It has been nearly three years since Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonHouse panel probing Jan. 6 attack seeks Trump records Has Trump beaten the system? Trump discussed pardoning Ghislaine Maxwell: book MORE, former chief strategist to the president, left the White House and we don’t hear much about him anymore. But his legacy is very much alive, as evidenced by the “deconstruction of the administration state” he promised Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE would deliver.
As the fury over the murder of George Floyd plays out against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, historic unemployment and a rising wave of bankruptcies, there is a war being waged on our institutions by the president. This war — foreign and domestic — has been a wild success. And these developments leave us weakened and at the mercy of ever-increasing centralized control in the hands of Donald Trump, a particular danger considering he lacks the knowledge and respect for these institutions to see their value and necessity.
Trump has been the perfect vessel for Bannon’s vision to tear apart global infrastructure, take power and solidify control.
The weaker we are on the international stage, the more isolated we become. Combined with anti-immigrant policies, and a steady erosion of faith in protective institutions such as the FBI, the specter of increasing centralized power in the executive branch is an inevitable result. This power vacuum that only Trump can fill suits Bannon’s worldview to a T.
Some examples are illustrative.
Trump’s recent and hasty announcement that the United States would be pulling out of the World Health Organization amidst a global pandemic has rattled public health experts and politicians alike. Megan Doherty, senior director of policy and advocacy at Mercy Corps and former White House National Security Council director for North Africa during the Obama administration, commented: “This is the most counterproductive move in the middle of a world health crisis. In places with poor health infrastructure that don’t have an existing strong presence, this is creating a gap that we can’t fill.”
The move could threaten the fate of vaccination programs at a time when we are in a race to find a vaccination for COVID-19. It could imperil other vaccine programs, including polio and Ebola response, as well as a “thousand other global health tasks the U.S. relies on the WHO to deliver,” said Jeremy Konyndyk of the Center for Global Development.
The essential function the WHO serves appears to be lost on Trump. This move follows a clear trend line, though. One of the first actions he took as president was to pull America out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement between 10-plus countries that would force China to meet ambitious trade rules. For all of Trump’s tough talk about limiting China’s power, “The U.S. decision not to join the pact it had done so much to bring about has instead relieved pressure on China to reform while penalizing U.S. exporters seeking to sell to the new pact’s members,” argues Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Trump also has announced that the U.S. will leave the Open Skies Treaty, which allows observation flights over military facilities. The administration argues that Russia has violated the treaty — which may very well be true, but it comes as no surprise that we’re the only Western participant pulling out. Foreign ministries of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden said they would continue to implement the accord as “a crucial element of the confidence-building framework that was created over the past decades in order to improve transparency and security across the Euro-Atlantic area.”
All too often, Trump’s decisions are analyzed as unhinged, knee-jerk reactions to a perceived slight or some cockamamie notion he’s developed. But when you look at these actions in light of the Bannon doctrine to deconstruct the world order, Trump’s decisions make perfect sense. What’s more, he’s the ideal vessel for this vision. He is eager to claim power — constitutionally permitted or not — adept at bullying, and not too morally handcuffed to lie with impunity.
Understanding that global challenges require global solutions is a requisite for any president. It is also the grown-up version of understanding that there is value in teamwork. Tackling international challenges without allies is futile.
Unless the intention may not be to tackle international challenges at all, as Bannon apparently would have it.
Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.