03 October 2006

Islamic Fascism, definition of

Victor Davis Hanson has a bit up on Islamic Fascism. Hard to quote and condense accurately, so I'll post the whole thing and put my commentary at the end, clearly deliniated.

Make no apologies for the use of “Islamic fascism.” It is the perfect nomenclature for the agenda of radical Islam, for a variety of historical and scholarly reasons. That such usage also causes extreme embarrassment to both the Islamists themselves and their leftist “anti-fascist” appeasers in the West is just too bad.

First, the general idea of “fascism” — the creation of a centralized authoritarian state to enforce blanket obedience to a reactionary, all-encompassing ideology — fits well the aims of contemporary Islamism that openly demands implementation of sharia law and the return to a Pan-Islamic and theocratic caliphate.

In addition, Islamists, as is true of all fascists, privilege their own particular creed of true believers by harkening back to a lost, pristine past, in which the devout were once uncorrupted by modernism.

True, bin Laden’s mythical Volk doesn’t bath in the clear icy waters of the Rhine untouched by the filth of the Tiber; but rather they ride horses and slice the wind with their scimitars in service of a soon to be reborn majestic world of caliphs and mullahs. Osama bin Laden sashaying in his flowing robes is not all that different from the obese Herman Goering in reindeer horns plodding around his Karinhall castle with suspenders and alpine shorts.

Because fascism is born out of insecurity and the sense of failure, hatred for Jews is de rigueur. To read al Qaeda’s texts is to reenter the world of Mein Kampf (naturally now known as jihadi in the Arab world). The crackpot minister of its ideology, Dr. Zawahiri, is simply a Dr. Alfred Rosenberg come alive — a similar quarter-educated buffoon, who has just enough of a vocabulary to dress up fascist venom in a potpourri of historical misreadings and pseudo-learning.

Envy and false grievance, as in the past with Italian, German, or Japanese whining, are always imprinted deeply within the fascist mind. After all, it can never quite figure out why the morally pure, the politically zealous, the ever more obedient are losing out to corrupt and decadent democracies — where “mixing,” either in the racial or religious sense, should instead have enervated the people.

The “will” of the German people, like the “Banzai” spirit of the Japanese, should always trump the cowardly and debased material superiority of decadent Western democracies. So al Qaeda boasts that in Somalia and Afghanistan the unshakeable creed of Islam overcame the richer and better equipped Americans and Russians. To read bin Laden’s communiqués is to be reminded of old Admiral Yamamato assuring his creepy peers that his years in the United States in the 1920s taught him that Roaring Twenties America, despite its fancy cars and skyscrapers, simply could not match the courage of the chosen Japanese.

Second, fascism thrives best in a once proud, recently humbled, but now ascendant, people. They are ripe to be deluded into thinking contemporary setbacks were caused by others and are soon to be erased through ever more zealotry. What Versailles and reparations were to Hitler’s new Germany, what Western colonialism and patronizing in the Pacific were to the rising sun of the Japanese, what the embarrassing image of the perennial sick man of Europe was to Mussolini’s new Rome, so too Israel, modernism, and America’s ubiquitous pop culture are to the Islamists, confident of a renaissance via vast petro-weatlh.

Such reactionary fascism is complex because it marries the present’s unhappiness with moping about a regal past — with glimpses of an even more regal future. Fascism is not quite the narcotic of the hopeless, but rather the opiate of the recently failed now on the supposed rebound who welcome the cheap fix of blaming others and bragging about their own iron will.

Third, while there is generic fascism, its variants naturally weave preexisting threads familiar to a culture at large. Hitler’s brand cribbed together notions of German will, Aryanism, and the cult of the Ubermensch from Hegel, Nietzsche, and Spengler, with ample Nordic folk romance found from Wagner to Tacitus’s Germania. Japanese militarism’s racist creed, fanaticism, and sense of historical destiny were a motley synthesis of Bushido, Zen and Shinto Buddhism, emperor worship, and past samurai legends. Mussolini’s fasces, and the idea of an indomitable Caesarian Duce (or Roman Dux), were a pathetic attempt to resurrect imperial Rome. So too Islamic fascism draws on the Koran, the career of Saladin, and the tracts of Nasserites, Baathists, and Muslim Brotherhood pamphleteers.

Fourth, just as it was idle in the middle of World War II to speculate how many Germans, Japanese, or Italians really accepted the silly hatred of Hitler, Mussolini, or Tojo, so too it is a vain enterprise to worry over how many Muslims follow or support al Qaeda, or, in contrast, how many in the Middle East actively resist Islamists.

Most people have no ideology, but simply accommodate themselves to the prevailing sense of an agenda’s success or failure. Just as there weren’t more than a dozen vocal critics of Hitler after the Wehrmacht finished off France in six weeks in June of 1940, so too there wasn’t a Nazi to be found in June 1945 when Berlin lay in rubble.

