Unfortunately, Trump has just reaffirmed the status-quo and appears to have fallen through on his non-interventionist campaign promises. Trump vague statements mention no end date and he agrees to deploy more troops if the general so desire. In short, the longest war in US history will continue for the foreseeable future, regardless of the amount of treasure and blood spilled in its loosely defined goals. This comes as little surprise to those who have closely followed those who have had the ear of Trump in recent weeks. My hunch has been that this decision was greatly affected by one key player in the administration; Steve Bannon.
The ouster (whether by firing or by resignation) of the populist leaning chief strategist and former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon, last week, left the president stranded in a sea of unsavory people. The sea contains a mix of saber-rattling generals, members of the neoconservative think tank Council on Foreign Relations and former Goldman Sachs bankers. Now, for most on the left, Bannon has taken the persona of the grim reaper himself and was even portrayed that way on Saturday Night Live. This caricature is truly unfortunate, for Bannon has many redeeming views that could have made him an ally for those across the aisle who should be more afraid of the people whom he left in the administration. The most appealing views are his foreign policy intuitions referred to by the New York Times’s as his “dovish side.”
To the surprise of many, Bannon’s “dovish side” is based in reality and careful logic, something that sometimes absent from the president himself. Not only did Bannon criticize the ineptitude of trying to anger North Korea, he flat-out contradicted the historically hawkish neoconservative position on the country. Bannon, in an interview with The American Prospector, said “There’s no military solution here; they got us. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” This is honestly the only calm and rational statement that I have heard from the administration or from other Republicans on this topic. Just a two weeks ago, Lindsey Graham of North Carolina, advocated a preemptive military strike against North Korea to little attention from Democrats.
And it is not just North Korea;Bannon has hit the nail on the head when it comes to military action in Syria, Venezuela and diplomacy with Russia and China. Bannon has systematically argued for a sensible, caution based foreign policy where intervention is seen as a last resort. This particular style, branded “America First” is really quite similar to Trump influencer and routine critic of the American empire, Pat Buchanan.
His voice was not unheard by the hawkish side of the administration. As many have written, from the beginning of the administration the Kushner globalist wing along with Reince Priebus and the long list of generals had declared “war” on the populist elements.
Presently, the decision to maintain the status quo in Afghanistan is most upsetting knowing that Bannon could have been at the crucial meeting regarding this decision the day before if he only departed a week later. If he was at the meeting, could Trump have been swayed and decided to pull out? Nothing is certain, but Bannon was the only person who would have been at that meeting who was even remotely for ending this terrible war. Bannon has questioned the morality of continuing to put American lives in harms way when their leaders do not have a clear strategy to win or withdraw. A sentiment similar to John Kerry’s view on the Vietnam War in which he famously said “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” In fact, Bannon has championed the book, The Best and Brightest, by David Halberstam, which is deeply critical of the Vietnam war, an unlikely book for a republican strategist.
I just can’t help but be annoyed by the simple fact that the mainstream left is unified against the slightest bigotry against LGBT people or other minority groups and will dig up old statements from Bannon to paint him as the devil, but remains eerily silent when it comes to foreign policy decisions that they were previously opposed to. Remember how together the left was eight years ago against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Today they seem more upset about whether not transgender people are allowed in the military. Trump had a real chance of ending a war that has gone on so long that children born before its start will soon be fighting in it. Are the news pundits who treated Bannon as the reincarnation of Joseph Goebbels, possibly to blame for this new Afghanistan decision? I think so.
[Sources: CNN. NY Times, Antiwar.com, Scott Horton, Justin Raimondo, Foreign Policy, and Breitbart]