Many intemperate critics have attacked President Trump and his intellectual influences. Benjamin Teitelbaum is not one of them. Cleverer and more fair-minded than most critiques, War for Eternity strives to show that many modern national conservative and populist movements are paradoxically informed by the arcane intellectual current known as traditionalism.
At the book’s heart are 20 hours of probing interviews with Steve Bannon conducted between June 2018 and September 2019. The president’s supposed Svengali is an object of fascination to many, and Teitelbaum’s interest was sparked in 2014 when he heard Bannon alluding to the Italian fascist philosopher Julius Evola (1898-1974). Evola was a central figure in today’s traditionalism, whose writings are circulated almost exclusively on the outermost edges of the right.
When Teitelbaum learned Bannon had an eight-hour private meeting in 2018 with the Kremlin-connected traditionalist Aleksandr Dugin, he became convinced a dangerously outré philosophical movement was galvanizing global politics. At the time, American media were hyperventilating about Russian influence, and Teitelbaum felt “curious and unnerved” to think that “an obscure and exceptionally radical way of thinking had somehow moved from shrouded religious sects and ultraconservative intellectual circles into the White House and beyond.”