Bannon had his problems. He was toxic on Iran. And yet on so many other issues, Syria, Afghanistan, Korea, etc he was a determined, if not always effective, opponent of the Washington interventionist groupthink.
For example just days ago he said this on North Korea:
“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
For this piece of common sense, which went against Trump's bluster, the Trump-hating CNBC called for Bannon's head. To the joy of the cruise missile brigades Trump obliged. HR McMaster now has every reason to celebrate as Trump's administration looks more and more conventional by the day. Politico:
Stephen Bannon may have been a political adviser to President Donald Trump, but his firing Friday could have an impact on U.S. foreign policy from Europe to the Middle East and Asia.
Bannon's exit clears an obstacle for backers of an active U.S. foreign policy in line with recent presidencies — and is a resounding win for Bannon’s internal rival, national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
Bannon was a regular participant in national security debates, often as an opponent of military action and a harsh critic of international bodies like the United Nations and the European Union.
He has also been a withering critic of diplomatic, military and intelligence professionals—“globalists” he says have repeatedly shown bad judgment, particularly when it comes to U.S. military interventions abroad. That put him at loggerheads with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as well as McMaster.
“If you look at the balance of power of isolationists versus internationalists in the White House now, it seems safe to say that the pendulum has swung towards the internationalists,” said Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
Though Bannon has not described himself as an “isolationist,” he has proudly adopted Trump’s “America First” motto, which he says argues for spending less blood and treasure overseas for anything less than America’s most vital interests.
He has also alarmed European leaders with his criticism of the E.U. and his expressed support for some European nationalist movements. Bannon actively backed Great Britain’s 2016 “Brexit” from the E.U. and introduced Trump to its chief political advocate, the populist British politician Nigel Farage.
“Our European allies are happy about Bannon's departure,” said Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council.
In the immediate term, foreign policy insiders agreed, Bannon’s departure also could increase the chances of a U.S. troop increase in Afghanistan—a plan championed by McMaster but strongly opposed by Bannon, who managed to draw out debate on the issue with direct appeals to Trump.
More generally, it will remove an internal brake on U.S. military action abroad. Bannon has argued against greater U.S. intervention in Iraq and Syria and was among the few White House officials to oppose President Donald Trump’s early-April missile strike in Syria.
Bannon is not totally conflict averse: He calls for a far stronger U.S. posture against China and has warned that war with Beijing could be inevitable. But he pressed Trump to take economic, not military action against Beijing.
And on Wednesday, Bannon told the American Prospect magazine that there is “no military solution” to Trump’s standoff with North Korea—undermining the president’s recent military threats against that country, and echoing China’s view of the situation.
Beyond the policy realm, Bannon’s exit is a clear victory for national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who at times seemed to be in zero-sum struggle with the Trump adviser for power and influence in the White House.
Many anti-interventionists will try to put up a brave face and claim that Bannon, free to rejoin Breitbart, will be more effective on the outside than he ever was on the inside, but the harsh reality is that him getting the axe is a huge boon for the establishment swamp. Bannon himself thinks so:
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”