President Donald Trump inherited two decades’ worth of bad foreign policy the day he set foot in the White House. But rather than trying to clean up the mess by doubling down on the military interventionism that created the U.S.’s problems throughout the world, the president’s former chief strategist says Trump ought to point the nation’s guns outward and focus wholly on his domestic agenda.
During an appearance at the Hudson Institute this week, Steve Bannon implored the president to walk away from the foreign policy establishment’s notion that defeating extremism throughout the world should require generations of U.S. military involvement.
“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.”
Bannon’s comments came after an earlier speech by retired general and former CIA head David Petraeus, who made exactly the opposite argument.
Petraeus told the audience that the U.S. should never set withdrawal timelines for its military endeavors and accept that perpetual war is the new norm.
“This is a generational struggle,” he 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.”
But Bannon said the president would be better off to abandon the advice he’s now getting from many of his Washington foreign policy experts and revisit campaign promises to remove the U.S. from unending and fruitless entanglements overseas.
“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.”
As for foreign policy experts who might criticize the president if he were to take a more isolationist approach, Bannon says Americans should take a careful look at where the “foreign policy elite” have gotten the U.S. so far.
“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!”