Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer noted in a column this week for the National Review that President Donald Trump’s apparent reversal of his “America First” foreign policy could signal the weakening of chief strategist Steve Bannon’s influence in the White House.
In recent weeks, Trump has gone against the isolationism he preached on the campaign trail, firing missiles into Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack launched by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Krauthammer called it a “head-snapping foreign-policy reversal,” considering that Trump said just earlier this month that he wanted to be “president of the United States,” not “president of the world.”
The Syria strike was a move the Obama administration was loathe to make after a similar chemical weapons attack in 2013 — the administration opted to strike a deal with Assad rather than take military action against him. Assad was supposed to remove his arsenal of chemical weapons, but it’s now clear he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
“The very swiftness of [Trump’s] response carried a message to the wider world,” Krauthammer wrote. “Obama is gone. No more elaborate forensic investigations. No agonized presidential handwringing over the moral dilemmas of a fallen world. It took Obama 10 months to decide what to do in Afghanistan. It took Trump 63 hours to make Assad pay for his chemical-weapons duplicity.”
Krauthammer called it “renewed interventionism” and said it “effectively reset [Trump’s] entire foreign policy.”
That could spell trouble for Bannon, who is already on thin ice in the White House.
Bannon often takes credit for honing Trump’s populist message, but so far that message hasn’t translated very well into policy. And the chief strategist might be falling out of favour with the president — recent reports contend that Trump isn’t happy with the narrative that Bannon is a “shadow president” pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Krauthammer noted that strike on Syria might have been a big signal that “Bannonism,” and its “drain the swamp” mentality, are “in eclipse.”
“Bannon may have written the come-home-America inaugural address,” Krauthammer wrote. “But it was the old hands, Trump’s traditionally internationalist foreign-policy team, led by Defence Secretary James Mattis and national-security adviser H. R. McMaster, who rewrote the script with the Syria strike.”
He concluded that, at least for now, “the traditionalists are in the saddle” in the White House.
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