Steve Bannon is officially out of the White House. The man whom many described as the ‘brain behind the Trump campaign’ has run the course of his political career with many suspecting that he may shortly return to journalism/media.
For both those who admire and detest Steve Bannon, the man took on mythical proportions. Much of what was said about Bannon on both sides of the political divide was grossly exaggerated. That being said, he was one of the few members of the Trump White House who was a genuine ideas man in an age where anything but technocratic thinking is often frowned on.
With this in mind, here are the pros and cons of the political death of Steve Bannon.
1. Threatening a trade war with China
Steve Bannon was recently quoted saying the following about the possibility of the US actively fighting a trade war with a nuclear superpower which also happens to be the world’s most dynamic economy:
“We’re at economic war with China. It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow”.
These remarks could potentially be deeply damaging to the US economy if translated into policy. Already, Donald Trump has signed a memorandum authorising the US to investigate allegedly unfair trade practices in respect of China’s use of US based intellectual property. Many in Washington are openly using the word ‘sanctions’ to describe what could result from the entire ordeal.
With America being utterly dependant on Chinese imports and with Beijing owning substantial sums of US sovereign debt, such a trade war (as Bannon himself called it) would be catastrophic for the US economy and could further heat up the many proxy conflicts the US is waging against Chinese commercial interests.
Bannon has long defined his policies as existing in a framework where a clash between China and America is inevitable to the point of being desired. Such dangerous, Manichean views could make many bad trends befalling the globe even worse.
2. War with Iran
Steve Bannon was in the United States Navy in the Gulf of Oman during the 1980 US hostage crisis in Iran. Bannon’s ship was in the region as a adjunct to Jimmy Carter’s ultimately failed attempt to rescue the American hostages.
This event almost certainly coloured Bannon’s deeply anti-Iranian views. Along with former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Bannon was deeply fanatical about the need for America to assert aggressive policies towards Iran even though Iran poses no threat to the United States.
By being a member of a Washington choir which is dangerously close to escalating tensions with a major Eurasian power, when it comes to Iran, the peace camp needs all the allies it can get.
3. Support for Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi’s India is a country that is needlessly provoking China by infringing on territories widely agreed to be Beijing’s sovereign land. This reckless move by Modi brings a nuclear armed India closer to war with the Chinese superpower than at any time since 1962 when the too considerably weaker Asian powers fought a short border war which China resoundingly won.
Modi is also testing the patience of India’s traditional Russian ally by purchasing overpriced American weapons in order to ingratiate himself with a country that many Indians feel does not hold their short or long term interests. Modi’s pro-Israel sentiments have not only eroded New Delhi’s traditionally fair approach to Palestine but has aliened Syria, a potential market for Indian goods and services.
India’s current ‘trade war’ with China has not hurt China in any significant way, but has done a great deal to retard the progress of an Indian economy filled with potential.
On the domestic front, Modi’s Hindutva policies have led to the discrimination of non-Hindus in India. Muslims and Sikhs are finding their lives and livelihood threatened like never before in modern India. Violence against minorities is now a common feature in Modis’ Hindutva ‘paradise’.
With America facing down a self-made and damaging trade war with China and with America’s once comparatively unified social fabric descending into sectarian strife, Modi if anything should be a model of what America should not do.
1. Detente with Russia
Steve Bannon favoured not only detente with Russia but favoured constructive relations. Bannon understood that modern Russia is a moderately conservative society whose Orthodox Christian traditions resonate with many Americans who are dismayed with the hedonism and perversion that is inexorably linked with post-modern liberalism.
With Bannon out of the White House, a voice of not only reason but of enlightenment when it comes to Russia has been lost.
2. Realism on Syria
Steve Bannon seemed to implicitly understand that Syria and her partners are going to be victorious in the conflict and that beyond this, they are fighting the kind of Salafist terrorism that is a danger to mankind itself.
During his campaign, Donald Trump continuously rejected illegal so-called regime change in Syria and vowed not to repeat the mistakes of Barack Obama in funding and aiding terrorists in Iraq the Levant.
While the Syrian conflict is in its final phase, Bannon was correct on Syria from both a pragmatic and moral position. This honourable position is sadly not shared by the majority of the Washington elite.
3. Venezuela and North Korea
Steve Bannon’s pragmatic side came to the fore in respect of his opposition to recent US threats of war against North Korea and Venezuela.
Bannon rightly realised that North Korea is a ‘sideshow’ conflict and further urged restraint over Donald Trump’s recent threats to Venezuela.
While war on North Korea is unlikely, Venezuela remains a tempting oil rich country for US war-hawks to pounce on.
While there were many good reasons for Bannon to go and an equal amount of reasons for Bannon to stay, the sad truth is that his departure from the White House was at least publicly, for all the wrong reasons.
Bannon is associated with a right-wing mindset that some conflate with the white supremacist thinking of the Ku Klux Klan. The fact that Bannon disavowed groups like the KKK seemed not to matter in a modern America where a good narrative trumps a mundane truth with worrying frequency.
There is of course a chance that someone in the White House felt that Bannon’s China remarks were a step too far. There is some circumstantial evidence which points to this. 24 hours prior to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States in April, Bannon was removed from his position on the National Security Council. It was a move that almost certainly reassured those who do not seek an digressive US stance towards China.
It could well be that behind the scenes, concerned individuals realised that Bannon’s remarks on China were inflammatory and deeply dangerous. The proximate timing of his removal is close both to his mad remarks on China as well as the violence in Virginia that many wrongly blame Bannon’s ideology for inspiring.
The truth may be somewhere in between. What is known is that Bannon’s record was one which drifted between common sense and madness. His pragmatic side was ultimately distorted by his more ideologically based pronouncements. This is true whether one loves or hates the man and what he stands for.