Is President Trump an isolationist, an interventionist—or something else? Fox News contributor Sebastian Gorka joined American Greatness Publisher Chris Buskirk on the radio this week to discuss the president’s “America First” agenda as he enters the second year of his administration. Also: What should American “conservatism” be in the 21st century? Listen to the audio and read the transcript below.
Chris Buskirk: I am Chris Buskirk. This is the Seth and Chris Show. Welcome back.
As I have been promising, teasing is what they call it in the radio business, I guess in the TV business too, they call it that. As I’ve been promising and teasing, we are joined by our friend and comrade in arms, Doctor Sebastian Gorka. Doctor Gorka, welcome back to the show.
Sebastian Gorka: Thank you kindly. Happy New Year, Chris.
Chris Buskirk: Yeah, thanks. Happy New Year to you as well. Say, you’re lately of the Trump White House but now a free man. Free to go out and do what you do so well. I guess I owe you some congratulations. You’re now a contributor at Fox News and to The Hill and you’ve written a really good piece at The Hill, published I guess, it was this morning. Year two of Trump … this is the way they style it in the headline, “Year Two of Trump Revolution Will Make or Break America First.” Is that a fair way to characterize it?
Sebastian Gorka: Well, you know you’re in the biz there. So, you know that the title isn’t chosen by the author.
Chris Buskirk: Right.
Sebastian Gorka: My title wasn’t exactly the same as the one that they used but for the message is firstly, just an accounting of the concrete message of just how successful the president has been in the last 12 months and then really a discussion of things that we’ve talked about privately. About what the next years really have to see happen and if the idea is the metaphor that I use of, if Donald J Trump was an Icebreaker Ship. The political culture has been frozen over by the elite, both left and right and this miasma of political correctness and along comes this reality star, real estate mogul from Queens, who just crashed through it all like an Icebreaker; but if we know our physics, when an Icebreaker breaks through the frozen sea, if you don’t have a fleet behind it to keep that free passage open, the ice freezes back together, it knits itself back together and you’re back where you started.
So, now the conservative movement at large, has to consolidate and give meaning, give substance to what Trumpism stands for, what “Make America Great Again” really means beyond the individual initiatives of the president and what America First means domestically and internationally but this is a very exciting year for people like you and me, who care about the republic but we’ve got to do our homework now and put meat on the bone of what the President has achieved.
Chris Buskirk: Yeah, right. When our mutual friend, Mike Anton, penned an essay last year … my gosh, it’s not last year anymore is it? It’s 2016 … called “The Flight 93 Election,” he characterized, what was then the Trump candidacy, as an opportunity, right?
We have the opportunity to do a lot of good but now we need to capitalize on that. We’ve got year one behind us.
What do you think are the most important things that the president and Republicans, both currently in Congress and candidates, need to be focusing on and talking about?
Sebastian Gorka: Well, look. The easiest way to provide a taxonomy for an answer to that question is, the domestic and the international. The international is really easy because the President has so transparently demonstrated what America First means and it doesn’t mean America alone, it means a transparent belief that the world with American leadership is better. It’s safer than a world without diverse leadership, whether it’s NATO, whether it’s destroying ISIS, whether it’s challenging the rise of a hegemonic China. So, that can be done by a handful of the national security wonks.
But the domestic one is a little bit more not, a little bit more . . . what does getting the American economy back on its feet mean? What is the role of the state with regards to massive issues like education, which to be honest, you know as well as I do, the Right has surrendered the whole realm of academe to the left 40 years ago and they now control it through tenure, through the strictures of political correctness on candidacy, so how do we push back? How do we take back education? What is the role of the state in all of these issues, whether it’s health, whether it’s state to state, interstate commerce. These are the passive questions that the founding fathers dealt with but now we need the new version. We have Reaganomics, we have compassionate conservatives from under the Bush era, which kind of failed.
So, what is conservatism for the 21st century? Some basic questions we have to answer there first.
No pressure, no pressure.
Chris Buskirk: Yeah, no pressure, no. Well, the good news is with Twitter, now we don’t have to answer it in 140 characters, we have 280 characters to answer that.
