Cotton’s remarks on Monday suggest that, notwithstanding his service in Iraq, he did not learn the fundamental lesson of that war’s two strategies, one failed and the other successful: Just shooting at insurgents does not reestablish order, it adds gasoline to the flame.
At the risk of oversimplifying, our strategy against the insurgency in Iraq was for about three years one of Let’s see how tough these insurgents and terrorists are against the might of the American military! It turned out they were quite tough. Then Petraeus came. The Army’s foremost expert on counterinsurgency—he literally wrote the book on the subject—Petraeus aimed to win the hearts and minds of the local population, and even insurgents—remember the Sunni awakening?—by being the good guys. We won the war and Petraeus became a national hero.
In Iraq’s neighboring country, Iran’s state TV has been showing the suppression of the protests in the United States nonstop for the past few days. Has Cotton—who is way too enthusiastic about going to war with Iran—thought for a second about whether giving “no quarter” to American citizens will help our troops to be welcomed by the Iranian population if we ever invade Iran, or any other country? Would any foreign people think of our military as liberators if they see the U.S. Army shooting at fellow Americans?