THE BIG IDEA: It’s not just Republican senators any more. From his perch outside the White House, Stephen K. Bannon is now picking fights with the foreign policy establishment.
David Petraeus reflected on the lessons of the Iraq surge yesterday during a day-long conference sponsored by the conservative Hudson Institute on countering violent extremism. “This is a generational struggle,” the retired Army general and former CIA director said. “Therefore, we must have a sustainable and sustained commitment as our strategy. … That is: we need to have a strategy that is sustainable in terms of the expenditure of blood and treasure, so that we can have the kind of sustained commitment that is necessary in an endeavor that is generational in nature.” Part of that, he explained, means never setting timelines for withdrawal.
Bannon, who was President Trump’s chief strategist into the summer, sought to directly refute Petraeus when he appeared at the conference later in the day. “There’s nobody in the United States that wants to be engaged in combat operations, Special Forces operations, drone operations (for multiple generations),” he said. “That’s just not where the American people are. It’s not the way our country was founded or formed. … We’re prepared to be allies. What we don’t want is these countries to be protectorates. It’s not our fight.”
He said Petraeus was too focused on “nation building.” “We have to build a nation called the United States of America,” Bannon said. “The way you can have Pax Americana is if we’re a robust and strong society ourselves, not trying to impose our way of life and our beliefs on other people.”
After privately urging him for months to not go along with the military’s recommendation, Bannon also broke publicly with Trump over his decision to escalate U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. “In Afghanistan, I believe we’ve tried to impose our values,” said Bannon, who is back to running Breitbart News. “I believe we’re trying to impose a liberal democratic system on a society that clearly to me doesn’t seem to want it. … We’re not looking to transform the world into our values. The world has got to come to its own conclusions about how it wants to govern themselves.”
Bannon, wearing three layers of black shirts under a black blazer, described the 2016 election as primarily a repudiation of elites and pooh-poohed the value of expertise in policymaking. He said he’d rather have 100 people who show up for a Roy Moore rally in rural Alabama lead the country than the top 100 partners at Goldman Sachs, where Bannon once worked. He added that he’d prefer that same group of citizen populists decide U.S. foreign policy than the globalists who travel to Davos for the annual World Economic Forum.
Insisting that Trump is neither an isolationist nor Islamophobic, Bannon assailed the searing critiques of Trumpism delivered last week by George W. Bush and John McCain as “just more pablum.” “The geniuses in the foreign policy elite, what they left on President Trump is essentially the Bay of Pigs in Venezuela, the Cuban missile crisis in Korea and the Vietnam War in Afghanistan — all at one time,” he said. “President Trump didn’t do this. The deplorables that voted for President Trump didn’t do this. This is the geniuses of both political parties. Both political parties delivered this upon us!”
This article continues at [Washington Post] Bannon vs. Petraeus on how to defeat Islamic extremism