Tom Cotton Thinks War With Iran Would Be Quick And Easy

Tom Cotton

After the Cotton letter, which undermines the ability of any American president to negotiate on the behalf of the United States, was written and signed by 47 Republicans, the question raised was whether Republicans really want to see a war with Iran. The same question was raised again with Republicans opposing the deal reached with Iran. Tom Cotton now shows  how delusional he is on war with Iran:

Sen. Tom Cotton says bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would take several days and be nothing like Iraq War.

The Arkansas Republican, who earlier this year upset Democrats and the White House by sending a letter warning the Iranian government to think twice about entering into a deal on its nuclear program with President Obama, said President Obama offered a “false choice” by saying it was his deal with Iran or war…

Cotton said any military action against Iran would not be like the Iraq War and would instead be similar to 1999’s Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.

“Even if military action were required — and we certainly should have kept the credible threat of military force on the table throughout which always improves diplomacy — the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case,” Cotton said.

“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. For interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough as in the protection of America’s national security interest as Bill Clinton was.”

It reminds me of the view held by those in the Bush administration who claimed that the Iraq war would be quick while we would be greeted as liberators.

Even some conservatives are horrified by Cotton’s remarks. Daniel Larison responded at The American Conservative:

One couldn’t ask for a more misleading presentation of the costs and dangers of military action against Iran. First, no one seriously believes that a bombing campaign against Iran would take only a few days. It would very likely take several weeks at least, and that probably underestimates the difficulty. Starting a war with Iran will last longer and cost more than anyone anticipates. That has been true of all other U.S. wars of choice over the last two decades, and there’s no reason to think that a war with Iran would be easier or less dangerous than any of those. Assuming that Iran retaliates, the conflict would escalate and go on much longer than Iran hawks are claiming.

All that Iran hawks promise is that the nuclear program would be set back by a few years. However, the attack would push Iran to acquire the weapons that the hawks don’t want them to have, and it would drive them to make the nuclear program less vulnerable to future attacks. If Iran hawks were intent on destroying Iran’s nuclear program permanently through military action, they probably would have to argue for an invasion of Iran at some point. When the time came, Cotton would probably be among the first to tell us how cheap, quick, and easy that would be, too.

Like most hawks, Cotton minimizes the costs and duration of military action, he ignores the likely consequences, and he treats an attack on Iran as cavalierly as possible. The comparison with Desert Fox is laughable. That operation took place years after the U.S. had already destroyed Iraqi defenses, which clearly isn’t the case with Iran. Cotton further misleads the public to think that the only thing that can qualify as war with Iran is a scenario involving “150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground.” It is the Iran hawks that want the public to think that a major ground invasion is the only thing that can be called war, which allows them to advocate for a different kind of war against Iran while pretending that they don’t favor war. They don’t want to face the potential political cost of warmongering, so they pretend that they are advocating for something that isn’t “really” war. But, of course, war is exactly what they’re demanding.

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  1. 1
    David Duff says:

    Thanks, Doc, I’m feeling better already!

    Yes, indeed, Ron, your morning pill today had totally unexpected results. First, it introduced me to the American Conservative magazine (now bookmarked) which, I would surmise from a brief scan, is on the libertarian, isolationist wing of the American conservative movement – shades of Taki’s Mag.

    Better still, it introduced me to this brilliantly written essay on the late Howard Zinn – no, me neither! – who was a shocking old Leftie as well as being a historian.  The article, which was sharp and witty, was written by an Australian, R. J. Stove.  Both the name and acidic style of writing made me wonder, could he be related to the late, great David Stove, Australian philosopher ‘extrordinaire’?  You bet’cha!  He is his son and he obviously inherited Dad’s way with words as well as his sharp mind.

    I do urge you and your readers to give it a try if only for the pleasure of reading something written in the very best English literary style.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    The American Conservative is more paleoconservative–a remnant of the days before the American conservative movement turned into an authoritarian war-mongering cult, when conservatives were more isolationist and had some concern for civil liberties.

    I don’t know anything about Stove or many of the writers he was discussing (other than Zinn) but he did have a way of criticizing them, such as “thought like Stalin but wrote like Brezhnev.”

  3. 3
    David Duff says:

    Try his Dad’s book “Darwinian Fairytales” – as sharp as a razor and twice as deadly, particularly if your name is Dawkins!