It doesn’t matter whether Middle Easterners actually accept the tenets of bin Laden’s worldview — not if they think he is on the ascendancy, can bring them a sense of restored pride, and humiliate the Jews and the West on the cheap. Bin Laden is no more eccentric or impotent than Hitler was in the late 1920s.Yet if he can claim that his martyrs forced the United States out of Afghanistan and Iraq, toppled a petrol sheikdom or two, and acquired its wealth and influence — or if he got his hands on nuclear weapons and lorded it over appeasing Westerners — then he too, like the Fuhrer in the 1930s, will become untouchable. The same is true of Iran’s president Ahmadinejad.

Fifth, fascism springs from untruth and embraces lying. Hitler had contempt for those who believed him after Czechoslovakia. He broke every agreement from Munich to the Soviet non-aggression pact. So did the Japanese, who were sending their fleet to Pearl Harbor even as they talked of a new diplomatic breakthrough.Al-Zawahiri in his writings spends an inordinate amount of effort excusing al Qaeda’s lies by referring to the Koranic notions of tactical dissimulation. We remember Arafat saying one thing in English and another in Arabic, and bin Laden denying responsibility for September 11 and then later boasting of it. Nothing a fascist says can be trusted, since all means are relegated to the ends of seeing their ideology reified. So too Islamic fascists, by any means necessary, will fib, and hedge for the cause of Islamism. Keep that in mind when considering Iran’s protestations about its “peaceful” nuclear aims.

We can argue whether the present-day Islamic fascists have the military means comparable to what was had in the past by Nazis, Fascists, and militarists — I think a dirty bomb is worth the entire Luftwaffe, one nuclear missile all the striking power of the Japanese imperial Navy — but there should be no argument over who they are and what they want. They are fascists of an Islamic sort, pure and simple.

And the least we can do is to call them that: after all, they earned it.


OK, I'm going to take issue with exactally one point of this article. The assertation that it is irrelevant how many Muslims "really" support al-Qaeda's ideology. In one sense it is true that should al-Qaeda attain some major successes (booting the US out of Iraq, toppling a "corrupt" Arabic state) it will attract a horde of adherants who will be more interested in following a successful leader than details of ideology. And the reasons for their adhesion will be utterly irrelevant.

However, as al-Qaeda is not associated with any significant pieces of territory which serve as a center of gravity (in the sense that Berlin did for the German fascists or Rome did for the Italian fascists) does deprive the analogy of some of its strength. We are involved in a war of ideologies wherein the motivations of populations is essential unless one is simply planning to 'nuke it from orbit' which has its attractions (and will be the only method worth considering for a nuclear-armed Iran) but is not the only option at this point.

We do need to undercut the ideology of al-Qaeda by supporting those within the Islamic world with an alternate agenda and strategy, because the other option is the Japanese one---wait until it is firmly entrenched across a quarter of the globe and then deal with it in a conventional military manner punctuated by nuclear strikes. Secularists are thin on the ground, as are democrats or liberals of any stripe in the Islamic world. I'm using 'liberals' here in its classical meaning, not the modern partisan political one. I'm a liberal by 18th century standards. Modern liberals are really socialists without the balls to declare their socialism openly. But I digress.

To make matters worse, the democrats are not always secularist liberals. Often they are using "Democracy" in the same sense that the Bolsheviks redefined it. "Democracy" to them means using a referendum to install Sharia and a fanatic version of Sharia at that, and then the abolition of any more voting. One man, one vote, once. On the other hand, there is evidence that the only way to secularize an Islamic society is a dictatorship--which does not mean that the secularization will not come without the price of pogrom and genocide as per the Turkish model.

And neither the dictatorial secularists nor the "democratic" religious loons are what I would consider "liberal". The idea that one should tolerate opposing viewpoints is something that no one seems to be open to. And yet that toleration is at the heart of constructing a functional civil society. I may passionately dislike cMad's theological opinions, but I'd no more kill or imprison him over them than I would chop off my own arm.

Part of that seems to be that the Arab male is generally utterly insecure about his masculinity (perhaps a result of the charming Arabic custom permitting sodomy of persons inferior in status?) and interprets any questioning as an affront, an attack on his honor and manhood and family and tribe and religion. For which he must, as a good Arab male, kill you. And the leading edge of Islamic conquest brought with it Arab cultural attitudes which made this insecurity a deeply ingrained element in many Muslims.

I'm tempted to sterilize the Middle East (barring Israel) and give it to anyone who will develop it into something decent, for which the potential exists.

Today I've got more questions than answers.


Blogger Zero Ponsdorf said...

I'm hesitant to nitpick with the likes of VDH and yourself, but isn't Islamic Imperialism a more accurate label for the threat to the west? Fascism is only a potential threat until borders were crossed. Fascism is a form of government, imperialism is forcing that form of government on people outside the confines of the fascist state.

Said a simpler way... Yes, the Iranians are fascist, and I don't care. Exporting Sharia Law is an act of imperialism, and I care deeply.

otherwise, well said and a hearty YEP!

3:24 PM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

I'm tempted to sterilize the Middle East (barring Israel) and give it to anyone who will develop it into something decent, for which the potential exists.

