By Charles Pierce, Mar 10, 2015
I know I missed it on election night back in November, but it seems that 478,819 citizens of the state of Arkansas voted themselves in control of the foreign policy of the United States. They determined in ensemble fashion to visit upon the Senate—and, thereby, the country—the genius of Tom Cotton, who decided over the weekend on his own to lecture the government of Iran on How America Works—and, in fact, to lecture the government of Iran how it should work, for that matter. Put not your trust in Kenyan Usurpers, Tom cautioned the mullahs, for nothing is forever.
Cotton stands revealed as a true fanatic. He’s stalwart in his convictions as regards things about which he knows exactly dick. What he and practically every Republican in the Senate did was nothing short of a slow-motion, partial coup d’etat. It was not quite treason, and it was not quite a violation of the Logan Act, no matter how dearly some of us might wish it was. (Imagine the howls if the Justice Department actually inquired into that possibility, which it certainly has a right to do. Lindsey Graham might never rise from the fainting couch.) But it stands in history with Richard Nixon’s grotesque sabotage of the Paris Peace Talks in 1968 and with whatever it was that the Reagan campaign did to monkeywrench the possible release of the American hostages from their captivity in Iran in 1980. It is an act of unconscionable and perilous presumption, reckless at its base and heedless of eventual consequences. Nobody elected Tom Cotton or the rest of these clowns to undermine the ability of this president to conduct foreign policy. (Nobody elected Bibi Netanyahu to do it, either, as sad as this might make Jen Rubin.) It long has been acceptable on the respectable American right to call this president practically anything. It now is acceptable on the respectable American right to do anything to thwart his ability to conduct his office. A twice-elected president must bow to the uneducated whims of the representative of 478,819 Arkansans. We have fallen through the looking glass and left it far behind.
The Republican campaign of vandalism as regards the government has ascended to a new level of virulence. And it has done so at a very perilous time. The country is sliding inexorably again toward some kind of engagement somewhere in the Middle East. The invaluable Andrew Bacevich writes that, alas, the new Secretary of Defense seems to be getting the band back together again.
So on his second day in office, for example, [Ashton Carter] dined with Kenneth Pollack, Michael O’Hanlon, and Robert Kagan, ranking national insecurity intellectuals and old Washington hands one and all. Besides all being employees of the Brookings Institution, the three share the distinction of having supported the Iraq War back in 2003 and calling for redoubling efforts against ISIS today. For assurances that the fundamental orientation of U.S. policy is sound — we just need to try harder — who better to consult than Pollack, O’Hanlon, and Kagan (any Kagan)? Was Carter hoping to gain some fresh insight from his dinner companions? Or was he letting Washington’s clubby network of fellows, senior fellows, and distinguished fellows know that, on his watch, the prevailing verities of national insecurity would remain sacrosanct? You decide.
(I left in the links from Bacevich’s piece just so we all remember that, taken together, Pollack, O’Hanlon, and any Kagan leave us with only one real question as to their proven foreign policy expertise—which one is Shemp?)
So, at this very delicate moment, Tom Cotton and practically every Republican in the Senate decided that it was time for an extraconstitutional foray into tackhammer diplomacy. And, remarkably, the “debate” goes sailing along as though nothing untoward has happened at all. Now, I fear, we’re living through that period upon which, in 10 years, we will look back and wonder how we could have been so stupid as to make all those mistakes again. And Tom Cotton will be in his second term in the Senate or, even, god help the Republic, running for president. Once elected, President Cotton, of course, will insist on a free hand in conducting foreign policy and will brook no interference from a bothersome legislature. That’s just the way things roll, I guess.