Tom Cotton is Right

Sen. Tom Cotton has said a lot of stupid things since taking office, but now he’s taking a lot of heat for saying something that is true, that the American public loves war as long as we get a quick victory but turns against them if we lose or it becomes too drawn out.

Goldberg: Why do you think your general outlook is so disparaged, even in parts of the Republican Party? I don’t mean the Rand Paul wing, even. I mean, I hear from Republicans who are wary of going down a path that would lead to another Middle East war. Or let me put this another way: Do you believe that the country is tired of these sorts of wars and of this kind of engagement?

Cotton: I think that Americans—and this is not true just now, but over the years—are not fundamentally opposed to war. They’re fundamentally opposed to losing wars. And that’s one reason why President Bush lost support for the Iraq War in the period of 2004 to 2006.

Crooks and Liars says, “All you need to know about Tehran Tom is in that answer. Americans, not so much. He clearly hasn’t spent any time talking to people outside his little neocon bubble.” But they’re wrong. He’s right. The American public is almost instinctively in favor of war and very easily convinced that war is necessary. They fall for virtually any marketing campaign, no matter how dishonest. In May 2003 “79% of Americans thought the Iraq War was justified, with or without conclusive evidence of illegal weapons.” They sold the public initially on invading Vietnam, on Grenada, on Panama. In the latter two, things were over quickly. In Vietnam and Iraq, they dragged on for years and years with no discernable victory, which is why the public turned against it.

This is why Democrats are so terrified of ever being against a war that is proposed. It’s why Hillary Clinton and most other Democrats voted for the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq, because they were terrified of bucking public opinion and being accused of being “soft” or “weak” on national defense. As George Carlin put it, we are a warlike people. We like war. We just don’t like losing wars or seeing a lot of body bags come back without “winning” (whatever might be considered a win).

I think the current situation actually provides an exception. The Republicans are having little success beating the drums for war in Iran, but I think that’s largely because we’ve just ended (kinda, sorta, wink wink) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a huge cost in human life and tax dollars. I think the public is burned out on war at the moment. Give it ten years, though, and the public will be back to their usual role as mindless cheerleaders who fall for any excuse, no matter how ridiculous it is, for invading another country full of darker-skinned people who pose no threat to us and have done nothing to harm us.

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  • raven

    but I think that’s largely because we’ve just ended (kinda, sorta, wink wink) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at a huge cost in human life and tax dollars.

    True.

    1. We are suffering from Vietnam War syndrome.

    2. It takes about a generation to get over it.

    3. Bush made us less safe rather than more safe with his unnecessary Iraq war fiasco. A power vacuum and destabilization of the region. Thanks Bush.

  • raven

    What Cotton doesn’t realize or care about; war can cause more problems than it solves.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    war can cause more problems than it solves.

    What militarists never acknowledge: most wars, unless they are genocidal, result eventually in a return to the same situation as before the war. The lines on the map hardly change but the graveyards sure are pretty.

  • doublereed

    Ten years? Please. At most five.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Bush made us less safe rather than more safe with his unnecessary Iraq war fiasco. A power vacuum and destabilization of the region. Thanks Bush.

    It really was a very smart move, because it sets up an endless arena of problems that can be “solved” by Republican Leadership™: soaking the region with more blood.

    What Cotton doesn’t realize or care about; war can cause more problems than it solves.

    That’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

  • sugarfrosted

    “Avoid war, prepare for it.”

    Sadly, we almost neverr seem to do the former, outside of theory.

  • StevoR

    @ ^ sugarfrosted : I dunno. There’s a pretty durn long list of countries we’re not at war with ..

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    And what most Americans refuse to own up to is the fact that the US has created many if not most of its enemies, either directly or indirectly. While they bloviate about appeasement and apology tours, the truth is that the US has never apologized for all the fucking over it has done to people who subsequently came to despise the US. Instead, we’ve been in a perpetual state of war, much of it our own government’s making with the support of gullible, tribalist Americans.

  • StevoR

    The American public is almost instinctively in favor of war and very easily convinced that war is necessary.

    Guess that’s why it took them so long to join into WWII & World War I to name a few.

    Also why they can in peace for all mankind (sic) to our Moon and why the Cold War ended in mutual nuclear annihilation of both the USSR and USA – oh wait it didn’t. (Admittedly a few proxy wars but still. The Nuclear Armageddon I grew up fearing, didn’t happen. Despite the odd close call.)

    Not so sure I agree with that. I don’t think the US people ( a sweeping generalisation natch) are all that bad or eager for warfare.

    Also American public = human nature everywhere don’t it? I mean who, regardless of ethnicity or nationality, doesn’t get sick of warfare that’s too drawn out and that one’s side loses or is obviously losing?

  • StevoR

    Er that’s “came in peace” not “can in peace” o’course.

    We could in the late 1960’s-70’s.

    We can’t these days. Despite our improvements in so many areas of tech.

    But, hopefully, we’re getting there and can do that and go far beyond in a few decades time.

  • StevoR

    The American public is almost instinctively in favor of war and very easily convinced that war is necessary.

    Guess that also explains all those massive anti-war protests and the extremely anti-war attitudes of, well, most folks here for example eh?

    I think this is the classic case of Cotton being wrong every time even where you thought he was right about something briefly.

  • colnago80

    Well, at the present time, there doesn’t seem to be much stomach for a ground war against Iran. As for WW1 and WW2, somebody had to pull Britain’s chestnuts out of the fire.

