McCain, Graham: 'Time to Reevaluate Our Disastrous Policy in the Middle East'

By Susan Jones | August 8, 2014 | 6:54 AM EDT

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) (AP File Photo)

( - “If ever there were a time to reevaluate our disastrous policy in the Middle East, this is it," Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said in a statement on Thursday night.

The two senators, both of them advocates of U.S. military intervention in various global hot spots, commented Thursday night after President Obama told the nation he has authorized air strikes, under certain conditions, on the ISIS/ISIL terrorists advancing in Iraq.

"Because of the President's hands-off approach, the threats in the region have grown and now directly threaten the United States," McCain and Graham said. "We are already paying a very heavy price for our inaction, and if we do not change course, the costs of our inaction will only grow.”

McCain and Graham, who also have urged U.S. military intervention in Syria and on behalf of Ukraine, said they agree with Obama's call for humanitarian aid and air strikes in Iraq, but they said such actions are "far from sufficient" to meet the growing terrorist threat:

"We need a strategic approach, not just a humanitarian one," they wrote. "A policy of containment will not work against ISIS. It is inherently expansionist and must be stopped. The longer we wait to act, the worse this threat will become, as recent events clearly show.

“We need to get beyond a policy of half measures. The President needs to devise a comprehensive strategy to degrade ISIS. This should include the provision of military and other assistance to our Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian partners who are fighting ISIS.

"It should include U.S. air strikes against ISIS leaders, forces, and positions both in Iraq and Syria. It should include support to Sunni Iraqis who seek to resist ISIS. And none of this should be contingent on the formation of a new government in Baghdad."

President Obama on Thursday night announced that he had authorized two operations in Iraq -- one of them humanitarian. The other one  involves targeted (and limited) airstrikes to protect American personnel in Erbil.

Obama insisted that he "will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq." He said the U.S. air strikes -- no boots on the ground -- are intended to support Iraqis "as they take the fight to these terrorists."

The U.S. assistance does not include disrupting a terror group that by most accounts is more dangerous and capable than al-Qaida was.

A June 20-21 Gallup poll found that 54 percent of Americans opposed and 39 percent favored taking direct U.S. military action to help the Iraqi government fight Islamic militants threatening to take control of that country.

That same poll found that 52 percent of Republicans were in favor of U.S. military action in Iraq, while 45 percent of Republicans were opposed. Among Democrats, 34 percent were in favor, while 60 percent were opposed. And among Independents, the breakdown was 39 percent in favor and 54 percent opposed.