Trump, Bannon and the international order

In response to Edward Luce’s column in the FT:

Edward, no need to pick from Bannon’s basket, all the fruit in it is rotten even if you think you recognize something.

His strategic vision is based on a cyclic and inevitable collapse of the current order (and the demise of “elites”) that can be cushioned only by deconstructing the US Federal government to a tiny, rightist and racist core, able to start a new cycle. That is why he doesn’t want to interfere in Syria and why he does advocate engagement with Russia with the alt-right seeing Putin as a saviour of western (white) civilization.

Perhaps you don’t want to see US action in Syria because like Obama you don’t see a strategic objective being met by removing him, rather you fear an even greater chaos taking root. That’s a rational fear but it implies that nobody will answer attacks involving NBC weapons. Another rational fear is that without an answer, the use of chemical weapons or worse would become more acceptable. What if Russia starts using them in Ukraine and engages in similar propaganda to blame the Ukrainian government for it? So, the answer is justified now and was justified in 2013 as well, with the US being the only nation willing and able to make a call based on whether or not the use of NBC weapons is something we want to see more of in the future. Obviously most European leaders want to see less of it and applauded the move.

The call to see Assad removed probably is part of the new Russia strategy, if you aim is to negotiate a dollar, ask for five. That the US administration no longer is playing the strategic game openly like Obama used to is a good thing. Trump’s unpredictability now is an asset in crises where China and Russia must move in order to secure positive outcomes in North Korea (no nukes, no massacre) and in Syria (a negotiated peace that promotes regional stability and a return of refugees). Both outcomes are in the strategic interests of even a Bannonite US.

What is hopefully happening now with saner heads at the wheel is the US regaining the strategic superiority that it had during the Bush 1 and Clinton years so that negotiated outcomes can take the place of anarchy and mayhem. Trump certainly isn’t the same head in the picture but his tactics did favour the appointment of a secretary of defence and of state that seem capable of outfoxing people like Russia’s Lavrov who played Obama and Kerry for 8 years.

In the end, the Russian economy is only half the size of that of California and smaller than even that of NYC. It has and will continue to have an oversized influence for many economical and strategic reasons but that it can and should be on the same level as the US and China is absurd.