Bannon Removed from National Security Council, Syria Emboldened

Apr 6, 2017

News that Steve Bannon, White House Chief Strategist, is being removed from the National Security Council is a signal the NSC is being transformed back to a more traditional structure, according to two Iowa political scientists.

During this hour of River to River, Jim McCormick and Wayne Moyer join host Ben Kieffer. 

"I see it as moving away from more of a populist approach to foreign policy and much more towards a traditional security approach to foreign policy," says Moyer, who is Rosenfield Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College.

Not only has Bannon been removed, but intelligence leaders will return to the council along with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

Jim McCormick, Political Science Professor at Iowa State University, says the move is likely a manifestation of National Security Advisor H.R. McMasters' influence.

"This is really the traditional foreign policy types taking over," says McCormick.

The two also agree that the path forward to address the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons will be difficult. The U.N's National Security Council could invoke the "responsibility to protect doctrine," although Russia's seat on the Council makes that unlikely.

"It really is up to the international community and the Trump administration to step up to take some action here," says McCormick. The Trump administration has said combating ISIS is the more demanding concern in Syria. A "safe zone," or "no-fly zone," could be imposed, "but that would involve American commitment," says McCormick. "I'm not sure that the Trump administration is ready to make that commitment."

Moyer agrees and says President Obama was reluctant to put U.S. troops on the ground, or to aid rebel groups because they were allied with Al Qaeda.

"I think Trump will also be extremely reluctant to put American troops on the ground, and I think he may also feel some constraints in terms of giving aid to the rebels," says Moyer. "One thing that is different is that Obama at least was very much opposed to the Assad regime. Trump has not shown that so far, and I suspect there will be a change on his part to show more opposition to the Assad regime."