Eliminating Iran's nuclear facilities with U.S. missile strikes would take a matter of days, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said in a radio interview Tuesday.
"Even if military action were required -- and we certainly should have kept the credible threat of military force on the table throughout which always improves diplomacy -- the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq. That's simply not the case," Cotton told Tony Perkins on the Family Research Council's Washington Watch program, according to CNN.
"It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox," he added. "Several days of air and naval bombing against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior -- for interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we're asking is that the president simply be as tough as in the protection of America's national security interest as Bill Clinton was."
Iraq isn't Iran, in terms of geography or military capability. "Several days" of bombing may indeed knock out some of Iran's nuclear facilities. The obvious follow-up question, however, is: What happens after the bombing ceases? Cotton, a defense hawk who gained prominence by authoring a controversial letter in protest of nuclear negotiations with Iran, didn't get into that answer Tuesday. But several high-ranking U.S. military officials have already made the consequences of bombing clear.
"The United States would obviously be blamed and we could possibly be the target of retaliation from Iran, striking our ships, striking our military bases," former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in 2011, adding that "severe economic consequences ... could impact a very fragile economy in Europe and a fragile economy here in the United States."
Far from preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, Panetta said, an attack could actually motivate it to accelerate the enrichment process deeper underground and "we would have an escalation that would take place that would not only involve many lives, but I think could consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret."