Steve Bannon’s wars, at home and abroad

Steve Bannon is President Trump’s most trusted adviser.   He is the second most powerful person in the Trump administration.

He is guided by a dangerously wrong philosophy.

He thinks that Judeo-Christian civilization is at war with the Moslem world abroad, and with secularists and Muslims at home.

He expects a shooting war with China and as well as a shooting war in the Middle East.

He sees himself as part of a global nationalist movement that includes the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France and similar movements across Europe.

He has expressed admiration for Lenin and Karl Rove, and has compared himself to Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.

Trump owes him.  He and Jared Kushner, through their skilled use of data mining and social media, are responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 Election.

His idea that Americans are engaged in both a civil war and a global war could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Steve Bannon, born in 1953, has had a varied career as U.S. Naval officer, mergers and acquisitions specialist for Goldman Sachs, and executive producer in Hollywood.  He has degrees from Virginia Tech, Georgetown University and Harvard University.

He was a little-known but influential figure even before he joined the Trump campaign.  Among his films are documentaries on Ronald Reagan, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin and an expose of Occupy Wall Street.  He was on the board of directors of Breitbart News and became executive chair when founder Andrew Breitbart died in 2012.  Another Bannon organization sponsored opposition research on Hillary Clinton which resulted in the book, Clinton Cash, and many articles in mainstream newspapers about the Clintons’ conflicts of interest.

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I frankly don’t know what to make of Breitbart News.   The news coverage is slanted against Muslims, immigrants, feminists, women in general and Hillary Clinton in particular, but shows some sympathy for gay men.  I recall that leaders of the anti-Muslim movement in the Netherlands are strongly pro-gay.

Breitbart News is not a conservatism that seeks to return to 1950s family values.   The tone is more Animal House than Father Knows Best.   It seems as if the goal is to be as outrageous as possible, in order to provoke reaction from stuffy liberals.

In his Vatican talk, he said he believes in a capitalism that reflects Judeo-Christian values, which have been lost since he left Goldman Sachs.  He rejects the crony capitalism of the Bush and Obama administrations, and also rejects the atheistic Objectivist capitalism of Ayn Rand.

But back in the Roaring Twenties of the previous situation, and in the Gilded Age of the 1880s and 1890s, before the rise of atheism and secular humanism and (for that matter) before substantial Muslim immigration, there was just as much reckless financial speculation and governmental corruption as there is now.   Whatever the cause of what ails the American economy, a culture war will not cure.

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Overseas, Bannon sees the USA and Europe besieged by a rising Islam and an expanding China.  Here is a roundup of some of his recent comments, collected by Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post.

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China,” he said during a 2016 radio appearance.  “They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”

“Against radical Islam, we’re in a 100-year war,” he told Political Vindication Radio in 2011.

“We’re going to war in the South China Seas in the next five to 10 years, aren’t we?” Bannon asked during a 2016 interview with Reagan biographer Lee Edwards.

“We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism,” he said in a speech to a Vatican conference in 2014.  “And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.”

In a 2015 radio appearance, Bannon described how he ran Breitbart, the far-right news site he chaired at the time.  “It’s war,” he said. “It’s war. Every day, we put up: America’s at war, America’s at war.  We’re at war.”

Where exactly is the threat?   The USA has many military bases in majority-Muslim countries.  No majority-Muslim country has bases in Europe or North America.   The U.S. Navy patrols the South China Sea.    The Chinese Navy does not patrol the Caribbean.

Many, many more Muslim civilians have died at the hands of American and American-backed forces than Americans have died at the hands of Muslims.

Under the Bush and Obama administrations, the U.S. attacked individual Muslim countries and killed individual members of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS), but Presidents Bush and Obama were careful to say that the United States is not waging war on Islam itself.   It is Al Qaeda and ISIS who claim they are in a war of civilizations.

What would it mean to wage war on a religion with more than a billion adherents?  What would victory even consist of?

As to China, that nation is expansionist, all right, but its expansion consists of quietly and relentlessly building up its economic strength—something we Americans should doing for ourselves, rather than trying to change the Chinese.   The Chinese may be going beyond international law in protecting their sea lanes.  But there is no evidence of a goal of “today the Spratly Islands, tomorrow the world.”

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As I mentioned in a previous post, Steve Bannon believes the ideas of The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe, which says that American history consists of a serious of 80-year cycles ending in crisis.

David Kaiser, a historian interviewed for Bannon’s 2010 Generation Zero movie, recalled

More than once during our interview, he pointed out that each of the three preceding crises had involved a great war, and those conflicts had increased in scope from the American Revolution through the Civil War to the Second World War.  He expected a new and even bigger war as part of the current crisis, and he did not seem at all fazed by the prospect.

I did not agree, and said so. But, knowing that the history of international conflict was my own specialty, he repeatedly pressed me to say we could expect a conflict at least as big as the Second World War in the near or medium term.  I refused.

Apocalyptic rhetoric and apocalyptic thinking flourish during crisis periods. This represents perhaps the biggest danger of the Trump presidency, and one that will bear watching from all concerned citizens in the months and years ahead.

The danger of this is that if too many powerful people believe this, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.   If you look for reasons to go to war, you can always find them.

LINKS

This Is How Steve Bannon Sees the Entire World, a transcript provided by BuzzFeed of a 2014 talk by Steve Bannon to a conference of conservative Catholics at the Vatican.   The video of the talk is above.

Steve Bannon Trump Tower Interview: Trump’s Strategist Plots “New Political Movement” by Michael Wolff for the Hollywood Reporter.

“The world is on fire”: Steve Bannon two years before his rise to power by Reid Cherlin for VICE News.  [Added 2/15/2017]

Combative Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man in Donald Trump by Scott Shane for the New York Times.   Biography and background.

Steve Bannon: This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America by Joshua Green for Bloomberg Businessweek.   Biography and background.

Trump’s Data Team Saw a Different America—And They Were Right by Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg for Bloomberg Businessweek.  Bannon’s and Kushner’s winning campaign strategy for Trump.

How Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists by Sarah Posner for Mother Jones.

Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and the Crisis in American Life by historian David Kaiser for TIME.

What’s Next for Steve Bannon and the Crisis in American Life by historian David Kaiser for TIME.

Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming and War Is Inevitable by Paul Blumenthal for The Huffington Post.

Steve Bannon’s own words by Steve Reilly and Brad Heath for USA Today.

‘Why even let ’em in?’ Understanding Bannon’s worldview and the policies that follow by Frances Stead Sellers and David A. Farenthold for the Washington Post.

Steve Bannon is the most powerful person in the Trump White House | That should terrify us by Paul Waldman for the Washington Post.

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One Response to “Steve Bannon’s wars, at home and abroad”

  1. Vincent Says:

    “Dangerously wrong philosophy” is an understatement, in my opinion. It is a peculiar collection of non-sequiturs, arbitrary interpretations, selective & dubious facts with no guiding principle that makes any kind of intelligent sense. It seems to be an inverted and distorted image of current affairs mingled with history, tied together into a bundle by a common factor: power and force. So we are to understand that these elements are all there to make things better, but combined in the wrong way, because the capitalism should combine with the Catholic and Protestant care for the poor, while the government should not interfere with the capitalism because it has the power to give jobs and feed the people.

    Actually it is not worth trying to point out where he is wrong. He does not make sense.I cannot imagine what audience could be impressed or persuaded by anything he’s saying, if he is indeed saying anything. Perhaps he’s just rambling on drugs.

    Like

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