Cotton Scores Big Win for GOP Hawks

At a closed-door gathering hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, Cotton clashed with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over the GOP’s foreign policy stance and according to one attendee he delivered an “impressive critique” of Paul’s position on drone policy and national defense, Politico reported.

In a late October speech that is widely seen as a preview of Paul’s 2016 foreign policy platform, he outlined an alternative to the hawkish view in his own party.

“Americans want strength and leadership but that doesn’t mean they see war as the only solution,” Paul said. “Americans yearn for leadership and for strength, but they don’t yearn for war.”

Cotton’s hawkish posture on foreign policy and national defense has won over the likes of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush, both donors to Cotton’s campaign. Cotton was feted at a fundraiser in June by a group of GOP foreign policy hawks hosted at the home of Dan Senor, spokesman for the U.S.-led provisional government in Iraq. Cotton picked up donations from Sen. John McCain’s Country First PAC, former Rep. Allen West’s Guardian Fund PAC, and the John Bolton PAC.

Cotton has defended President Bush’s intervention in Iraq as “a just and noble war.”

“I think that George Bush largely did have it right, that we can’t wait for dangers to gather on the horizon, that we can’t let the world’s most dangerous people get the world’s most dangerous weapons,” he said. “And that we have to be willing to defend our interests and the safety of our citizens abroad even if we don't get the approval of the United Nations.”

The Senate will soon have to address two major foreign policy issues: the Iran nuclear deal and ISIS. These issues are unlikely to be resolved by the time Cotton takes office in January, providing the junior senator an opportunity to exhibit his hawkish foreign policy instinct.

Cotton, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has not indicated whether he would seek a seat on the Senate’s Armed Services, Foreign Relations, or Intelligence committees.

“Cotton has staked his young political career on a staunchly assertive, activist view of American military power,” Politico’s Alexander Burns wrote in a 2013 profile. “To the community of policymakers and elected officials who care passionately – and even exclusively – about a forward-leaning American national security posture, there is no Republican under the age of 40 with more riding on his career than Cotton.”