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    I’m not interested in right wing creationist fairy tales about evolution. If I want to see straw man attacks I’ll rewatch the Wizard of Oz.

  5. 5
    David Duff says:

    (Sigh!)  He’s not a “right wing creationist”, he is an exceedingly sharp-minded, erudite philosopher.  Treat yourself to a crow-bar, Ron, and try to lever up a corner of your mind in order to let in a chink of daylight!

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    I am assuming that he promotes the same sort of ridiculous arguments which have nothing to do with the science which you have previously on the topic. While philosophers often do have interesting things to say about science, science is evaluated based upon the scientific literature. While I concede that a quick Google search about a book could give a misleading view, from what I read it does appear that Stove either misunderstood or was misrepresenting the science in his book.

    Don’t try to claim I’ve got the closed mind when you are the one who ignores the scientific facts and instead searches out conservative viewpoints which agree with your views.

  7. 7
    David Duff says:

    From the preface:

    “This is an anti-Darwinism book.  It is written both against the Darwinism of Darwin and his 19th century Darwinians as G.G.Williams and W.D.Hamilton and their disciples.  My object is to show that Darwinism is not true: not true, at any rate, of our species.  If it is true, or near enough true, of sponges, snakes, flies, or whatever, I do not mind that. What I do mind is, its being supposed to be true of man.

    But having said that, I had better add at once that I am not a ‘creationist’, or even a Christian.  In fact I am of no religion.  And it seems just as obvious to me as it does to any Darwinian, that the species to which I belong is a certain species of land-mammal.  And it seems to me as it does to any Darwinian, that our species has evolved from some other animals.

    I do not even deny that natural selection is probably the cause which is principally responsible for the coming into existence of new species from old ones.  I do deny that natural selection is going on within our species now, and that it ever went on in our species, at any time of which anything is known.”  And so on.

    You really must try and cure yourself, Doctor, of this bipolar-ism from which you suffer  and in which you see the entire world as two opposed and utterly separate camps.  The world isn’t that simple!

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    He is a creationist from both what I’ve read and from your quote. Many creationists agree that evolution works on a level of lower animals but deny that it applies to humans.

    I’ve never said in general that the world is divided into two utterly separate camps. While there are differences between creationists, he sure does look like a creationist who denies the science from everything I’ve read of him, and your quote.

    It does look like the same right wing distortion of evolution which you’ve also expressed in the past.

  9. 9
    David Duff says:

    I give up!  The man states clearly that not only is he not a creationist he is not even slightly religious.  He was a philosopher with an excellent scientific background and an exceedingly keen mind.  Politics was not high on his agenda and makes no appearance in this book.

    He is happy to admit that evolution led to the human race but he maintains, backed by very good observation and reasoning, that Darwinism, in the sense of a total, complete, constant and ruthless competition to survive, simply does not apply to humankind in the way that it does to animals.

    His critique has absolutely nothing to do with politics!  Except, of course, to those sad individuals who believe things like ‘the personal is political’. Read the book, it’s a slim volume and, courtesy of your socialist government you will get a ‘free’ copy from your library!  Then try answering his criticisms – if you can!

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    I have no interest in replying to straw man attacks. You are still saying nothing to convince me that the criticism I have read of him misstating the science is not correct. The argument that “Darwinism, in the sense of a total, complete, constant and ruthless competition to survive, simply does not apply to humankind in the way that it does to animals” is based upon right wing distortions of evolution and has nothing to do with the science.

    Public libraries are socialist? Do you also oppose driving on socialist roads and using socialist police departments, and that huge socialist military?

  11. 11
    David Duff says:

    So animals, like humans, have compassion for each other, do they?

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    That has absolutely nothing to do with evolution. The question does sound like what might be expected from reading the right wing books which misrepresent the science.

  13. 13
    David Duff says:

    Oh dear!  It has absolutely *everything* to do with evolution as proposed by Darwin which insisted that in every species there is a constant and ruthless competition to survive.  For goodness sake, Ron, it is the pillar of Darwinism.

    And yet … and yet … it is not true of humans.  You, yourself, stand as one of those exceptions to Darwin’s theory because you never stop emoting all over the place on behalf of those less fortunate than yourself and insisting that “something must be done” to alleviate their misery. Now, just tell me of one other species which ever shows signs of such altruism?

