Crenshaw in WSJ: America didn’t lose a war, or even end one. We gave up on a strategic national-security interest.
In the aftermath of the crisis currently unfolding in Afghanistan, I penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled "The ‘Endless Wars’ Fallacy," in which I argued that "there are many options between nation building and giving up, and we had found a good one in Afghanistan before President Biden abandoned it."
Click here to read the full op-ed.
The ‘Endless Wars’ Fallacy
By Dan Crenshaw
Aug. 17, 2021
Almost everyone agrees that what’s happening in Afghanistan is an unmitigated disaster. There is no way to whitewash it, and few are trying. The scenes from Kabul speak for themselves, casting shame and embarrassment on the world’s greatest superpower. There is plenty of blame being passed around, including to the “neocons,” the generals and the Afghans themselves. But what got us here was the widespread belief that American foreign policy should be dictated by a simple slogan: “No more endless wars.” The current spokesman for that belief is President Biden.
The argument for bringing the troops home is an emotional one, arising from exhaustion with overseas conflict. Most people don’t understand the situation in Afghanistan, and that causes distrust and anger. Few deny we needed to take action after 9/11, but few understood what our strategy would be after we got there. Leaders failed to explain that simply leaving would allow the Taliban to re-emerge and again provide safe haven for terrorists. Americans felt stuck and became exhausted over the years with the vast sums of money spent and lives lost, seemingly in a futile attempt to build democracy.
The “no more endless wars” position has another blind spot: Its advocates are unable to distinguish between wasteful nation building and a small residual force that conducts occasional counterterror operations. As a result, when many Americans hear that there is a single soldier on the ground in Afghanistan, they interpret it to mean “nation building” and “world police.”
That’s wrong. There are a lot of foreign policy options between nation building and giving up. We found the proper balance in recent years—maintaining a small force that propped up the Afghan government while also giving us the capability to strike at Taliban and other terrorist networks as needed. When Echelon asked about the troop presence this way in July, more Americans, Republican and Democratic, supported a small military presence in Afghanistan than ending our presence entirely.
America didn’t lose a war, or even end one. We gave up on a strategic national-security interest. We gave up on our Afghan allies, expecting them to stave off a ruthless insurgency without our crucial support, which came at minimal cost to us. This administration’s actions are heartless, its justifications nonsensical. The consequences are dire for innocent Afghans and for America’s prestige. Twenty years after 9/11, I pray they don’t become equally dire for Americans at home.