Tom Cotton’s views on Russia and Syria are predictably bizarre and dangerous:
Rather than being a constructive partner, President Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been engaged in a proxy war against the United States in Syria [bold mine-DL], despite Obama’s protestations to the contrary. And when an enemy wages war against the United States [bold mine-DL], it does not get to choose whether it is at war; its only choice is to win or lose. Right now, the United States is losing the proxy war in Syria—and a wider competition for regional influence—against Russia.
Cotton is a hard-line fanatic, as this passage makes very clear. He presents Russian support for the Syrian government against anti-regime forces as a “war against the United States.” This is not only false, but it erases vitally important distinctions between the ineffectual proxies that the U.S. has foolishly chosen to back and the U.S. itself. Treating attacks on proxies as a war against your country throws away any advantage that might come from using proxies in a conflict. It also presents our meddling in that conflict as if it were essential to our national security when it is anything but that.
Cotton is pushing for more aggressive measures (namely establishing a “no-fly zone” and “safe haven” and increased backing for anti-regime forces) in a foreign civil war by dishonestly framing it as a response to a war being waged upon the U.S. when nothing of the kind is happening. He refers to Russia as trying to “spark a proxy war against the United States in Syria” when the U.S. and its allies and clients have been the ones trying to overthrow a Russian client regime for the last several years. Increasing our hostility to that regime and doing more to seek its collapse as Cotton wishes to do have nothing to do with making the U.S. or our allies more secure, and they guarantee increased tensions with Moscow and possibly a direct conflict with Russian forces. In place of a proxy war, Cotton would risk a major war with a nuclear-armed state.
The reality is that the U.S. inserted itself into Syria’s civil war when it had nothing at stake, and has no need now to escalate its commitment on behalf of its proxies. The last thing that the U.S. should do is heed Cotton’s reckless advice for a more confrontational and aggressive policy towards Russia in Syria and eleswhere.