McCain Drops Threat To Put Hold On Dempsey Nomination
Senator John McCain has dropped his threat to place a hold on the renomination of General Martin Dempsey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday dropped his threat to place a hold on President Obama’s nominee to lead the joint chiefs of staff.
McCain told reporters that he would not block Gen. Martin Dempsey’s confirmation as joint chiefs chairman despite his disagreement with the top U.S. military general over what action the U.S. military should be taking in Syria.
The shift from McCain came after Dempsey sent Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) a letter Monday outlining his assessment of possible military options in Syria.
McCain remains critical of Dempsey’s position on Syria. McCain argued Dempsey was taking the position that it was practically impossible to intervene in Syria.
This assessment that Gen. Dempsey gave of how to address the challenges in Syria are beyond anything that any rationale military thinker that I know would ever contemplate,” McCain said.
“He basically describes a scenario where it’s impossible to intervene, and that’s not true. And the status quo is not acceptable, which is [Syrian President] Bashar Assad is winning this battle,” he said.
Dempsey’s Syria assessment, which Levin requested at last week’s confirmation hearing after the dust-up between McCain and Dempsey, expressed caution about using military force in Syria.
McCain had threatened to hold Dempsey’s nomination last week after Dempsey would not provide his opinion at his confirmation hearing on whether the risks of U.S. military action outweighed doing nothing there.
As James Joyner noted in a post here and at DefenseOne, McCain’s demand of Dempsey completely conflated the appropriate role of the JCS Chairman. It isn’t Dempsey job to advocate for a particular policy position, especially when it comes to something as serious as intervening in a foreign nation. Instead, his job is to provide the President and Secretary of Defense with advice regarding the military’s capabilities and what it would take to accomplish a particular policy goal or mission that civilian leadership might be contemplating. It was simply inappropriate for McCain to put Dempsey on the spot like he did by attempting to force him to take sides in a policy dispute, and the Senator was wise to withdraw his threat.