  14. 14
    Ron Chusid says:

    As I’ve said before, you totally misunderstand evolution, falling for all the right wing distortions.

  15. 15
    David Duff says:

    I’m beginning to suspect that it is you, not me, that fails to understand Darwinian theory.  And my argument has absolutely nothing to do with Right, Left or Centre politics.  The question is simple but deadly – where does human altruism fit into the Darwinian description of living things?

  16. 16
    Ron Chusid says:

    Again, your questions are based upon distortions of evolution spread by the right wing and have nothing to do with the science. There have been some papers on altruism but this is a very trivial aspect, having nothing to do with what you and right wingers discuss.

  17. 17
    David Duff says:

    In other words you *cannot* explain human altruism in terms of Darwin’s theory which states clearly that altruism cannot exist.

    And will you please stop using the term “Right-wing”!  This is a scientific conundrum not a silly political squabble.

  18. 18
    Ron Chusid says:

    Your baseless assumptions of what others are saying (in other words…) explains a lot about how you get so many facts wrong.

    Scientific questions are decided by reviewing the scientific literature, not listening to right wing nonsense. There has been plenty of work on altrusim and evolution. Evolution most certainly does not say altruism cannot exist. That is just right wing misrepresentation of science.

    Here is an example form the popular press: Of course reviewing the actual scientific literature would be more meaningful as, is the case of most articles in the popular press, this is somewhat simplistic.

    This is all about right-wing denial of facts and science, which has become a defining feature of the right wing in recent years.

  19. 19
    Ron Chusid says:

    While once again I recommend going to the scientific literature rather than blogs to read about scientific matters, here is a brief response to the right wing creationist claims about altruism:

  20. 20
    Ron Chusid says:

    For the hell of it I just ran a Medline search for “altruism and evolution.” 735 citations came up.

  21. 21
    David Duff says:

    Darwinism rests on two propositions.  First, there are variations within populations.  Second, these populations are forever pressing upon the supply of food.  Thus, the fittest for purpose (the purpose being obtaining food) will survive whilst the others will perish.  This was not entirely Darwin’s proposition but a combination of his theory which lacked a final convincing argument, and Mathus’ theory of population which provided the clincher Darwin (and other naturalists) had been waiting and searching for.

    Do we see a murderous competition for food in the human species? Locally sometimes, but also we see world-wide organisations whose sole purpose is to get food to those without it?  You don’t see a lot of that among lions, or sharks, or even bunny rabbits!

  22. 22
    Ron Chusid says:

    More right wing pseudo-science which misunderstands evolution. Incidentally, there is also a lot of work on the evolution of altruism in animals.

  23. 23
    David Duff says:

    Well, it was good enough for Darwin and Malthus, were they Right-wing?!

  24. 24
    David Duff says:

    By coincidence, i just came across this:

    “People on the left fancy that they are devoted to science and reality-based thinking – or are at least more devoted to science and reality-based thinking than are their political and ideological opponents.  While the right has no shortage of people who are irrational and hold positions unsupportable by science – likewise for the political middle, too, by the way – I have no interest in offering my own opinion on which group wins the rationality contest.  But I will point out that people on the left, by so often decrying market competition and seeking to displace it with one-size-fits-all diktats from government, decry and displace the only dispassionate and most objective test for how best to allocate scarce resources among their multitude of possible uses.  If science requires empirical tests – rather than reliance on dogma or the pronouncements of pooh-bahs – then those people who fail to appreciate the incredibly rigorous and objective tests that take place every moment in private-property markets are not as devoted to science as they think.”

    Quite so!

  25. 25
    Ron Chusid says:

    The point isn’t the political views of scientists such as Darwin and Malthus but the political views and motivations of those who misrepresent and distort the science based upon their political ideology. It is like questioning gravity (or as you might call it, Newtonism, because of political biases.

  26. 26
    Ron Chusid says:

    That is a quite ridiculous quote. distorting the views of the left. “But I will point out that people on the left, by so often decrying market competition and seeking to displace it with one-size-fits-all diktats from government…” It is us on the left who support the benefits of market competition while the right is trying to destroy capitalism and replace it with plutocracy. It is the right which frequently ignores the facts on both science and economics.

