Dan Crenshaw Is No Statesman

Dan Crenshaw is sad. Americans have quit playing the Texas congressman’s game. The war he has built his identity around has ended. Well, not really ended, he says. Speaking for veterans, he declares that we know we are always at war and always will be. We’ve just decided now to pretend we are not at war. 

One wonders how a person who lives in this eternal state of war can sleep at night, let alone be a great leader in politics helping to build and preserve civilization. I don’t know how Crenshaw sleeps at night, but it’s pretty clear he is no statesman.

For one, Crenshaw is a pure sophist. In a recent gathering he lamented that we have stopped protecting America, and what we got for 20 years of war was “no more 9/11s.” His case for eternal war seems heartfelt and well-informed—after all, he’s a warrior and stuff. But I couldn’t help but think of an old clip from “The Simpsons” about specious reasoning in which Lisa sells Homer a rock that keeps tigers away. Dan Crenshaw, it seems, is a sort of Homer Simpson.

The “fight them over there so we don’t fight them over here” trope is pretty silly on its face. Or as another friend put it, “we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here, so when they beat us over there we will bring them over here.” The argument to stay in Afghanistan seems particularly silly as we import more than 100,000 unvetted Afghans to the United States—talk about bringing the war home!

I remember getting off a plane in New York in 2016 only to learn that a jihadist bomber had just attacked. It was almost laughable—he had traveled to Afghanistan to get training for the attack in the middle of what was supposed to be 20 years of American control to stop terrorist training in Afghanistan. But others have rightfully taken Crenshaw’s trope to task already, so I digress.

The real defect in Crenshaw’s argument is that it is narrow and imprudent. Even if one assumes some basic level of effectiveness of keeping troops in Afghanistan for 20 years, it must be considered in light of the costs. Perhaps to Dan Crenshaw, a few trillion dollars, a few thousand lives, and a whole lot more lost body parts from soldiers is no big deal. Some 6,300 U.S. citizens killed over there so another 2,977 people won’t be killed over here again seems like a sort of noble trade I guess, since the former are volunteers and the latter are innocent, but that really isn’t the calculus.

The cost of blood and treasure is only a part of the calculation. What about the cost of empowering a massive political faction here at home? Can a republic survive with massive mercenary military-establishment lobbying and jostling for power and influence?

I’ve made the case elsewhere that the military is a mercenary kleptocracy. Yes, of course it is seeded with some patriotic people and often noble ambitions, but that should not distract from the manifest problem: the American military puts the interest of the American military first.

The military is a massive bureaucracy, and bureaucracy breeds bureaucrats. And bureaucrats mind their professional interests first and foremost. Those interests start in a very small circle around a bureaucrat’s desk and grow in larger and larger circles of parochialism from there.

Bureaucracy also breeds incompetence in anything other than being promoted, as we have seen on full display. Again, it’s almost laughable how stupid military officers are. Lots of decent Americans are scratching their heads at how bungled the withdrawal was. But if you have been paying attention, it really isn’t surprising. As one military commenter on Twitter put it, “somehow an army of staff officers reformatting PowerPoint slides couldn’t see this coming.” 

Would you believe that the military is so bureaucratic and stupid that it uses a satirical movie about stupid bureaucrats to teach its rising bureaucrats how the system works? I’m not joking. Military officers actually watch “The Pentagon Wars,” unironically, in military schools to learn what they are getting into.

Next time you listen to a flag officer talk, look past the loud voice, clean haircut, relatively small stomach pooch (sometimes), and limitless confidence, and listen to what he or she has to say. I’ve always marveled at how many words a general can confidently spew without ever saying anything at all. Most of the time, the brazen stupidity of what they say is impressive in a way.

Twenty years of war in Afghanistan might lead to no more 9/11s, and it may only cost a few trillion and a few thousand lives, but it also leads to the death of a nation here at home. A nation of free people cannot long survive with a trillion-dollar war industry permeating massive sections of the economy and political life. 

The massive military budget is why we cannot cut the massive administrative, welfare state that is killing us. Republican politicians are always beholden to their “patriotic” duty to support national “defense” at the negotiating table, all while they are funding their own opposition. The deep state, which is part and parcel with a massive military bureaucracy, will defend the power and prestige of the government every day of the week.

What do you think the tired trope about the noble “less than one percent” of citizens who are our guardians is all about if not moral superiority? Do decent Americans really not see the entitled, aristocratic class of morons they create with their dogmatic support of people in uniform?

It should be obvious to the MAGA world that Trump’s undoing was trying to make an alliance with the national security apparatus. Every single one of “his generals” minus Michael Flynn turned out to be working against him. Why do you think that is? It took the deep state a full four years, but they got Trump in the end. Where do you think that massive faction, which so obviously thinks itself superior to American citizens writ large, got the power to do that?

Dan Crenshaw is a product of that system, he profits from that system, and he defends that system—at the expense of the American people. If I were being charitable, I’d say he is just stupid and doesn’t know any better. But I’m not charitable in this and I’m pretty sure he knows what side pays his bills.

Do you really think a guy like Crenshaw, who milks his “service” for every drop of publicity and power he can, is going to challenge the military-industrial complex? Doing so, calling out stupidity and corruption, would jeopardize his whole identity. For many this is a problem of pride. For some—the clever ones—it’s a question of profit

And in the end, no nation can remain free so long as it is invested in eternal war abroad. Civilization and liberty exist in a state of peace. Wars may come and go and may be necessary to preserve the nation, but they cannot be the aim of a Republican political order. Our founders knew this. Empires fight endlessly on the frontier to consolidate power, but America ought not be an imperialist nation. It cannot be if its citizens wish to be free.

Dan Crenshaw is no statesman and no leader of a free people. He does not know how to count the costs or consider his circumstances—both essential elements of prudence and statesmanship. He has no explanation for the obvious incompetence of the military except to say we ought to throw more good blood and treasure after bad actions because “the intel community” says a bogeyman is coming to get you. How anyone still trusts the intelligence community at this point is beyond me. He does not look at the state of our domestic politics and the real concerns here at home. Instead, he boosts an imperialist military faction in political life and then milks its noble vestiges for every ounce of popularity he can get.

Thankfully, Americans are waking up and learning to look past the military hype and sophistry. They see the arrogant, incompetent, spiteful military and bloated, useless intelligence community that 20 years of war gets us. Given the actual state of affairs and the national decline since 9/11, it’s time to look past the Crenshaw tropes and specious reasoning.

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About Bill Kilgore

Bill Kilgore is the pseudonym of a writer serving in the United States military. It should go without saying that the views expressed in his articles are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call