Sebastian Gorka: Yes.
Chris Buskirk: Hey, Seb, you made a couple of, I thought, really interesting and provocative points in your piece.
One of which, gosh we almost just forget about it, is the fact that ISIS went from threatening to be a caliphate from the Atlantic to the Levant and now we barely even hear about ISIS anymore because they’re capabilities and their power have been so thoroughly degraded in the past year.
What do we have to do to make sure that ISIS is really finished off as a threat to the United States?
Sebastian Gorka: Well, technically, there’s a military answer to that question. We have to go . . . in the realm of irregular warfare, we have to Jefferson the neoconservative concept of counter insurgency. It is not our job, as American’s, to fight other people’s insurgencies on their soil. That’s what empires, like the British Empire did, that’s what empires like the French did in North Africa but we don’t do that, that’s not American.
We can help others fight their own insurgencies, as we did in Columbia, as we did in El Salvador but we are not going to fix everybody’s problems but we’ll stand by and assist those who share our values.
So, that’s number one but on the long term, Churchill was right, you never go to war unless you define your victory conditions.
In the war against the global Jihadi movement, the victory conditions are very simple.
It’s not killing terrorists. Killing terrorists is great but when you’re recruiting pool is absolutely gargantuan, they’ll always replenish.
What we have to do is destroy the ideology of the enemy. Just like Ronald Reagan, blessed John Paul and Margaret Thatcher, totally delegitimized the ideology of communism, we have to do the same with Jihadism so people no longer want to become Jihadis and the best way we can do that is overtly and covertly support our muslim allies, plus with the King of Jordan, plus with President Sisi, that’s how we will win this war.
Chris Buskirk: So, how would you respond—and case in point—how do you think that the president and this administration should respond to Iran?
Iran was all over the news two weeks ago, unless you’re following it closely, it has not really been in the news so much since but it seems like there maybe is an opportunity for us to pursue the type of strategy you’re talking about, in Iran.
Sebastian Gorka: Yeah. My father, at state political prison in the revolution … the uprising in 1956 in Hungary, so let’s be realistic about revolutions and uprisings. At the end of the day, the question is, who has the guns, who has the tanks?
In Iran, it’s still the Republican Guard, it’s still the mullahs that have the upper hand, but the regime is very, very, weak, by comparison to where it was say, eight years ago, [after] the Green Revolution, and [because of] its adventurism abroad from Yemen to the tidewater reefs of Latin America.
So, it’s on shaky ground but it’s not our job to go in there and forcibly change it but to do what we did during the Cold War, which is support those who wish to see a change, but remember, the CIA was smuggling fax machines, do you remember fax machines?
Chris Buskirk: That’s right. Yeah.
Sebastian Gorka: We were smuggling fax machines to Solidarność in Poland to push back on the narrative of the Jaruzelski regime in Poland. So, there is lots of things you can do, short of kinetic intervention, that strengthens the good guys and weakens the bad guys.
Chris Buskirk: Yeah, no, that’s very helpful. I think the Cold War really is maybe the best, not the only but maybe the best analogy here. The Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, those sorts of operations were aimed at destroying the ideology and providing moral courage, moral support to people who could take control of their own destinies, of their own nations.
That seems appropriate for this country in a way that the neoconservative idea of basically moral imperialism, using our military, our blood and treasure just … it doesn’t and I think Americans are tired of that approach.
Sebastian Gorka: Yeah, I very much like that label and the point about the moral imperialism. Your listeners know this, I hope instinctually but they need to understand that the president is a pragmatist, he’s a patriot but he’s a pragmatist and he is neither an isolationist nor an interventionist and that needs to be understood.
Chris Buskirk: Yeah, that’s good point. That’s false dichotomy because but that’s a very much, inside the belt way, inside academia dichotomy and President Trump does not come from that world. He is just looking out for what will make America great again.
Sebastian Gorka: Exactly.
Chris Buskirk: Doctor Gorka, thank you so much for spending some time with us tonight. I appreciate it, God speed, hope to talk to you again soon.
Sebastian Gorka: God bless, Chris. Best to you and your listeners.