‘Flight 93’ conservative warns national security state risking more war
MIAMI — There is no reason to be so trustful of Washington’s national security establishment, according to Michael Anton, a conservative Republican, former national security official under President Donald Trump, professor, and author of “The Flight 93 Election.”
In fact, this blind trust and support have led to an unaccountable yet powerful bureaucracy, not to mention destructive forever wars and potentially more to come.
Anton delivered these remarks Tuesday at the National Conservatism conference, which, as I’ve written earlier, has been focused mostly on domestic issues. But Anton’s speech capitalized on the Right’s concern for the entrenched “deep state” — which he described as made up of pro-government, mostly Democratic status quo careerists sharing both spiritual and geographic space in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) metro area — to warn about the dangers of a foreign policy and national security on autopilot that serves only that deep state’s interests.
“We [conservatives] tend not to associate these doubts [about centralized big government] with the national security side of the bureaucracy, and sometimes we lionize the national security bureaucracy. We think of these people as great patriots keeping us safe — many in fact are,” he said.
However, while the president and revolving political appointees have “nominal control” over the national security state, it is clear that the careerists have more power than anyone gives them credit for.
“I find this regime hard to understand. Who is in charge? Who’s to say? Who gets to make the final decisions?” he charged. Whatever the answer, it would seem that this auto pilot is wired to promote the existing internationalist order, and at this point it’s resulted in “squandered resources.”
“Twenty years in the Middle East and we have nothing to show for it,” he said, except trillions in sunk taxpayer funds and untold numbers of civilian Iraqi and and Afghan lives.
When the establishment is pressured on this, they will “try to explain to you why this is so important; they will give speeches on the international order or rules-based order. They aren’t very convincing, but what it comes down to is that the entire world order is a vital U.S. interest. There is no alternative.”
“Some friends of mine will say they are lying; they don’t really believe it. But I’ve heard the speeches so many times I really do think they believe it,” Anton said. Ultimately, “I don’t think it matters whether they are being cynical or they are true believers, but they pursue the same politics every day.”
In the meantime, “we are sending billions in dollars in lethal aid (to Ukraine)” and depleting our own military stocks, he added. “That causes a problem.”
His remarks were some of the only ones on Ukraine given from the dais during the three-day event. Curiously, there have been no panels on this critical foreign policy issue.
“We’re playing a pretty dangerous game in Ukraine,” Anton pressed. “Think about what we are doing from Putin’s perspective – we are his enemy. But where is the core U.S. interest?” (This was met with applause.) He warned that our policies toward China, too, were ignoring the very real risk of war.
“It worries me that we’re playing this dangerous game that we don’t know what we’re getting into, and we may end up in a real dangerous fall.”
His solution to all this is more political appointees — “more adults in the room” — to oversee the careerists. Given the swings between administrations and the problems associated with inexperienced, ideological people typically put into these positions, that might not be the panacea Anton is looking for.