April 06, 2017

Bannon’s Demotion Means the Trump Team Is Learning — Even if Trump Isn’t

By Julianne Smith and Loren DeJonge Schulman

The Trump administration announced on Wednesday that it would remove White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council (NSC). National security wonks on the left and right alike, many of whom had criticized the president for putting one of his top political advisors on the council, applauded the decision. Irrespective of party, past presidents have always understood the dangers of mixing politics and national security. Trump arrived in office either unaware of that precedent or determined to upend it. But it appears that his very capable national security advisor, H.R. McMaster (perhaps joined by others across the interagency process), succeeded in helping him understand why Bannon needed to be removed. After having Bannon involved in several national security decisions, it probably wasn’t that hard to understand why he didn’t belong there. And Bannon probably came to realize that such meetings aren’t as exciting as he thought they would be.

This isn’t the first piece of evidence that the administration is learning on the job. There are other encouraging indications that the administration is coming to appreciate why longstanding traditions and processes associated with governing actually matter, and even if it wants to disrupt the foreign policy establishment and its mores, it has to understand and work with that establishment. In addition to removing Bannon from the NSC, McMaster has succeeded in installing or replacing senior NSC staff with competent and experienced pros, and the logjam of agency nominations is slowly starting to break open. There’s a long way to go before Defense and State political teams are filled out, but that they’ve advanced at all is a good sign that the administration is starting to view these organizations as assets, not enemies.

Read the full article at Foreign Policy.

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