Kelley Beaucar Vlahos writes in The American Conservative that even though Sen. Tom Cotton “has emerged as one of the biggest pro-war members of his class, a sort of junior hawk to Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham,” he is sounding foreign policy notes that seem almost “realist.” She writes (abridged):
It was just a few lines in an hour-long speech before the conservative Hillsdale College annual Constitution Day dinner, but for a brief, possibly illuminating moment, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sounded like he might be a regular subscriber to The American Conservative.
After two years of pushing for an expansion in the drone war, staying in Afghanistan indefinitely, engaging in military action in Syria (even if that meant shooting down Russian planes), arguing to keep Gitmo open, and doing everything to maintain current, if not increased budgets for the Military Industrial Complex, the Arkansas Republican sounded like, well, a foreign policy realist, if not the majority of people in America today.
“Government now takes nearly half of every dollar our workers earn and bosses us around in every aspect of life, yet can’t even deliver services well,” Cotton declared to his audience of some 400 conservatives. “Our working class—the ‘forgotten man,’ to use a phrase favored by Ronald Reagan and FDR—has seen its wages stagnate while the four richest counties in America are all within the Washington Beltway. The kids of those forgotten men are the ones who chiefly fight our seemingly endless wars and police our streets, only to come under criticism from the very elite who sleep under the blanket of security they provide” (emphasis added)….
Cotton(Tom) was at the forefront of a 2015 letter sent to Iranian leaders designed to thwart the nuclear deal (the effort failed). He also supported sending troops to Syria and argued that the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Force (AUMF) was enough to justify it but could also be used to shoot down Russian planes in Syria if necessary. He supports Trump’s plan to stay in Afghanistan, and has promised to end sequestration in order to increase the defense budget beyond its ginormous $600 billion annual tab. There is where your “nearly half” to the taxman is going.
All of this sounds eerily like a game plan for those “endless wars” Cotton appears to lament in his Hillsdale speech. He may have meant that America’s enemies are forcing the U.S. into this endless cycle of conflict, in which case his statement would be more in line with his record. Or, he might be reading the tea leaves—that the only people truly pushing for war are those benefiting from it inside the Beltway.
It’s likely too much to hope that Tom Cotton will be a new voice for foreign policy restraint in the Senate. Read more here.