Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 17, 2017

"Grown-ups" Versus "Ideologues"? The Media Narrative of the White House May Be All Wrong

Updated below (Aug 19 2017)

The Democrats and the media love the Pentagon generals in the White House. They are the "grown ups":

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., had words of praise for Donald Trump's new pick for national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster — calling the respected military officer a "certified, card-carrying grown-up,"

According to the main-stream narrative the "grown ups" are opposed by "ideologues" around Trump's senior advisor Steve Bannon. Bannon is even infectious, according to Jeet Heer, as he is Turning Trump Into an Ethno-Nationalist Ideologue. A recent short interview with Bannon dispels that narrative.

Who is really the sane person on, say, North Korea?

The "grown-up" General McMaster, Trump's National Security Advisor, is not one of them. He claims North Korea is not deterrable from doing something insane.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your predecessor Susan Rice wrote this week that the U.S. could tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea the same way we tolerated nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union far more during the Cold War. Is she right?

MCMASTER: No, she’s not right. And I think the reason she’s not right is that the classical deterrence theory, how does that apply to a regime like the regime in North Korea? A regime that engages in unspeakable brutality against its own people? A regime that poses a continuous threat to the its neighbors in the region and now may pose a threat, direct threat, to the United States with weapons of mass destruction?

McMaster's was spewing nonsense. The same was said about the Soviet Union and China when they became nuclear weapons states. North Korea just became one. Conventional deterrence of both sides has worked with North Korea for decades. Nuclear deterrence with North Korea will work just as well as it did with the Soviet and Chinese communists. If North Korea were really not deterrable the U.S. should have nuked it yesterday to minimize the overall risk and damage. It is the McMaster position that is ideological and not rational or "grown up" at all.

Compare that to Steve Bannon's take on the issue:

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], 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.”

It was indeed the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which "got" the United States and stopped the U.S. escalation game. It is wrong to think that North Korea "backed off" in the recent upheaval about a missile test targeted next to Guam. It was the U.S. that pulled back from threatening behavior.

Since the end of May the U.S. military trained extensively for decapitation and "preemptive" strikes on North Korea:

Two senior military officials — and two senior retired officers — told NBC News that key to the plan would be a B-1B heavy bomber attack originating from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
Of the 11 B-1 practice runs since the end of May, four have also involved practice bombing at military ranges in South Korea and Australia.

In response to the B-1B flights North Korea published plans to launch a missile salvo next to the U.S. island of Guam from where those planes started. The announcement included a hidden offer to stop the test if the U.S. would refrain from further B-1B flights. A deal was made during secret negotiations. Since then no more B-1B flights took place and North Korea suspended its Guam test plans. McMaster lost and the sane people, including Steve Bannon, won.

But what about Bannon's "ethno-nationalist" ideology? Isn't he responsible for the right-wing nutters of Charlottesville conflict? Isn't he one of them?

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

Bannon sees China as an economic enemy and wants to escalate an economic conflict with it. He is said to be against the nuclear deal with Iran. The generals in Trump's cabinet are all anti-Iran hawks. As Bannon now turns out to be a realist on North Korea, I am not sure what real position on Iran is.

Domestically Bannon is pulling the Democrats into the very trap I had several times warned against:

“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

This worked well during the presidential election and might continue to work for Trump. As long as the Democrats do not come up with, and fight for, sane economic polices they will continue to lose elections. The people are not interested in LGBT access to this or that bathroom. They are interested in universal healthcare, in personal and economic security. They are unlikely to get such under Bannon and Trump.  But, unlike the Democrats, the current White House crew at least claim to have plans to achieve it.

Update (Aug 19 2017)

UPI reports:

Strategic assets of the U.S. military, including an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine, may not be deployed during the upcoming joint exercises on the Korean peninsula.

South Korean television network SBS reported Friday the United States canceled plans to deploy the strategic assets during the drill set to begin next week, and the move is taking place a week after tensions spiked between Washington and Pyongyang.
The exercises known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian came under verbal attack from North Korea this week, when Pyongyang warned of a "second Korean War" should Seoul and Washington go ahead with the drills.

After a week of high tensions, Pyongyang also stated leader Kim Jong Un would "monitor" the United States before taking unprecedented measures against Guam, the location of a key U.S. air force base.

The U.S. not only held back the B-1B flights out of Guam but also scaled back on other strategic assets in its yearly training for a war on North Korea. The investment North Korea made with its nuclear and missile weapons is paying off.

Posted by b on August 17, 2017 at 3:51 UTC | Permalink

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Another "grown up"?:

Mattis to back Kiev’s claim to Crimea during Ukraine visit

US Defense Secretary James Mattis will visit Ukraine next week and reassure the government in Kiev that the US still considers Crimea a part of the country’s territory, the Pentagon said. Mattis will tell Kiev the US is “firmly committed to the goal of restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 18 2017 18:40 utc | 101

Manifest Destiny and Religious Zealotry (extremism) were manifested in recent history by America's Great Leaders. Here's General Boykin:

You know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his [about Muslims in Somalia]. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.

Many other quotes here:

Posted by: fastfreddy | Aug 18 2017 18:42 utc | 102

@96, I view this as part of an effort to push back against anti Iran pro Israel hard liners. First with Flynn, then McMaster forcing out Flynn allies, and now Bannon. Not that McMaster and his people are not pro Israel or possess any redeeming qualities, but it is important to understand that Bannon and those in his circle are NOT anti interventionists.

