Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Politics Talk. We'll miss Bannon's pragmatism.

via The National Interest.
Steve Bannon is out and he’s taking his mass of paradoxes with him. He’s a genial guy and a bureaucratic infighter. He’s a conservative and a self-styled “Leninist.” He’s a brilliant thinker who was prone to cartoonish oversimplification. He’s a populist who worked in the most powerful office building on the planet. He’s Rasputin, he’s Jean-Paul Marat, he’s whoever Washington’s boring Game of Thrones fetish dictates that he be. He was called a white nationalist (unfair), an American nationalist (sure), an economic nationalist (true), and an anti-globalist.

In particular it’s that last one, his allergy to global elites and their Davos-brewed social-engineering projects, that made him an occasional ally of foreign-policy restraint advocates—even if his ideas differed substantially from our ideas. His thinking seems to proceed as follows: America must always put its own interests first, America’s primary interest right now is thwarting the incipient economic hegemon that is China, dotty protectionist policies must be implemented to that end, and a Middle East that’s resisted our designs can’t continue to distract us.

Bannon was probably the best manifestation of the Jacksonian foreign-policy strain in the administration. He had no tolerance for the gauzy nation-building idealism of the George W. Bush era, but he was also hardly an Obama-style missionary for peace: hence his bitter opposition to nuclear deal with Iran. Still, when Trump bombed a Syrian regime air base earlier this year, Bannon reportedly argued against it and his opposition was leaked to New York magazine. “Steve doesn’t think we belong there,” one Bannon confidante said. That Trump went ahead with the bombing anyway was interpreted by New York as a sign of Bannon’s waning influence, though it’s worth noting that the president didn’t follow up with further strikes as many worried he would.

While we don’t yet know why Bannon up and left, White House sources have been whispering for months that he’d lost some heft thanks to his choleric infighting with other administration officials. And no one crossed his ideological wires more than H. R. McMaster, the national security advisor and three-star general who ousted Bannon from his unlikely seat on the National Security Council earlier this year. The tension between the two men reportedly came to a head at a policy meeting about Afghanistan back in July, with McMaster demanding more American intervention and Bannon arguing for a withdrawal. The debate became so fiery that Gen. James Mattis, the secretary of defense, had to step in and play peacemaker. Bannon’s ideological zeal versus McMaster’s martial temper—that must have been quite a fight.
Story here.

It's amazing how brightly Bannon's star is shining now.  If he and McMaster crossed swords and the flashpoint actually was Afghanistan then he played his cards wrong.

Bannon should have pushed the perpetual war issue.

Still.  I think Bannon will win in the end.  This decision will kill Trump's popularity more than it already has.  To make it known that he was going to push up troop levels at this time AND STILL IGNORE the economic pain that many of his supporters are feeling (with the next major issue tax cuts and keeping the govt open) will be the nails in his political coffin.

I said it yesterday and I say it again.  Trump has been de-fanged.  He might as well be called Jeb Bush.  He has morphed right before our eyes, courtesy of one press conference where he said stupid shit, along with a continuation of neo-con policies into a typical Republican.  And a typical Republican won't win the next election.

But what isn't discussed and will become a major focus of discussion going into the future will be the "Generals" that helped shape this policy.  Don't get me wrong.  The failure in Iraq and Afghanistan has many fathers.  But with the exception of the mini "Revolt of the Generals" we have seen no pushback by military leadership with regard to policy in those countries.

For better or worse McMaster, Mattis, Dunford and as much as it hurts to say it...Kelley will be smeared with this failure.  In a way they deserve it.  They could have counseled that we walk away.  They could have said we've wasted enough lives and treasure but they didn't.

One day McMaster will get his own "Dereliction of Duty" book....I wonder how he'll feel about that.

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