  27. 27
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    Darwin himself, if I recall correctly, did closely follow Malthus’s views, for whose Essay on Population it was all about resource competition (food).
    Contemporary neo-Darwinism relies on a much more generalized notion of relative reproductive fitness not by any means exclusively tied to resource competition (though neither is that ruled out), leans very heavily on neo-Mendelian population genetics, and, at a more granular level, rests on the developing biochemical science of genetics.
    Hello, David. You’ve led the conversation quite far from young Tom’s views on war with Iran, which are shallow, irresponsible, and silly.

  28. 28
    Mike Hatcher says:

    I am a creationist that believes in God. That being said, I find it funny that it seems I’m more in harmony with Ron’s position than Dave’s.  To say evolution is wrong because it either denies the existence of altruism or can’t fully explain it  would not shake my faith in evolution if I believed in it.  I have a hard time believing in altruism as a God believer.  I see so much evil in the world and even my own actions, when I do something I think is “good” I sometimes doubt my own motives.  But the logic of a lion catching the slowest antelope, thus “improving” the herd,  this competition to survive, would not at some point on the evolutionary timeline the strategies of murdering and/or enslaving your competitors been the state of the art improvement of the human race? Evolutionists may argue we, at least some, have evolved past that point, but if I was compelled to choose between believing in myths or believing at any time in history killing a cave boy’s parents and enslaving the boy was “progress” then I’ll take a fairy tale before accepting that.

  29. 29
    David Duff says:

    Sorry, Gentlemen, I hadn’t realised that the conversation had continued.

    Yes, of course, Philo, neo-Darwinism has moved on, partly from discoveries at the genetic level but also because Darwin had some things wrong.  it always provides me with some humour at the expense of neo-Darwinists, like our distinguished host, who fail to understand that the greatest Darwinian sceptic of the lot was Darwin!  That, of course, is why he seized upon Malthus’ population theory with such relief because then he had the anvil on which survival of the fittest could be hammered out. The unfortunate fact that Malthus’ theory was as wonky as Darwin’s – populations, far from growing to exceed any given food supply actually drop their birth rate when food is plentiful! – just adds more ‘yummy’ to my delight!

    Mike, if you believe in a God then your problems are over because all difficulties can be placed at His door – lucky you!

  30. 30
    David Duff says:

    Sorry, Philo, forgot to add that I am sorely disappointed in young Master Cotton of whom I had high hopes.  But then, like me, he is an ex-Para and we do tend to pull the trigger first and worry about consequences later!

  31. 31
    Ron Chusid says:

    “distinguished host, who fail to understand that the greatest Darwinian sceptic of the lot was Darwin!”

    No, it is you who fail to understand how science works. Every good scientist is somewhat skeptical and continues to experiment and verify.

    “neo-Darwinism has moved on”

    That is how science works. New information is obtained. The work of a scientist is not judged based upon whether everything they thought at one point is always considered to be true. The important thing is that Darwin established the fundamentals for the science of evolution. Right wing attempts to discredit evolution by going back to Darwin is like arguing against the theory of gravitation (or Newtonism) to you is not valid because some things Newton thought were contradicted by the theory of relativity.

  32. 32
    Ron Chusid says:


    “it would not shake my faith in evolution”

    Unlike religion, evolution is based upon science–confirmed by factual evidence, not faith. In science we do not decide whether we accept the facts based upon whether we like the results.

    Fortunately evolution does account for altruism and does not mean believing that enslaving boys is some sort of progress.

  33. 33
    Mike Hatcher says:

    Ron, while I might quibble that there are some elements of faith, and not proven fact in evolution, I’m totally conceding that true science is based on factual evidence and logic. I’m also simply stating that I don’t personally feel confined by logic or science in what I believe. I would expect if a belief runs contrary to scientific fact, then regardless of how appealing that belief might be, you would reject it. I, on the other hand, believe science and logic have value but are subordinate in importance to my religious beliefs. Evolution is incompatible with some of those beliefs so I reject it.

  34. 34
    Ron Chusid says:

    How is evolution necessarily incompatible with your religious beliefs? I’m asking because so much false information about evolution is spread by creationists that possibly what you think is incompatible isn’t what evolution really says. Some religious people reconcile both science and religion, such as believing that evolution is the means by which God created the variety of organisms on the earth, starting with simpler organisms. Obviously that wont’ work for someone who takes the Bible literally in terms of creation occurring over six days.

