The debate over U.S. policy towards Iran tends to follow a predictable trajectory. The Obama administration has told lawmakers that they have a choice: they can allow the international, diplomatic agreement to move forward, or they can push us closer to yet another military conflict in the Middle East.
For Republicans and their allies, this has been labeled a “false choice.” U.S. conservatives don’t want a war, they insist, they just want a different diplomatic solution. What might that alternative policy look like? Republicans, at least for now, haven’t the foggiest idea.
But once in a while, prominent GOP officials slip up and acknowledge that the choice isn’t quite as “false” as they like to pretend. Last week, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed quite enthusiastic about the prospect of a war with Iran. The Times of Israel has a related report today on Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) talking up the benefits of military strikes in Iran.
Speaking to the Israel Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Cotton – who retired from the US Army with the rank of captain – called for the US to make plain to the Iranians that it wouldn’t hesitate to use force if it felt the need to do so. […]“You can destroy facilities. I don’t think any military expert in the United States or elsewhere would say the US military is not capable to setting Iran’s nuclear facilities back to day zero,” Cotton said. “Can we eliminate it forever? No, because any advanced industrialized country can develop nuclear weapons in four to seven years, from zero. But we can set them back to day zero.”
There are two broad problems with this.
The first is substantive. Remember, even the Bush/Cheney administration concluded that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities “would be a bad idea – and would only make it harder to prevent Iran from going nuclear in the future.”
But the second is political. Republicans continue to stick to their “false choice” talking point when responding to the White House, but GOP officials can’t have it both ways. Increasingly, congressional Republicans appear to be arguing, “We don’t want a military confrontation with Iran, but wouldn’t a military confrontation with Iran be awesome?”
On-the-fence Democrats should take note and consider whether they really see Tom Cotton – this Tom Cotton – as a responsible ally in the drive to sabotage American foreign policy.