It’s been obvious for a good while that opponents of diplomatic engagement with Iran are implicitly angling for or at least eliminating alternatives to war with Tehran, whether it’s unleashed by the U.S., Israel, or both. But that’s not something they’ve been willing to admit–at least until now, as Brother Benen notes:

The debate over U.S. policy towards Iran tends to follow a predictable trajectory. The Obama administration has told lawmakers that they have a choice: they can allow the international, diplomatic agreement to move forward, or they can push us closer to yet another military conflict in the Middle East.

For Republicans and their allies, this has been labeled a “false choice.” U.S. conservatives don’t want a war, they insist, they just want a different diplomatic solution. What might that alternative policy look like? Republicans, at least for now, haven’t the foggiest idea.

But once in a while, prominent GOP officials slip up and acknowledge that the choice isn’t quite as “false” as they like to pretend. Last week, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed quite enthusiastic about the prospect of a war with Iran. The Times of Israel has a related report today on Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) talking up the benefits of military strikes in Iran.

Speaking to the Israel Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Cotton – who retired from the US Army with the rank of captain – called for the US to make plain to the Iranians that it wouldn’t hesitate to use force if it felt the need to do so. […]

“You can destroy facilities. I don’t think any military expert in the United States or elsewhere would say the US military is not capable to setting Iran’s nuclear facilities back to day zero,” Cotton said. “Can we eliminate it forever? No, because any advanced industrialized country can develop nuclear weapons in four to seven years, from zero. But we can set them back to day zero.”

What could possibly go wrong?

The fact that a lot of the same pols are itchy for “boots on the ground” against ISIS as well is an indication that a desire to “restore American prestige” via undirected violence is the objective more than any sort of grand strategery. It’s the arms dealers dream: backing both sides in a regional war.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.