- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Cotton’s Blithe Warmongering

Earlier this week I wrote about how hawks mislead the public [1] about their support for illegal wars. Tom Cotton just offered [2] up a perfect example of this:

Cotton said any military action against Iran would not be like the Iraq War and would instead be similar to 1999’s Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.

“Even if military action were required — and we certainly should have kept the credible threat of military force on the table throughout which always improves diplomacy — the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case,” Cotton said.

One couldn’t ask for a more misleading presentation of the costs and dangers of military action against Iran. First, no one seriously believes that a bombing campaign against Iran would take only a few days. It would very likely take several weeks [3] at least, and that probably underestimates the difficulty. Starting a war with Iran will last longer and cost more than anyone anticipates. That has been true of all other U.S. wars of choice over the last two decades, and there’s no reason to think that a war with Iran would be easier or less dangerous than any of those. Assuming that Iran retaliates, the conflict would escalate and go on much longer than Iran hawks are claiming.

All that Iran hawks promise is that the nuclear program would be set back by a few years. However, the attack would push Iran to acquire the weapons that the hawks don’t want them to have, and it would drive [4] them to make the nuclear program [5] less vulnerable to future attacks. If Iran hawks were intent on destroying Iran’s nuclear program permanently through military action, they probably would have to argue for an invasion [6] of Iran at some point. When the time came, Cotton would probably be among the first to tell us how cheap, quick, and easy that would be, too.

Like most hawks, Cotton minimizes the costs and duration of military action, he ignores the likely consequences, and he treats an attack on Iran as cavalierly as possible. The comparison with Desert Fox is laughable. That operation took place years after the U.S. had already destroyed Iraqi defenses, which clearly isn’t the case with Iran. Cotton further misleads the public to think that the only thing that can qualify as war with Iran is a scenario involving “150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground.” It is the Iran hawks that want the public to think that a major ground invasion is the only thing that can be called war, which allows them to advocate for a different kind of war against Iran while pretending that they don’t favor war. They don’t want to face the potential political cost of warmongering, so they pretend that they are advocating for something that isn’t “really” war. But, of course, war is exactly what they’re demanding.

29 Comments (Open | Close)

29 Comments To "Cotton’s Blithe Warmongering"

#1 Comment By dSquib On April 8, 2015 @ 11:05 am

I gather there were further developments regarding US involvement in Iraq in the years after Operation Desert Fox, suggesting that that campaign was not an alternative but a prelude to something more expansive but I might be off on my history a little here.

#2 Comment By collin On April 8, 2015 @ 11:30 am

ooohhh!!!! We can simply do strategic bombing and all will be well. As Charles Pierce says, it is still “Making War” and has the potential to escalate into something larger. Remember all the Bush arguments that he was simply following Clinton’s lead on Iraq? (d’Squib in general you are correct although Clinton & Gore were against the land invasion.)

In the case of Iran, several things are different that Iraq:

1) Iran has a better military and has a great opportunity to strike back especially at Israel. Given Iran & Saudia are in all out proxy war in Yemen shows they have capabilities here.
2) It is enormously clear, that the Chinese (and other nations) will no longer continue sanctions against Iran. (Iran is becoming a member of their Asian investment bank.)

#3 Comment By cfountain72 On April 8, 2015 @ 12:13 pm

Poor Senator Cotton.

The US government has been at war so long, with someone, somewhere on Earth for the better part of his lifetime, that he can’t recognize that even ‘Operation Desert Fox’ was indeed an Act of War.

And (considering who his backers are) any retaliation by Iran will be a feature–not a bug–of his proposal.

Peace be with you.

#4 Comment By RINO On April 8, 2015 @ 12:14 pm

I would add that while Saddam’s Iraq had Iran as an enemy, Iran’s current situation has Iraq as an ally.

#5 Comment By gocart mozart On April 8, 2015 @ 12:15 pm

Since Iran is a larger country than Iraq, they will greet us with even more flowers.

#6 Comment By Captain P On April 8, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

Cotton’s either a liar or fool, or maybe a little of both. What a loathsome politician.