Posted by: Greg M | Aug 18 2017 18:55 utc | 103

Thirdeye & Fastfreddy

Thirdeye "The third eye is a mystical and esoteric concept of a speculative invisible eye which provides perception beyond ordinary sight." Wikipedia ;)

This is a good read. Especially for Thirdeye blind.

Pardon Me!
High Crimes and Demeanors in the Age of Trump
By Tom Engelhardt

Let me try to get this straight: from the moment the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 until recently just about every politician and mainstream pundit in America assured us that we were the planet’s indispensable nation, the only truly exceptional one on this small orb of ours.

We were the sole superpower, Earth’s hyperpower, its designated global sheriff, the architect of our planetary future. After five centuries of great power rivalries, in the wake of a two-superpower world that, amid the threat of nuclear annihilation, seemed to last forever and a day (even if it didn’t quite make it 50 years), the United States was the ultimate survivor, the victor of victors, the last of the last. It stood triumphantly at the end of history. In a lottery that had lasted since Europe's wooden ships first broke out of a periphery of Eurasia and began to colonize much of the planet, the United States was the chosen one, the country that would leave every imperial world-maker from the Romans to the British in its shadow.

Who could doubt that this was now our world in a coming American century beyond compare?

And then, of course, came the attacks of 9/11................ The rest below.

Posted by: @Madderhatter67 | Aug 18 2017 19:21 utc | 104

Greg D

You couldnt be more wrong, Bannon, Flynn etcetera was actually quite sane compared to the other neocon, deepstate figures coming in, go figure why these people had to go - think also why someone like Mattis DONT have to go and is loved by the media, deep state etcetera.

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 18 2017 19:34 utc | 105

@Madderhatter67 @104--

Engelhardt still doesn't understand that 911 was supposed to (and did) solidify the justification for the expansion of The American Century since we now made our own rules and reality.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 18 2017 19:37 utc | 106

Nah...don't quite agree on this one. The Bannon interview is fascinating, but don't forget that he's a strategist: He says what he thinks will serve his purpose, not necessarily what he believes.

Now he's gone, whether for good time will tell.

And Trump is looking rather isolated. If he feels his position becomes too complicated or even untenable, he might do 'stupid stuff' - and as I mentioned earlier, this may be just what the Neocons want:
With the US decline accelerating both internally and globally, 'war' may seem the last option to them. But of course, they don't want the blame - they want to be able to say 'see, we told you he's crazy, but you didn't listen.' Difficult times.

Posted by: smuks | Aug 18 2017 22:50 utc | 107


This opinion is echoed here

Pay attention to this part.

"A final disturbing thought is that Mr Trump’s emergence increasingly looks like a symptom of a wider crisis in American society, that will not disappear, even when Mr Trump has vacated the Oval Office.

Declining living standards for many ordinary Americans and the demographic shifts that threaten the majority status of white Americans helped to create the pool of angry voters that elected Mr Trump. Combine that social and economic backdrop with fears of international decline and a political culture that venerates guns and the military, and you have a formula for a country whose response to international crises may, increasingly, be to “lock and load”

Posted by: @Madderhatter67 | Aug 19 2017 3:53 utc | 108

In "liberated: South Carolina there was one legally held slave. "It" belonged to Gen. Grant's wife, when she visited her husband.

Posted by: JaimeOnTexas | Aug 19 2017 4:27 utc | 109

smuks 107

Indeed and that could be dangerous,

Trump could start war to deflect attention from plunging approval ratings: Analyst

Posted by: Anon | Aug 19 2017 6:31 utc | 110

Steve Bannon : The presidency Trump campaigned for is 'over'

Posted by: Anon | Aug 19 2017 8:15 utc | 111

"Many pictures of Kim show an overweight youngster amongst gaunt hungry looking generals.
Gave the impression of a spoilt kid simply handed power. Not going to the May 9 parade in Russia when invited also gave the impression he was paranoid."

I think the perception of the audience that counts may be different. Juche is a combination of Stalinism with beliefs particular to Korea, and Supreme Leader from the very beginning was the only chubby person in the North Korean iconography. Is it related to Maitreya Buddha, or something more indigenous?

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Aug 19 2017 14:26 utc | 112

The U.S. not only held back the B-1B flights out of Guam but also scaled back on other strategic assets in its yearly training for a war on North Korea. The investment North Korea made with its nuclear and missile weapons is paying off.

Updated by b on August 19, 2017

It certainly is.
North Korea has shoved threatening with impunity 'off the table'.
The Yankees would be hard-pressed to paint a convincing smiley face on the remains of a USAF base at Guam vaporised by a target of US bluster.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Aug 20 2017 4:47 utc | 113

Even though the MSM reptiles have been careful not to mention it, the people of Japan and South Korea should, by now, have realised just how inconsequential the Yankees think their peace of mind, and lives, are.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Aug 20 2017 5:05 utc | 114

Hoarsewhisperer 114

I see in the news somewhere the people of Japan are paying ? million dollars to upgrade US bases on Guam. Cannot find the article at the moment to link it or give exact amount.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Aug 20 2017 5:35 utc | 115

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