Bannon gave an interview in 2014, which is a fascinating look into his worldview. Among other things, he was blunt about the challenge of ISIS and similar groups:
“we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.”
So who is “we”? In Bannon’s eyes, the Judeo-Christian West. He sees the combination of capitalism and the church as the foundation that allowed the West to come out of two disastrous world wars dominant. For him, capitalism without faith is empty — using people as objects, and earning all the spite Marx levied at it. The Republican party has been dominated by faithless capitalism for a long time now, and seeing Bannon’s version is shockingly different:
So I think the discussion of, should we put a cap on wealth creation and distribution? It’s something that should be at the heart of every Christian that is a capitalist — “What is the purpose of whatever I’m doing with this wealth? What is the purpose of what I’m doing with the ability that God has given us, that divine providence has given us to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth?”
I think it really behooves all of us to really take a hard look and make sure that we are reinvesting that back into positive things. But also to make sure that we understand that we’re at the very beginning stages of a global conflict
Unlike the conservatives that have recently dominated the Republican party, Bannon is ready to limit capitalism to serve the needs of faith (and Judeo-Christian civilization). In normal times, that might mean something different. But in these times, he sees an impending global war, faith against faith. That means capitalism should be bent to power the Judeo-Christian war engine in preparation. That means we need to eliminate the gray areas in our soceity. Hence the focus on shoring up our borders, our people (and the presence our lack of western values that certain cultures embody), and our faith.
Again, this is not the conservatism we are used to seeing, and it is not crony capitalism either. It is deeply rooted in faith, and focused on supporting a faith militant, to defend the West in the coming conflict— much like how ISIS’ faith is militant in organizing to defend the Caliphate in the coming conflict. They are two sides of the same coin. And when one grows stronger, they empower the other side.
For example, Trump’s ban (ignoring the serious legal and operational problems with it) gives ISIS “locker room” recruiting material to embolden their base. ISIS’ grand strategy is to destroy the “gray zone” for Muslims. They want the world to Muslims vs. everyone else, so the full weight of the Muslim world is forced behind their Caliphate. They want people in the middle to be forced to pick a side and fight.
This is no false equivalency — ISIS is monstrous, Bannon is not (at least not yet). But that doesn’t change the fact that he views the world just as starkly, and is therefore pushing us down a path to grand confrontation. It doesn’t change the fact that both of them are thinking of this as a total war of faith. That both of them are preparing for the war by strengthening the defining and distinctive features of their side, and by rejecting the features of the other. That polarizes the world, and anything that polarizes, strengthens them both.
The Clash of Civilizations is self reinforcing and self-fulfilling. The only way to win is not to play.