President George W. Bush wants to send about 20,000 additional American troops into his failed Iraq war for a temporary “surge and accelerate” program.

Arizona Senator John McCain says that’s not enough. He wants more troops sent into harm’s way for a longer time.

“The surge must be substantial, and it must be sustained,” McCain said in an appearance before the ultra-right-wing American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

But in the next sentence, McCain admits such a strategy means more American casualties with no assurance of success.

“Even if we send additional troops to Iraq in large numbers for a sustained period, there is no guarantee for success,” McCain says.

Writes Liz Sidoti of The Associated Press:

Sen. John McCain’s call for a substantial and sustained influx of U.S. troops in Iraq sets the Republican apart from other White House candidates — and it could help him or haunt him come 2008.

The Arizona senator’s hawkish position that the United States must do what is necessary to win the war might appeal to hard-core Republicans, but it also has the potential to turn off most Americans whose support for the nearly 4-year-old war has diminished.

“I have presidential ambitions, but they pale in comparison to what I think is most important to our nation’s security. If it destroys any ambitions I may have, I’m willing to pay that price gladly,” McCain said Friday, brushing aside scenarios of political fallout.

A decorated Vietnam war veteran considered one of Congress’ authorities on military matters, McCain has long said the United States did not send enough troops to Iraq for the 2003 invasion. He has been a vocal advocate of sending thousands more troops to the war zone to calm sectarian violence that has ravaged Baghdad and beyond.

Securing the country, McCain says, would allow for political progress and economic development that has been stunted thus far.

The stance has generated attention — and scrutiny — as President Bush prepares to announce a new Iraq strategy that’s expected to include a troop increase.

McCain is “staking out a position as a hawk on this war — that it’s winnable and we’re going to move forward and do this. Certainly it’s a risky strategy,” said Fred Solop, a political science professor at Northern Arizona University. “But right now his sights are on winning the nomination for his party. And that’s a position that’s going to get him a lot of support as he pursues it.”

Of McCain’s most serious potential challengers for the Republican nomination, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has largely resisted wading into the Iraq debate. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has said that while withdrawing “would be a mistake,” decisions on troop levels should be left to the military.

But likely Democratic rivals have taken aim. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards opposed what he called “the McCain doctrine,” and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said of the Republican, “I think he is wrong.”

A recent Associated Press-AOL News Poll found that most Americans are pessimistic about the future of Iraq and few expect the situation to get any better. A majority doubt that a stable, democratic government will be established there, and eight in 10 think the conflict will end with a compromise, not a clear-cut victory.

Looks like Bush isn’t the only nutcase left in Washington. McCain appeared before AEI with another prominent warmonger, Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman, who says he supports the concept of sending more American troops to their deaths in an unpopular, illegal and immoral war.

McCain wants to send it four to six more brigades to bolster violence-torn Iraq, a move that most military experts say is certain death for American troops.

AEI, who has a much callous disregard for the importance of American lives as McCain, Bush, Leiberman, et. Al, wants even more troops – seven brigades.

“Victory in Iraq is still possible at an acceptable level of effort,” claims AEI in a report issued in conjunction with McCain’s and Lieberman’s speeches.. “We must adopt a new approach to the war and implement it quickly and decisively.”

McCain hopes to the Republican nominee for President in 2008. Given voter attitudes towards the Iraq war in the 2006 midterm elections, McCain’s performance Friday was political suicide.

(Updated Saturday, January 6, at 6:54 a.m.)

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