#7 Comment By The Other Sands On April 8, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

Who are these people who lust for war? What has snapped in their brains. This guy actually served on the ground, and learned nothing apparently.

#8 Comment By Idiot Wind On April 8, 2015 @ 1:00 pm

“Cotton’s either a liar or fool, or maybe a little of both. “

The safe bet is “a little bit of both”.

He who pays the piper calls the tune. Cotton was paid for this kind of thing by Bill Kristol’s “Emergency Committee for Israel”, among others.

[7]

Accepting such a huge contribution from a group representing a foreign interest is obviously foolish, and it could well be an incentive to lie.

#9 Comment By SteveM On April 8, 2015 @ 1:18 pm

Re: Captain P “Cotton’s either a liar or fool, or maybe a little of both. What a loathsome politician.”

I agree with that. And being a military veteran makes Cotton even more dangerous. Because under the current rubric of Military Exceptionalism, “Warrior-Heroes” have special insight, wisdom and intelligence not available to simple civilians. So their opinions are accorded much more deference than they deserve.

The sycophantic MSM will not challenge the stupidity of Cotton or the Pentagon Brass who mouth the Global Cop line because it is all in with the Exceptionalism schtick that it collaboratively promulgates with the Pentagon.

I know that I repeat myself with these observations. But when you think about it, Military Exceptionalism is another form Political Correctness. Only nobody calls it that. Actively challenging the over-the-top adoration of the U.S. military is politically and socially impossible. The body-politic has been brainwashed. Even innocuous situation comedies like McHale’s Navy or Gomer Pyle that showed bumbling humanity in uniform would never be produced today.

This dysfunctional political and social meme will not go away soon. And so is a prime enabler of the perpetual war paradigm.

As a human being and an American tax payer, that bums me out…

#10 Comment By SDS On April 8, 2015 @ 1:23 pm

“The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that “stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible,” but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. “I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.

Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. “I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables. Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. “To assume we’re going to pay for it all is just wrong,” he said.

“The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. General Shinseki gave his estimate in response to a question at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday: “I would say that what’s been mobilized to this point — something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers — are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.” He also said that the regional commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, would determine the precise figure.

A spokesman for General Shinseki, Col. Joe Curtin, said today that the general stood by his estimate. “He was asked a question and he responded with his best military judgment,” Colonel Curtin said. General Shinseki is a former commander of the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.

In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo. He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that “stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible,” but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. “I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.

In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, many nations agreed in advance of hostilities to help pay for a conflict that eventually cost about $61 billion. Mr. Wolfowitz said that this time around the administration was dealing with “countries that are quite frightened of their own shadows” in assembling a coalition to force President Saddam Hussein to disarm.

Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. “I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables. Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. “To assume we’re going to pay for it all is just wrong,” he said.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

#11 Comment By SDS On April 8, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

Sorry for the redundancy- copy/paste error on my part….

#12 Comment By Analyst On April 8, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

Frankly, one of the problems is that he did “serve on the ground” which in no way qualifies him to talk about the larger intricacies of planning a major military campaign–although lots of people will think that a platoon leader is just as informed on strategic issues as the planners who actually have to work these things out–Fox News loves to get strategic insights from guys like this. A good example is Daniel’s noting that in Iraq in 1999 we had a very permissive air defense environment while Iran has a very robust air defense system. That means that even the US Air Force would have to spend a great deal of time and energy suppressing the air defenses before any actual attack could take place. Just one of those little things that people like Cotton have no comprehension of. Besides that, I seriously doubt that 150,000 would be near the number of troops that would eventually be needed to make a military operation against Iran work–how about 300,000 plus for a start.

#13 Comment By Barry On April 8, 2015 @ 1:44 pm

Captain P says:

“Cotton’s either a liar or fool, or maybe a little of both. What a loathsome politician.”

Considering his experience in Iraq, liar is the most likely. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan, late enough that it should have been clear that that both wars were neither quick nor easy.

#14 Comment By dSquib On April 8, 2015 @ 2:06 pm

Everything about him marks him a fanatic. He might be lying when he says bombing Iran will be easy, but it would make him no less a true believer – perhaps just one who recognises at least some public resistance to war.

