Sparks flew Thursday morning between Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey during an exchange over American policy on Syria.

McCain ended his first question with a demand that Dempsey “answer rather than filibuster,” setting the tone for the following exchange.

“The situation is much more dire there than it was two years ago, when you … came into office,” McCain told Dempsey, who has been nominated for a second two-year term as the top military adviser to the president.

Characterizing Dempsey’s changing positions on Syria as “pirouettes,” McCain also mentioned that he had been right about the surge in Iraq, since Dempsey had reportedly opposed it.

Dempsey responded that an American military action could worsen the situation in the Syrian civil war rather than improve conditions there.

But McCain was clearly frustrated when Dempsey said that the Obama administration was still making a decision on military action and that it would be “inappropriate for me to influence the decision with me rendering an opinion on what force we should use.”

“If it is your position that you do not provide your personal views to the committee when asked, only under certain circumstances, then you have just contradicted what I have known this committee to operate under for the last 30 years,” McCain said.

Dempsey pushed back against McCain’s questioning, telling the committee that the decision to use military force would be made by the country’s elected officials.

“Senator, somehow you’ve got me portrayed as the one who’s holding back from our use of military force inside of Syria,” Dempsey protested.

To which McCain retorted: “I am saying what your advice and counsel is to the president of the United States and your views are very important because that’s your job.”