While I sympathize greatly with your emotion, may I point out how illiberal it is? "Tolerance" means "Tolerance" and by extention, you must tolerate the intolerant. If not, you become one of them.

The concept arises out of the Enlightenment, which is rooted in Judaeo-Christian thought. You must remember that about the first thing a fascist does is eliminate all Judaeo-Christian thought and become intolerant of the tolerant.

And of course, those who have never been exposed to Judaeo-Christian thought have no experience with tolerance either. It is natural to fear the unknown, so such people greatly fear people like us. In fear, they strike out. Hence Bin Laden et al believe that their assaults on the West are defensive in nature. They regard US as their oppressors.

So although the current WOT may involve bullets and bombs at the surface, in reality it is (and always has been) a war for hearts and minds. The only ultimate, final solution is to win them over to our way of thinking. We may have to kill a few of them first, though.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

Crap. I do not have to tolerate the intolerant if their intolerance extends to deprivation of civil rights of those who they do not tolerate.

Killing is the extreme form of deprivation of civil rights.

Hence, if you believe your God tells you to kill folks who disagree with your theology and act in accordance with that belief, you have stepped beyond the bounds which a civilized person is required to tolerate.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

I do not have to tolerate the intolerant if their intolerance extends to deprivation of civil rights of those who they do not tolerate.

Then you are "intolerant".

But lets be real though. I can tolerate people I might have to have killed. I do not wish them death though....even if they wish it upon me.

This reminds me of the story of the Quaker who interrupted a burglary. Holding a 12Gauge shotgun, he said to the thief; "Brother, I would not harm thee for all the world, but you are standing where I am about to shoot".

Thats my attitude. I'd rather win the battle of hearts and minds. Its certainly less messy. But such battles take TIME, and sometimes time is in short supply. It may be a requirement to kill such people before they kill me and my loved ones. In that case, I would not hesitate to do so. But my rationale for doing so is the BEHAVIOR they exhibit, not the words that they say.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

As for the question which label best fits the offending behavior of religious fanatics of the Muslim persuasion, there are several possible approaches.

One can argue at great length about the proper meaning of the terms fascism, imperialism, Islamism, secularism, liberalism, conservativism, younameit.
This is the way to go if you want to be an academic historian. Lengthy debates about nomenclature make for lots of paper produced, and lots of perceived importance and reputation in your academic community. In fact, if there's a phenomenon and you name it, and get everybody to know that you named it, you win the Grand Prize and become an Authority in academia.

Alternatively, there's an approach advocated by Feynman (and, more or less vailed, by Nerdasaaurus): look at the bird and see what it's doing.
For that approach, some kind of checklist what (not whom, for now) you stand (and fight) for, and another one what you stand and fight against, probably help.
Generally, someone who doesn't know what he stands for (as an individual) doesn't feel very secure, and becomes susceptible to manipulation.
The next step from there would be that you find out, on a rather individual basis, whose side you are on. Once you know what to look for, you'll find homines bonae voluntatis (and others), even in not so obvious places, at least not so obvious if you looked at the question from a collective standpoint (i.e., which group, e.g. "Arab male", does an individual belong to).
You're not going to get any simple answers, though. (I don't have them, either.)

Concerning the Nerdasaaurus's arguments:
Tolerance must have limits. These limits must be well-defined and transferable ("Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.", or something like that). Tolerance based on the postulated righteousness of one's own standpoint doesn't cut it...
[quoting the Nerdasaaurus, emphasis is mine:]
The only ultimate, final solution is to win them over to our way of thinking. We may have to kill a few of them first, though.
... Sounds vaguely familiar, that.
In fact, there are people who make a 400-page argument that this is exactly the kind of in-group/out-group enmity [ibid. p.259] that must not be tolerated.
Personally, I find the argument quite convincing, but I'm not quite ready to attribute this kind of intolerable behavior to any kind of religion as an inevitable consequence - the Bishop of Rome does seem to have the ability to agree to disagree, even though he has, and represents, a very dogmatic standpoint. All is not lost yet, even though the Polish guy is dead.

As for the Enlightenment being based on Judeo-Christian tradition: I rather doubt it.
AFAIK, Renaissance men weren't born-again Christians. Quite the contrary.

Finally ...
if you're in the military, the question whether you'd kill or imprison someone who has a different opinion might not be whether you'd rather chop off your arm, but whether the order given to you to do so is lawful.
Ah well ... IIRC you already got an Article 15 for Independent Thought.

4:38 AM  
Anonymous nerdasaaurus said...

The difference between my "final solution" and the "final solution" implemented by your countrymen is the methodology. Their method was genocide. My method is best described as "love". For my method: no bullets, bombs or death camps. My words should say and my life should be lived in such a manner that those that do not have faith as mine should be jealous of it, and want to know how I came to it. Repeat this 6 billion times or so, in every generation for 1000 years, and indeed you have "the Final Solution" and "The Millenial Kingdom".

5:21 PM  

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