Trump fires Bannon: Who are the Winners & Losers Globally?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Steve Bannon by his own admission promoted the Breitbart webzine as a mouthpiece of white supremacism, in an attempt to create a new, well-educated and well-dressed version of seedy racism. The Republican Party had since the Nixon Strategy of the 1970s played on a soft version of white resentment, but used dog whistles and kept the Klan and the Neo-Nazis at arms length. Bannon’s plot to have the white grievance branch of the party take it over in a way resembles the way the Evangelicals gradually took over the GOP. Since white evangelicalism is often imbued with a dose of white supremacy, there was even a chance that Bannon could coopt them.

White grievance drove Bannon’s major policy proposals– cutting way back on immigration and especially from non-English-speaking countries, banning Muslims from coming into the country at all, and a neo-mercantilism in which the US would provoke a trade war with China.

In his “American Prospect” interview, Bannon disingenuously called the white supremacists losers. He was thereby attempting to escape the blame for Charlottesville, but it won’t work. Everyone knows he whipped up the fervor of the far right and made it a constituency for Trump, one that previously presidents since 1932 have avoided.

Bannon urged a disentanglement of the US from the Middle East and a turn inward. Hence his interest in having the US military withdraw from Afghanistan in favor of Erik Prince’s private army, which used to be called Blackwater. Since Blackwater extensively contributed to making the Bush occupation of Iraq a huge disaster, putting Prince in charge of Afghanistan is unwise. In any case, with Bannon gone, that decision will likely be made by generals Mattis and McMaster, at Defense and the NSC respectively, and they appear to be considering a troop escalation. The are the anti-Bannon.

Although Bannon appears to have argued for withdrawing from the JCPOA (Iran deal), it likely was in quest of less globalism and a way of dumping Iran in Europe’s lap rather than because he wanted a military confrontation with Iran.

Rex Tillerson at State, H. R. McMaster at NSC and Jim Mattis at Defense are all in favor of keeping the Iran deal in place, and it is hard to see what force could now overrule them (Pompeo at CIA is an outlier on this issue and not as powerful as the generals because of Trump’s deference to the military).

Bannon’s suspicion of the gung-ho hawks in Washington extended to the North Korea issue, where, he proclaimed, there is no military solution. But one of the reasons Bannon wanted to play down that issue is that taking the N. Korea crisis seriously requires Washington to engage positively with China.

Instead, Bannon wanted to cut N. Korea loose, so as to have a clear shot at China. Bannon did not want to negotiate with China, he wanted to force it to stop what he sees as unfair trade and currency policies. He did not want to be beholden to Beijing to deal with North Korea, hence his declaration that the latter problem was insoluble and certainly by military means.

Bannon’s plan for a trade war with China is opposed inside the White House by those Bannon called globalists, including WH economic adviser Gary Cohn, by Jared Kushner, and by key cabinet members.

So the foreign policy winners of Bannon’s departure are China and Iran. You could say Afghanistan has won something if it won’t be made into the equivalent of a privatized American prison. But the war there isn’t going well for Kabul and a small US troop escalation can’t address the problem. Nor can the status quo hold. I think Mattis and the others are afraid that the Taliban could sweep into Kabul and take back over the country, which would be rather a black eye for the Trump administration.

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Related video:

Steve Bannon Out At White House | MSNBC

11 Responses

  1. The USA can NOT, repeat can NOT, win a trade war with China.

    The USA will get its head handed to it by China and the rest of the world that will side with China. There is NOTHING the USA can do to force China to change any of its policies.

    China may be willing to negotiate various issues, but it will never give into threats.

    Like most uninformed Americans with super inflated egos, bannon has no idea about how much power China actually has and how much 5000 years of culture fine tunes a society.

    bannon is flat out delusional when it comes to China.

