02/05/2007 12:22 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Webb on McCain's War and Being "Combative"

It's great to have a writer like Jim Webb in the Senate, because he actually speaks clearly. When asked how Vietnam experience can affect politicians' Iraq stances, Webb offered this frank view of his fellow Vietnam veterans in the US Senate:

John McCain was a prisoner of war; I respect what he had to go through... He did not see the ground environment, how difficult things really are on the ground. He did not really see how bad this country was torn apart by the war, for the unfortunate reason that he was in prison.

...Chuck Hagel and I both intrinsically understand how difficult it is in an infantry environment to carry out some of these goals and we both experienced what it was like to come back to a pretty hostile peer group.

It's a fascinating contrast. McCain supports an unrealistic escalation plan, while Webb's infantry experience informs his view that adding more US troops to an Iraqi civil war is a bad idea. Yesterday he elaborated on this point:

You're not going to [succeed] simply by sending more troops in again and again, the way that we've been doing, and addressing a situation that even the National Intelligence Estimate has said is probably worse than a civil war. This isn't even sectarian violence anymore. There are so many components to it that it's chaos. And if you're a military person on the street, there's only so much you can do.

Webb pressed this case in an interview with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who is well known for combatively questioning Bill Clinton about whether he did enough to prevent 9/11. So the end of yesterday's interview was priceless:

WALLACE: Finally -- and we've got less than a minute left -- you have a reputation, and it has only strengthened since you were elected, as being -- forgive me -- combative. You had that icy exchange with the president when he asked about your son who is serving in Iraq. During the Democratic response, you said if the president doesn't act, we will be showing him the way. Are you combative?

WEBB: I fight for what I believe in. I'm not ashamed of that. But I think that, you know, if people look at me, I've had eight years in government before now. And I know how to work with leadership. I know how to cooperate. And I think Peggy Noonan said it right about this White House exchange, which has been vastly overblown, and that is we need more courtesy in government. And in that particular situation, I don't think the lack of courtesy was mine.