The United States should be running military operations in Libya, not leaving it to NATO, Arizona Sen. John McCain said Sunday, arguing that U.S. forces would have been much more expedient about getting rid of Libyan despot Muammar al-Qaddafi.

McCain said President Obama this week did expand the purpose of the NATO mission -- saying that civilian protection cannot be accomplished with Qaddafi in power -- but his position is too slowly evolving.

"As he is gradually changing, people are dying on the ground in Libya and they wouldn't have to if we were using all of U.S. airpower and the abilities and the unique capabilities that the United States military has. And, unfortunately, we are not," McCain told "Fox News Sunday."

"Qaddafi may crack. He may crack. But this could have been over a long time ago if we had brought the full weight of the American airpower to bear on him," McCain added.

McCain said he's also in disagreement with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who says it's premature to entirely trust Libya's Transitional National Council since the group does contain extremist elements. McCain said it makes more sense to help the council because by giving it strong backing, extremists won't have the room to win over moderates.

"The best way to get extremist elements in the lead amongst the rebels there, the liberation forces, is a stalemate. That's the way extremists come into power," he said, adding that there are parties in the fight who are not U.S. favorites but they all agree to work together to get rid of Qaddafi.

McCain added that the "anti-spending sentiment" in Washington that opposes pledging tens of millions of dollars to Egypt and Tunisia to help with democratic reform and economic stability are missing a golden opportunity.

"I think we can do things like debt relief, like matching grants, stimulation, business and job opportunity," he said. "We also have to do a better job of convincing American people that a smooth transition to democracy in the region of the best guarantee of us not having to spend a lot of money in the future if the wrong people get in power.

McCain also encouraged private U.S. businesses to make their own pledges to invest if corruption-free governments emerge in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere.

"I think that could be one of greatest incentives rather than just throwing money at them," McCain said.