  2. What about the story that Iraq is making a deal with Saudi-Arabia to come back into ” the Arab fold”?

  3. Reading this piece makes me wonder if America has a proper government at all as it seems to be being run by a few buffoons, louts, gangsters and a secret state who’s place of operations isn’t known!! This is a bit like our European union over the pond which has hundreds of elected EU members of parliament of which know one in any country can name or even tell how many there are or what they do. The whole outfit is run by a thing called the ‘commission’ who are unelected and unaccountable to anyone. I suppose its our version the American so called ‘deep state’ As far as I can see the only thing of any note the American government has done lately is to vote for ever more sanctions against Russia, which is going to do the American people about as much good as a hole in the head.

  4. I’d say that the answer to North Korea is fairly straightforward:
    (1) negotiate a peace treaty under which any war between North Korea and South Korea would bring in both the US and China. This would guarantee both country’s protection against invasion. (Remember, the Korean War started when North Korea invaded South Korea. It ended when the US /UN forces got too close to the Chinese border, and a million Chinese troops poured over the border in support of the North Koreans. Both North and South Korea need reassurance that they won’t be invaded by someone.)

    2) Let North and South Korea decide whether to hold a discussion between the two countries about gradual reunification. It seems unlikely that the Kim family would agree to relinquish power in North Korea, and it seems unlikely that South Korea would agree to be ruled by the North Korean government – but that would be up to them.

    The problem, of course, is that North Korea uses the threat of foreign devils to maintain power. (Sort of like the Republicans using the Soviet Union as a threat during the Cold War, and how Bush2 and Trump use terrorists today.) North Korea’s Kim family know that they need a foreign devil to keep their citizens’ support. Example: when the Soviet Union collapsed, the Republican Party didn’t have an external enemy to use as a rallying point. Notice how the Republicans have been careful not to take actions to resolve tensions with, say, Iran. Likewise, the Iranian hard-liners need to keep the Great Satan as a threat. Same tactic, with a long history throughout the ages.

    • There are layers within layers when prognosticating along these lines. Within some of the HRC links there was a candid presentation she made to The Bankers really running things, where in realpolitikal terms she explained why the existed armed status quo in Korea was to everyone’s benefit. An enlightened criticism of her remarks, I recall, would have been that she was being short-sighted, but it was a disturbingly sound argument nonetheless.

      No, I’m afraid your ideas may serve to draw out better ones, but we have to avoid overly simplistic end of the bar thinking, such as what has been coming out of the White House recently and is regularly falling flat on its face.

  5. For China, Iran, North Korea and many problems with other countries, we do need intelligent and expert diplomats to handle all these situations. Ofensive military confrontations will not work. Even though Mr. Tillerson is a very intelligent man, He needs good and knowledgeable advisers to solve and get good results from the much needed negotiations.
    Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and lately Afghanistan, Irak and Syria “results” tell us that military confrontation is not the solution.

  6. Thank you for another informative comment about the latest developments in the United States, which puzzle many observers abroad. However, I wish I could share your optimism about Bannon’s departure being good for Iran. It could be good for China and Russia, because sooner or later even hawks in US Administration and Congress will have to realize that any war against any of those nuclear-armed countries will be extremely costly. As a result, they ultimately will return to their favourite haunts in the Middle East to carry out their operations to benefit the military-industrial complex.

    This is especially true in the case of Iran because the hostility towards Iran is not based either on any love for Iranians or on any special US interest. It is primarily directed by extreme pro-Israeli zealots who wish to remove any obstacle on the path of Israel’s expansion in the Middle East. That policy was followed long before Bannon was in the White House and will continue after his departure from the White House. That is the policy that the neocons pursued under Presidents Clinton and Bush and during President Obama’s first term. Even during his second term and after signing the landmark nuclear deal, still some Treasury zealots were travelling to various countries warning banks and companies against doing business with Iran. I believe this policy will follow with greater venom during the remainder of President Trump’s term, because anti-Iranian policy is backed by powerful forces in an out of the administration, and will not end without some structural changes in US policies towards the Middle East.

  7. What about Bannon’s opposition to the strike on Syria and more aggression in the middle east? An isolationist position is the only anti imperialist game in town these days.

    • Bannon didn’t actually turn out to be much of an isolationist. Breaking up the Iran deal leads to very possibly to war. And trade war on China has military implications too. You guys bought a crock.

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