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.