WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jon McCain defended the government's decision to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but said he recognizes that public opinion would prevent the United States from going to war in the Middle East again soon.
"I think we did the right thing there, but I also think we learned a lot of lessons, and frankly, I don't think you're going to see the United States of America in another war in that part of the world," McCain (R-Ariz.) said on "Fox News Sunday," speaking on the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
"I don't think American public opinion would stand for it," he added.
McCain's tone was a slight shift from his normal hawkishness on foreign policy, where he has been quick to criticize the president for using too little force in Libya and planning a draw-down of troops in Afghanistan.
He acknowledged the frustration that many Americans feel with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have continued for years beyond their planned end-dates.
Still, McCain defended the decisions to invade the two nations, saying Americans can "be proud of the fact that there has not been another terrorist attack."
"Whether we should have gone to Iraq or Afghanistan, I believe we should have," he said. "Whether it's mismanaged and whether we underestimated the enormity of the challenge we faced, I think historians will judge. But I don't think we should ever forget that those attacks originated in Afghanistan."
One major mistake, he argued, was the torture and abuse of detainees that went on in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, a human rights violation that was revealed in 2004.
"It's probably not the time to bring this up, but Abu Ghraib and the torture of prisoners hurt us a great deal and did provide a propaganda tool for our enemies including Al Qaeda,” he said.
He said he understands the desire to focus on domestic issues, when unemployment rates continue at staggering rates. But he said national security is just as important.
"There is a perception in the world, rightly or wrongly, that the United States is in a decline and we are, in many ways, withdrawing the fortress of America," he said. "We can't afford to do that."
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more