EXCLUSIVE: Gorka says banal cliches, Breitbart treats him like Clausewitz. https://t.co/0tnlQp4NEq
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) July 31, 2017
I make it a general policy not to read Breitbart, but I’m sure that LGM readers will understand that why I found this irresistible clickbait. And, lo, my indiscretion was rewarded.
In the fantasy novel Sourcery, Terry Pratchett describes a feature of the Discworld universe called “anti-light.” “That’s not the same as darkness, because darkness is merely the absence of light. Anti-light is what you get if you pass through darkness and out the other side.”
Yes, as Dan notes, Gorka spouts banal clichés. But the way he strings them together produces not merely the absence of meaning, or even the presence of simple bullshit. He passes through to the metaphorical other side. His word salad forms a kind of singularity, out of which emerges a kind of anti-meaning I once associated only with the worst excesses of post-structuralist wannabe theorizing.
The story starts off wobbly, with only trace hits of what’s to come.
“We have had enough with old ways of thinking,” declared Dr. Sebastian Gorka during an exclusive interview at the White House last week. “The last 30 years of thinking have just been unimaginative. It doesn’t serve the U.S. purpose. We’ve seen about 7,000 people killed in uniform. We have to be smarter about it.”
I completely agree with Gorka that 7,000 military deaths in the last thirty years are too many, especially given the complete pointlessness of the Iraq War—which accounts for over half of those deaths. But I’m not sure I’d diagnose the underlying problem with the Iraq War as a lack of imagination. It’s more an example of what happens when you throw out sound strategic thinking in favor of ‘shaking things up’ and ‘shifting the paradigm.’
Also, just for come context from the time before we became “unimaginative.”
[Gorka] noted that the Trump administration will apply “all the instruments of power in the right mixture” to its NSS [National Security Strategy].
As I noted over on the Twitters, I want this on a t-shirt.
Trump’s NSS will also cure asthma, heart disease, and opioid addiction—along with North Korea’s nuclear program, the trade deficit, free-riding European moochers, and all terrorism carried out by Muslims. It will make you and your family rich, in five easy steps.
The secret? It lies not only in getting the proportions of power exactly right, but drawing on those instruments long neglected by past administrations, such as Ivanka, Jared, the Trump International Hotel Washington DC, and chocolate cake.
Also, the NSS will be an iconoclastic, outside-the-box, engine of creative destruction:
“We recognized that this is an iconoclastic commander in chief. He is the first person in U.S. history who wasn’t a politician or a general officer before he came into office,” Dr. Gorka told Breitbart News. “As such, the national security strategy will not look like the previous Republican or Democrat security strategies. It will be as iconoclastic as the president. There will be a prioritization of threats and mission.”
Gorka, who works as Deputy Assistant to the President in the Office of the Chief Strategist, noted that the “globally disperse totalitarian ideology of jihadism” is one of the top threats facing America that the new strategy will address.
Nothing says “iconoclastic” in an NSS like laying out strategic priorities. Nothing says “break from the recent past” like treating transnational terrorism as a major US national security concern. But, you know, it’s all in the magical power of the word “jihadism.” If you say it, you gain power over it.
Instead of being confined by the “cliché” Republican interventionist and isolationist perspectives of the past, the Trump administration realizes it has a range of options at its disposal to protect the U.S. homeland, argued Gorka.
“It’s not diplomacy or war, intervention or isolationism. It is the full spectrum of options of statecraft with American leadership back,” he told Breitbart News, adding, “We jettisoned political correctness. We jettisoned cliché bi-polar ways of thinking.”
I… don’t know what any of this means. Trump’s NSS will perplex the world into submission by neither intervening everywhere nor intervening nowhere? What are “cliché bi-polar ways of thinking”? Is Gorka talking about leftover ideas from the Cold War, that vast American foreign-policy consensus that says we should never, ever entertain the “full spectrum of options of statecraft,” or a form of depression?
Oh, okay, maybe he’s talking only about the “political right.” I think. To be fair, the editorial work on this article is pretty shabby.
Gorka described interventionism and isolationism as the foreign policy “extremes” of the political right.
“There is a massive palate in between isolation and intervention, and we believe that it is smarter not to function on the extremes,” he said.
The White House official dismissed the political right’s approach to national security as “pathetic” because you are only forced to choose between two ideas: neoconservatism or libertarianism.
“You are forced into a binary world. Either you have to be a neoconservative and invade other countries, or you have to be libertarian and say ‘who cares we’re going to be isolationists,’” he told Breitbart News.
“This president explicitly rejects neoconservative foreign policy because he sees the invasion and occupation of other people’s countries as fundamentally un-American,” pointed out Gorka. “Nevertheless, America is a force for good. Not as an occupier, but as a shaper.”
I’m pretty sure that Gorka doesn’t really mean to condemn all invasions and occupations as fundamentally un-American. Presumably the post-war occupation of Germany and Japan, for example, were okay. But, given current Middle East policy, I assume “shaping” including blowing a lot of stuff up in places like Syria and Yemen—both directly and by proxy—so long as you maintain a ‘light footprint’ afterwards. Like Libya.
Does any of this reflect the actual NSS that the Trump Administration will produce? I have no idea. Is this NSS important? Likely not. Very few leave a lasting impression. But you know that we’re living in TrumpLand when national-security charlatans hawk the NSS like it’s actual snake oil.