  • lofgren

    American values with regards to foreign policy has changed pretty fundamentally since WWI, and WWII was kind of our first foray into the NWO. There were plenty of wars before WWII of course, but almost all of them were against nations that bordered the US (only one exception comes to mind but I may be forgetting something). I also think that several of those wars were different enough in character that they almost don’t count as a “war” in the way that we think of the term today. Granted, 100 years is not a huge amount of time to establish a pattern of behavior on a national level, but the warning signs are sure there.

  • Skip White

    Well, at the present time, there doesn’t seem to be much stomach for a ground war against Iran. As for WW1 and WW2, somebody had to pull Britain’s chestnuts out of the fire.

    Well obviously someone had to do it after Barack Chamberlain derailed half of Europe’s threads right into the clutches of Hister Schicklberger.

  • xuuths

    Actually, that 79% is so high because the great Colin Powell went before the U.N. Security Council on live TV and laid out the “proof” of the WMD. We trusted his honesty. That is not being gullible. He had claims of actual proof, actual labs, actual locations, actual evidence.

    Sadly, it was all lies and exaggerations. I don’t believe it is because the US is a bunch of warmongers. We’ve just never had a president, vice president, and other high ranking officials all completely lie about our enemies having WMD before.

  • naturalcynic

    SteveoR seems to forget a few things about ‘Merrikan attitudes:

    Also why they ca[me] in peace for all mankind (sic) to our Moon

    …and a Cold War competition against the Russkis had almost everythingnothing to do with it. What better way to show that our missile technology was better without actually blowing everything up.

    Guess that also explains all those massive anti-war protests and the extremely anti-war attitudes of, well, most folks here for example eh?

    …and that showed everyone that a mass movement could successfully stop an aggressive stupid war because Bush-Cheney realized that too many people were against their adventure?? and LBJ was easily re-elected in ’68 because he realized that all those protesters were right.

  • StevoR

    @ ^ naturalcynic : Emphasis on the without blowing everything up part for the Space Race and Moon landing.

    Also think you’re missing the second point there too. Some Americans are pro-war but I don’t think its actually the majority and this blog (FTB generally but also Dispatches specifically) is an example of where many Americans are vehemently anti-war. To say the US public in general are mad warmongers is a really stupid generalisation as bad as saying all Arabs *or* also all that Iranians are mad war-mongers. Each group is a pretty diverse collection of individuals within a shared cultural matrix.

  • StevoR

    @15. xuuths : I’d agree with almost all of that except for the bit about the President etc .. lying about Saddam having WMDs. I think they sincerely thought and believed at the time that he did have WMDs and were just horribly and tragically mistaken. We now know Powell, ‘Dubya’ Bush, Condi Rice, et al. were wrong and exaggerated their certainty over Saddam Hussein’s WMDs – but don’t forget Saddam had still given them reason to think he was hiding something and had been known to use WMDs before on the Kurds and others. So I don’t think they deliberately lied although I do think they let themselves be fooled and made some horrendous errors of judgement

  • Lady Mondegreen

    The American public is almost instinctively in favor of war and very easily convinced that war is necessary. They fall for virtually any marketing campaign, no matter how dishonest.

    Too lazy to look up sources, but I’ve read that historically Americans tend not to favor going to war–that’s the reason why they have to be sold on the idea with dishonest marketing campaigns.

    I’ll grant the gullibility.

  • StevoR

    @ ^ PS. Note too that it was a Coalition of *many* nations who decided to go to war against Saddam’s brutal dictatorship – Great Britain’s Tony Blair, my nation’s PM John Howard, even Poland all sent ground troops into Iraq so does that mean the Polish, Aussie and British populaces are “..almost instinctively in favor of war and very easily convinced that war is necessary” then? To make this out to a purely United States thing is actually rather misleading even if it was USA inspired and led.

    @8. Dr X : Reckon two old jokes sum things up paradoxically well :

    First the one where Lancelot greets King Arthur with the news that he’s just returned from pillaging and killing the King’s enemies in the south.

    Arthur replies : “What! Lancelot you idiot! I told you to attack and pillage my enemies in the north! I don’t have any enemies in the south!”

    Lancelot : “Well, you do now Sire.”

    Then the one about the two Jewish prisoners about to be executed by the nazis. One accepts the offer of a blindfold and then when the executioner walks up to put it on, spits in his killers face instead. The other turns to him and says : “Oh Isaac please you’re only making it worse!”

    “Worse! How it can be worse?”

    IOW, yeah, the US actions and policies have made things worse to varying degrees and extents but its also true that they were hated and feared and opposed anyhow by many in the region. The Islamist enemies of the Western world generally and USA in particular were already often pretty mad and hateful towards them even without them doing anything.

    It isn’t a zero-sum either /or thing but a combo of factors including, yes, a lot of policy missteps but also the unjustified pre-existing Arab and (separately Raging bee, separately, you do know what the word ‘also’ means right!?) Iranian /Persian animosity to the USA and West and a fair percentage of the faults and flaws in the cultural political and economic issues in the Arab world responsible here. Blaming only the US and its misteps and ignoring the other side isn’t fair or accurate and nor is just for instance demonising Israel – and yes that also applies to just demonising Iran too.

  • lofgren

    He’s not sayingthat all Americans to a man are in favor of war. He’s talking generally abkut the will of the public. Like when somebody says “Republicans support tax breaks for the rich.” That doesn’t mean that every Republican supports tax breaks for the rich, it just means that the position is popular enough. Of course at a certain point we are talking about a subjective opinion.

  • Nick Gotts

    We trusted his honesty. That is not being gullible. – xuuths@15

    Yes, it is. Millions of us didn’t believe the lies.

  • Georgia Sam

    Sad, to say, Ed, I think you & Tehran Tom are right on this one.