(DS) Weapons manufacturers’ new favorite son in the Senate on Monday suggested that Congress should be passing a defense budget approaching $1 trillion.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)–the architect of the letter sent by 47 Senate Republicans to the Iranian government as a means of undermining multilateral nuclear negotiations–outlined a fatalistic view informing the need for increased militarization, and railed against sequestration cuts.
“Our experiment with retreat must end,” Cotton told an audience at the Senate Hart Office Building–an event organized by the far-right wing Foreign Policy Initiative.
Cotton derided the $612 billion Pentagon budget that looks set to pass both houses before gaining the President’s signature as part of this “experiment with retreat.” He said that the sum–which conforms to limits placed on the defense budget through sequestration cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011—should be considered a floor not a ceiling.
The freshman senator was, however, less clear in outlining the amount he thinks that the Pentagon should spend. He said that Congress should ask the Department of Defense to formulate a plan without BCA-mandated restraints, even if it means “tens of billions more” will be spent, before suggesting that wouldn’t be enough.
“To provide some context, when Ronald Reagan took office, we spent 5 percent of our national income on defense,” Cotton noted. “President Reagan and Congressional Democrats considered that to be a dangerously low amount. That is the point from which they started the defense build-up.”
“If we spent 5 percent of our national income on defense today, we would spend $885 billion on defense,” he added.
Cotton then claimed that additional defense spending is inevitable.
“The threats we face eventually will catch up with us, as they did on 9/11, as they did in the late seventies,” he argued.
However, most high profile recent instances of global unrest resulting in attacks on American interests are the result, in part, of blowback caused by prior US actions—the kind of activities that are easier to carry out with a bloated military budget like the sort Cotton is calling for.
In justifying the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden, cited US offensive operations or support for aggressive militarism in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq. The current Islamist Iranian government came to power in 1979 after decades of US support for the corrupt Shah Reza Pahlavi—aid that included the backing of a coup d’etat that overthrew a democratically elected secular socialist. The current fight against the Islamic State, too, was borne out of the chaos that followed the US invasion of Iraq and Washington’s subsequent support for a brutal sectarian government in Baghdad.
As The Intercept’s Lee Fang has pointed out, Cotton’s views on foreign policy have made him popular among defense contractors. Just after orchestrating the letter to the Iranian government, Cotton appeared at an “off the record” event hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association—a trade group made up of executives from weapons manufacturers, in Fang’s words, “such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms.”