadly everything else -- atrocity you could commit, and that should not be the gauge. but would anyone be surprised if bashar al assad did use chemical weapons in his desperation to hang on to power?

>> so what is the limit of what the united states , in your judgment, should do to put a limit on him?

>> well, as i said, a safe zone of arming the rebels, making sure that we help with the refugees and an international -- be prepared with an international force to go in and secure these stocks of chemical and perhaps biological weapons . there are a number of caches of these chemical weapons . they cannot fall into the hands of the jihadists, otherwise we will end up seeing those weapons used in other places in the middle east . it is a very dangerous situation. i don't know. i think that, first of all, american people are weary, as you pointed out. they don't want boots on the ground . i don't want boots on the ground . i do want to give them the assistance which would give them a dramatic shift in the balance of power in syria, but we have to, as an international group , plan and be ready operationally -- not just plan but be ready operationally to go in and secure those areas. now, if you could do it whatever the composition of that force is something i think we have to look at very carefully. but the worst thing the american people -- the united states could do right now is put boots on the ground in syria. that would turn the people against us. and just let me say the syrian people are angry and bitter at the united states . i was in a refugee camp in jordan, and there are thousands of people and kids, and this woman who was a schoolteacher said, senator mccain , do you see these children here? they're going to take revenge on those people who refused to help th them. they're angry and bitter. and that legacy could last for a long time, too, unless we assist them.