The Bloodthirsty Nativism of Tom Cotton

There’s not much to write about Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton that he hasn’t already said himself. His over-the-top war rhetoric is quickly earning him a reputation as chief warmonger on the planet. He became an online sensation when, in 2006, a letter written by him to the New York Times began making the rounds in the Republican blogosphere, in which he suggested that magazine’s journalists should be jailed for a story detailing how the government had been tracking terrorist financing. Think of him as the neoconservative answer to Rand Paul. Whereas Rand Paul has been making attempts to move the GOP away from the interventionist bent, Cotton has surged forth as an equal and opposite force to counter Paul with his brand of scorched-earth warmongering.

His views on foreign policy orbit an ice-covered moon of predictable neoconservative bromides. He supports expanding drone use, dynamiting talks with Iran, and then Iran itself, presumably. He has thoroughly imbibed the entire "I pledge unconditional support for Israel" shibboleth. His support for expanding the Guantanamo Bay prison was made clear at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on February 5th, when he opined that the only thing wrong with the prison was that it had too many empty cells. As for the current detainees, well, "they can rot in Hell. But as long as they don’t do that, then they can rot in Guantanamo Bay." Charming. This is the type of talk that really gets the base rowdy and wild.

But this is nothing more than militant nationalism, raw and unhinged. It’s the same "we wanna see some carnage" nationalism that hung thick in the air after the 9/11 attacks, but crystallized and made permanent in one person. It’s an unreflective hubris that rules out any negative consequences of any military action taken, and refuses to trace current events to their origins. This simple-minded faith doesn’t have time to be bothered with history, or understanding motives, and when the seeds of the current conflict bear fruit, this progenitor of future conflicts won’t have the slightest inkling that he had a hand in creating it.

Red flags should go up when someone like Cotton is praised by Jennifer Rubin, neoconservative barometer, at the Washington Post blog. Considering him one the "brightest lights" in the Senate, she fawned over a speech given by him on February 5th at the perversely-named United States Institute of Peace. In the speech, Cotton criticized troop draw-downs in Afghanistan, believing that it would lead to the chaos that occurred after removing troops from Iraq. The chaos is inevitable, and the sooner every US soldier is out of there, the better.

No grand strategic formula can close the Pandora’s Box, the US reaped the whirlwind on the Arabian Peninsula, and all that can be done is just come home, and force ourselves to watch the carnage that unfolds, in order to maybe learn the consequences of going abroad in search of dragons. Because, more often than not, when searching for dragons, a Hydra is found in its place. As each head falls, two heads grow, and the warrior retreats. He returns home to find that the Hydra now resides in place of his government, wearing the symbols of his vanquished Republic and hungering for the blood and treasure of distant conflicts that sustain it. Starving this monster is the only solution.

Cotton, instead of plotting the demise of the beast residing in DC, has pledged his eternal support to it. Maybe he was seduced by power, maybe seeing the beast draped in the colors of the flag confused him, maybe a lifetime of equating patriotism with US might blinded him to the true nature of his own government. He is now a apostle of the State, and liberty is on the altar.

Tom Cotton represents a uniquely distilled form of neoconservative interventionism, one stripped of any pretense to historical awareness or attention to facts that contradict his "war is the answer" narrative. He holds a juvenile faith in government power, and doesn’t seem in the least interested in the concept of blowback. Forged in the furnace of the Welfare/Warfare State, he has now become among its foremost defenders. Anyone that stands in the way of the War Machine deserves to get ground underfoot. Limits of power don’t exist in Cotton’s viewpoint, when those limits thwart American might. "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state", a phrase, uttered by Cotton’s intellectual ancestor, articulates just what Cotton is defending when he defends the Warfare State.

Shane Smith lives in Norman, Oklahoma and writes for Red Dirt Report.