No amount of relevant experience or intelligence will matter. If anything less intelligent people have less intellectual pride and are more willing to admit error, particularly if many of their peers made the same error.

#15 Comment By West of the Cascades On April 8, 2015 @ 2:08 pm

I think Cotton has in mind the 1981 Israeli destruction of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in a surprise attack. It wouldn’t surprise me if he soon makes that explicit. “Delusional” is the word I’d use for any assertion that something similar would achieve the goal of ending Iran’s ability to create a nuclear weapon.

#16 Comment By Stephen Gould On April 8, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

People more informed than I about international law and the US’s treaty obligations may chime in, but from my limited knowledge, the current threats from Cotton et al suggest the willingness to begin a war of aggression, which is ipso facto a war crime.

#17 Comment By Mario On April 8, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

West of the Cascades

The destruction of the Osirak reactor is the worst example anyone can use.
The Iraqi bomb program started immediately after that strike

#18 Comment By The Other Sands On April 8, 2015 @ 3:39 pm

Analyst: “he did “serve on the ground” which in no way qualifies him to talk about the larger intricacies of planning a major military campaign”

This has always driven me crazy. Guys like McCain and Graham are treated like General Eisenhower when their actual service (while respected) involved no strategic authority.

Mario: “The Iraqi bomb program started immediately after that strike”

And Iran’s current ramp up began after they were named part of the “Axis of Evil”, and fellow “Axis-member” Iraq was subsequently attacked. North Korea began irresponsible saber rattling around the same time after being named in the “Axis.”

A purely rhetorical one-off flourish in a State of the Union speech which gained us nothing, but put two foes on extreme edge and convinced them that they had to bolster their nuclear deterrent against us. That is neocon “strategic thinking” for you.

#19 Comment By fast_jimmy On April 8, 2015 @ 6:24 pm

The Other Sands says:
April 8, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Who are these people who lust for war? What has snapped in their brains. This guy actually served on the ground, and learned nothing apparently.

Whatever he did or did not learn in Iraq, there is a fairly easy explanation for his actions.

Immediately after his notorious open letter to Iran, Cotton met with the National Defense Industrial Association, an association of defense interests that could just as easily be entitled the Military Industrial Complex. It’s legal, of course, and helps explain the motivation of Cotton.

The Senate, after all, can be pretty steady employment. From the ‘open letter’:

President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades

So there it is. Cotton is a venal chickens*** planning on a lifetime of lucrative employment in the Senate serving the interests of organizations such as the National Defense Industrial Association.

Irrelevant issues like legitimate American interests and the integrity of peaceful diplomacy will not be troubling Cotton during his tenure.

#20 Comment By liberal On April 8, 2015 @ 6:46 pm

Stephen Gould wrote,

…the current threats from Cotton et al suggest the willingness to begin a war of aggression, which is ipso facto a war crime.

As Robert Jackson (the chief US prosecutor at Nuremberg) put it: To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

#21 Comment By John On April 8, 2015 @ 6:51 pm

I will out-chickenhawk Mr. Cotton and remind him that he should not be tying the hands of the JCS by limiting them only to the use of conventional aerial bombing to attain their objective. If you don’t involve the entire Army invading hours after the mushroom clouds dissipate in your threat, you’re really just an appeaser in liberator’s clothing.

#22 Comment By Bob On April 8, 2015 @ 7:41 pm

Re Tom Cotton and his service, why do people think his being part of one mistake give Cotton the authority to perpetrate another?

#23 Comment By Analyst On April 8, 2015 @ 8:40 pm

The Other Sands

It is worth noting that while Graham has served, and holds the rank of Colonel (I believe), he is in the Judge Advocate General staff–i.e., he is a military lawyer. JAGs do not hold line rank, which would actually mean that a second lieutenant could in fact give him orders in certain situations. McCain, of course, was a line officer, but with a terrible reputation as a pilot which may have contributed to his being shot down in Viet Nam–this has been discussed in some circles within the military. This is not to take away from his fortitude as a prisoner, but he has never shown any real sense for the nature of war beyond the gung ho version of a junior aviator in the Navy. No sense for the complexity of a war, and seemingly little concern for the troops on the ground.