  35. 35
    Mike Hatcher says:

    Very kind of you to ask. While I ‘m not all that concerned about the nuts and bolts of exactly how things happened, the main problem I have with evolution is pain and death.  My belief is that there was a time of no pain and no death until something called “sin” entered the world. I also believe in a future that will have a universe free of sin, pain, and death. So I see, through my belief, that all death is a sad result of sin and sin is bad.  Evolution, as admittedly little of which I understand, makes no moral judgments, good or bad about death. Death is “natural”, violence is natural, whatever occurs, rape or slavery, all actions are just “facts” in the world of science and evolution.  So I start from a belief that love and life are good, pain and death are bad.  Evolution teaches, as I see it, that death is neither good nor bad, it just is.  Thus I reject evolution, because death is bad.  Thanks for letting me express myself. I do respect people that just want to view the world through what they can conclude from empirical evidence.   I however view the world from more of an intuitive position, ideas that I believe comes from God.

  36. 36
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    Barring alien intervention as too funny to be true, evolution as understood by the modern sciences of mathematical population genetics and biochemical genetics (and it’s an, ahem, evolving understanding) seems the best account of the extremely eventful natural history of species since the emergence of sexual reproduction, and recent newspaper reports indicate emerging evidence that evolution has continued even among the current varieties of humans right through historic times up to the present.
    And as anyone can see who looks at the science sections of the news, among flora and fauna in general, new species are continuously emerging and species continue to go extinct without respite.
    Nature is not and seems never to have been, once set going, a stable ecosystem, at all.
    On the other hand, so far as I know, nobody has much faith in any account of exactly how life got going from not-life and then developed to the point at which sexual reproduction emerged.
    BTW, since aliens are far more likely to exist than God, alien origins of life on Earth are more plausible than creationism.
    But, as I said, it’s just too funny.
    Douglas Adams kind of thing, you know.
    BTW2, if you want to find the limits of a liberal’s commitment to science unbiased by religious or moral or political dogmatism, ask him whether current varieties or sub-varieties of humans might or do, like those of the past (think Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, nowadays called “Anatomically Modern Humans,” for example), differ from one another as regards not just overtly physical traits but also as regards traits we regard as mental, characterological, spiritual, or moral.
    Isn’t this sort of thing an empirical question, as if I had asked about varieties of dogs, cats, or horses?
    And if not why not?

  37. 37
    Ron Chusid says:

    From a political and ethical point of view I don’t think that any scientific evidence regarding differences between “current varieties or sub-varieties of humans” is all that meaningful. There is still tremendous overlap so that even if there were good scientific evidence that one variety was more intelligent or moral (based upon genetics and not just environmental differences) it would still not justify making comparisons between any two individual or small groups based upon their “variety or sub-variety.”

    We have no eye witnesses to the actual event on earth or comparable events elsewhere, but there is increased confidence in the ability to explain the the development of life from the primordial soup–with explanations often including some help from beyond the earth:

  38. 38
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    Like many liberals to this day, by the way, Zinn was a real live communist who later dropped out of the party but never stopped hating American capitalism, racism, Christianity, and much, much else.
    You would think America alone had invented and practiced all these things, and that nothing about any of them was the least bit morally tolerable.

  39. 39
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    There is still tremendous overlap so that even if there were good scientific evidence that one variety was more intelligent or moral (based upon genetics and not just environmental differences) it would still not justify making comparisons between any two individual or small groups based upon their “variety or sub-variety.”
    The evidence is pretty good as regards intelligence, I think, and would strike more people as more than adequate if the conclusion was not widely regarded as politically and morally inadmissible.
    And I can’t agree with the end of your sentence, if I am understanding it correctly.
    Though there is “some overlap,” labs are usually taller than collies so that if you knew your neighbor had one of each the best guess would be that his lab was taller than his collie, though of course this could turn out to be wrong.
    Probability and statistics don’t change rules when applied to humans to accommodate religion, morals, or PC.
    And as so many of the prudent have said, probability is the guide of life.

  40. 40
    Philo Vaihinger says:


    Have you considered how evolutionary biology might bear on pretty undeniable differences between the sexes, both physical and mental/characterological/spiritual/moral, and their bearing on not just traditional sex roles but the rebellion against them?

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