Cotton is the GOP foreign policy equivalent of House Speaker Paul Ryan: disingenuous, ignorant, and out of his depth, yet feted by the D.C. press corps as a Very Serious Person — a resume and a vocabulary as a substitute for seriousness.Maybe it's not a good idea to have him head the CIA, no matter how much we might welcome his departure from the Senate.
There is, however, nothing serious about him — despite his two degrees from Harvard. Like Ryan, Cotton’s policy ideas fall apart the minute they are applied to the real world. “The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran,” Cotton declared in June, before explaining how he believed the United States should “support internal domestic dissent” in Iran by backing minority ethnic groups, including Arabs, Turkmen, and Baloches, who “aren’t enthusiastic about living in a Persian Shia despotism.”
This is madness. Have we forgotten how much blood was spilled in Iraq thanks to such a nakedly sectarian “divide and rule” strategy? Are we supposed to ignore the way in which outside powers stirred up “internal domestic dissent” in Syria, by arming and funding vicious jihadist groups?
Then again, though Cotton may now be the most hawkish senator in the United States — step aside John McCain and Lindsey Graham — we should perhaps thank him for his bluntness. Remember: Every time former President Barack Obama or a member of his administration framed the argument over the nuclear deal as a choice between diplomacy or war, Republicans would cry foul. This, they would say, was a false choice; critics of the deal merely wanted a better deal.
But Cotton is clear about regime change. He is clear about airstrikes. He is clear about wanting to crush Iran. Consider his recent remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations where, referring to the impact of sanctions on Iran’s economy, Cotton said: “One thing I learned in the Army is that when your opponent is on his knees, you drive him to the ground and choke him out,” later adding, “If they’re on their knees in surrender, then you accept their surrender.”
This is the kind of language you might expect from a tinpot African dictator trying to suppress a domestic revolt — or maybe from a teenager obsessed with playing “Call of Duty” on his Playstation — and not from a leading member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.