[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/02/art.sanchez.jpg caption="Ricardo Sanchez gestures during a press conference in Baghdad, November 2003." width=292 height=320]
AC360° contributor and GOP Strategist
I had a chance to sit down yesterday with retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. troops in Iraq from 2003-2004. On tour to promote his new book, “Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story,” Sanchez, a critic of the Bush war plan, talked with me about a number of things, including Sen. John McCain’s upcoming trip to Latin America and Sen. Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit to Iraq.
Sanchez urged the need for seriousness in the debate, especially about Iraq, while acknowledging that “political theater” exists on both sides of the discussion. “It's something we need to be very cautious of since it establishes the wrong perception, the wrong expectation and it establishes conditions we may not be able to live by."
Of Obama’s trip to Iraq, and his call for a pullout of troops in 16 months, Sanchez said:
"It is way too early for us to be making an assessment of what conditions would be like in Iraq in literally a year. Without having the benefit of a complete understanding of the situation on the ground, this is a very dynamic battle. It is a little premature to establish any political position in terms of whether to stay or go or what timeline to use."
Of Sen. McCain's travel to Columbia and Mexico Sanchez said:
"It's absolutely critical to re-establish trust and confidence between the Western Hemisphere partners we neglected. It's a problem for America,” he said, noting the increase of Chinese investment and influence in the region.
"While there is no military desire, China's presence could exert tremendous economic and diplomatic influence. This could contribute to a trend toward regimes that are not as friendly to America as they have been in the past. It's always tenuous."
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