#24 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 8, 2015 @ 9:31 pm

Attempting to limit what makes an elected official qualified is a very tough haul. But the contentions made here are a little incredulous. Based on some of these arguments, one would have to be a general staff officer in strategic planning and implementation to have views on the strategic capabilities of the US. I think not.

What calls his view into question is there soundness relative to our recent experiences in two regions where the foes were far less capable to defend themselves. Yet, in both regions, those who challenged us did a formidable job at thwarting our purposes and in my view, given the results, it would appear that for now we have lost. That is us on the ground in face of the enemy and essentially calling it quits.

The examples in which a junior officer would have command authority over a senior is limited and unque, it’s not even worth the eek.
_____

One problem that I see in many who oppose pre-emption is that you rest your arguments on some emotive adjective. Those who advocate what are called neoconservative positions are not warmongers. They believe the best defense for the new US is to eliminate any all potential threats before they become an actual threat.

One looks over the landscape and measures freind or foe. And if their behavior is antagonistic, even mildly so, it is prudent to remove them, preferrabley before they can challenge one realistically. That is not some new strategy, empires prior to the modern era routinely made those choices based on that same reasoning.

As I have said before, we have neither the strategic ability (based on what I hear), nor the will to engage the pre-emptive strategies suggested. Limited bombings will not accomplsh the task, only exaccerbate the problem as many have suggested.

One reason the for the short and small game is that for the purpose of becoming a more effecient cost effective force. The problem is that we have not overhauled our military for such engagements. And given the breadth and scope of our involvement, that may be an impossible task. And I am not sure that Sec. Clinton, Sen. Cotton or any of the new lected officials grasp. It would seem that the old schoolers have not grasped that either.

I may not agree with the pre-emption, but I think I understand it and strategically at some theoretical level it makes sense. Whether or not it is feasible is in no small doubt. Not geiven the current interventionist suggestion.

#25 Comment By sean On April 9, 2015 @ 11:54 am

“1999’s Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.”

And what did that little affair accomplish? Speaking of affairs, I seem to recall Republicans saying the attack was designed to take attention away from Monica Lewinsky. It was the “Wag the Dog” war.

#26 Comment By MMCCANN On April 10, 2015 @ 2:26 am

You notice how Hawks love to throw around Military Terms, but haven’t the foggiest what they mean.

“150,000 heavy mechanized troops.”

What exactly does this mean? What is it supposed to add to the sentence?

Would war in Iran then entail the deployment of 150,000 light infantry troops? 150,000 Armored Troops? Motorized Infantry? Air Cavalry?

Are we to believe that the troops deployed to Iraq consisted entirely of Mechanized forces?

If I’m being overly literal here, what exactly is this adding to the statement here, other than trying to convey a sense of technical sophistication which is not there?

#27 Comment By JR On April 10, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

Sen. Tom Cotton must be a real piece of work. He already has the dead, soulless, utterly compromised eyes of Lindsay Graham in a fraction of the time…
One gets the impression he would sell his own mother into prostitution or indentured servitude if his “masters” wrote him a check.
He seems to be the Arkansas Republican Party’s answer to Bill Clinton without the practicality.

#28 Comment By wycoff On April 10, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

“[T]he president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case”

He’s right. It would probably take at least 1,000,000 heavily mechanized troops on the ground to conquer and occupy the country.

Cotton the Great wants us to conquer Persia, and he’s selling us by telling every lie used to sell the Iraq disaster. People who fall for this the second time are criminally stupid.

#29 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 12, 2015 @ 9:39 am

“If I’m being overly literal here, what exactly is this adding to the statement here, other than trying to convey a sense of technical sophistication which is not there?”

It is not about any what you suggest.

It is a pre-emtive response to people like like me. It’s an attempt to rebut that accomplishing the task of removing, curtailing and or stabilizing any location we target can bo accomplished with “boots on the ground” or with a minimal of ground force deployment. What that means is a nther matter.

It is the current political answer to avoiding casualties or the suggestion tat there might be.