Politico suggests that our friend Rep. Tom Cotton is “the last, best Hope for GOP hawks.” The idea is that, with even conservatives moving away from an interventionist mindset, Tom now carries the banner for those like Bill Kristol who hold out for the post-9/11 Republican consensus on foreign and national security policy.
There is some truth to this narrative. But the story’s author, Alex Burns, falls into the Washington journalism traps of overemphasizing personalities and confusing the current landscape with the final one.
Even Tom Cotton cannot halt the current slide towards an inward-looking America. But that slide easily could be reversed — albeit probably not back to immediate post 9/11 status — by events that are anything but far-fetched.
So I see Tom, not as a last hope, but as a steady voice to remind us that the world is a dangerous place and that we must be prepared to behave accordingly. To the extent that events make him look prophetic, he will be there to help, and likely lead, a wiser Republican Party pick up the pieces in a manner similar to Winston Churchill, though hopefully not under such extreme circumstances.
My hope is not so much that Tom can turn the tide in the short term — that seems unrealistic. My hope is that he can avoid “wilderness years.” For even in the current environment, he can do some good at the margins of foreign and defense policy, and elsewhere.