One Cheer for Jack Reed

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I assume Kathryn Jean Lopez posted a snippet of Jack Reed and Chuck Schumer's conference call on "Islamofascism" to poke the Democrats in their eyes, to point out how silly they are. That's funny; this is the most perceptive thing I've ever heard Jack Reed say.

You know, I think if one carefully has looked at the history of fascism, which was a political movement in western Europe that actually, in the two principal cases, came to power through democratic elections—at least in Germany it did—I think the analogy is very, very weak.

And what they're looking for is a kind of a connection, a symbolic connection, between the struggle against Nazism and fascism in Italy. And I think, again, it misperceives the nature of the threats we face today.

This is not a nationalistic organization that is trying to seize control of a particular government. It is a religious movement. It is motivated by apocalyptic visions. It is something that is distributed. Most of these terrorist cells seem to be evolving through imitation, rather than being organized.

And again, I think it goes to the point of that their first response is, you know, come up with a catchy slogan, and then they forget to do the hard work of digging into the facts and coming up with a strategy and resources that will counter the actual threats we face.

Of course, the very fact that Democrats are discussing a ridiculous buzzword popularized by the great political philosopher Michael Savage is, in itself, a victory for the pro-war right. I'll be curious to see polling done on the "Islamofascist" and "Islamic fascist" buzzwords. People in the beltway are split 50/50 on whether it's a ridiculous term; are people in the rest of the country, utterly fed up with the slog in Iraq, eating up this talk of an endless crusade against an international gaggle of Hitlers?

UPDATE: The shameless Michael Ledeen comments:

Dingy Harry Reid doesn't know the first thing about fascism, since he says that Hitler came to power by winning an election.  Wrong. The NSDAP did well in an election, but the Conservatives formed the government.Hitler became Chancellor via parliamentary action. His electoral success came later. Ditto for Mussolini. 

It's nice to know that Very Serious Iran Scholar Michael Ledeen throws around Rush Limbaugh nicknames when he discusses American politics. It's also nice to know that he has to misstate his opponents' points to make even a half-baked argument. (I could make something of his conflating "Harry Reid" with "Jack Reed," but I originally did the same thing.)

Reed says that fascism was a "political movement" that "came to power through democratic elections," which it was. Fascists didn't take over by bombing planes or hold Bundestag members hostage. They were just another political fringe group until, starting in 1930, they polled incredibly well in Bundestag and presidential elections. The Nazis came to power by winning votes, building coalitions, and gaming the Weimar constitution until they had sufficient power to supplant it. That comports with Reed's claims, as he never said "Hitler came to power by winning an election." Ledeen, unserious as ever, made that claim.

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  1. I hate the term too. That, and our fetish with “democracy”, as if that has anything to do with liberty and freedom, are my two pet peeves. As to your question about what the country thinks, I doubt they care. In truth, few people care about what’s going on in Iraq at all, let alone the buzzwords we use to describe our opponents.

  2. And again, I think it goes to the point of that their first response is, you know, come up with a catchy slogan, and then they forget to do the hard work of digging into the facts and coming up with a strategy and resources that will counter the actual threats we face.

    That should have been his entire answer. These guys need lessons on cutting to the chase.

  3. If the Bush team comes out against religious fanatics with apocalyptic visions, it would be confirming a powerful argument against itself. So Islamofascism it is.

    Note to Bush: if that doesn’t work, try calling them Frenchorrists.

  4. To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, there are no good targets in bottom-up religious movements that encourage like-minded people to join together and act on their own. There are lots of good targets in national governments (or regional militias) that have few if any connections to the self-starters in the thrall of those religious movements.

    Well, Donny Boy, you go to war with the enemy you’ve got, not the enemy you might want.

  5. I always thought the islamo-fascist terminology was part of a required evolution to calling things what they are…terrorism allows us to focus on the action without calling out the cause…albeit a War on Terrorism is akin to A War on War…islamo-fascism begins to bring the religious causes of terrorism into the vernacular…who knows, eventually we may say what this really is…a war on Islam…insofar as a true Muslim can be defined as beleiving that the Quran is the literal word of Allah, then I don;t see how the ‘terrorists’ are anything other than true beleivers in what Islam has to say (you can look up all the Surah’s yourself).

    And before the usual commenters cry foul, please understand that I am not defining anyone who claims to be a muslim as a terrorist…quite the contrary, I simply think that the administration and others are slowly moving the debate to focus on words that describe what they’ve seen this as all along…which is a war on islam.

    Secular Muslims would, like their secular Christian brethren, have to ingore large portions of their holy book to be able to tolerate the West (infidels).

    Of course I could be wrong.

  6. Well, Donny Boy, you go to war with the enemy you’ve got, not the enemy you might want.

    This reminds me of the Onion article after 9/11, about Bush urging Bin Laden to form a state so we could bomb it. Suggested name was “Osamastan.”

  7. In truth, few people care about what’s going on in Iraq at all, let alone the buzzwords we use to describe our opponents.
    The mid-east nonsense is equivalent to ants or chimps fighting over some patch of dirt – it gets boring after a few minutes, not to mention years and decades.

    If the Bush team comes out against religious fanatics with apocalyptic visions,
    What exactly, and in his own words or writings, are Bush’s apocalyptic visions, if any? I can find a large amount of drivel from people (well, liberals) who claim to be able to read his mind, but nothing else. (I’m not saying that his statements don’t exist.)

    Secular Muslims would, like their secular Christian brethren, have to ingore large portions of their holy book to be able to tolerate the West (infidels).
    Of course I could be wrong.

    You’re exactly correct. The Koran (correct spelling) may be an appropriate comic book for the ignorant, hostile and tribal goat-herders for whom it was written (same goes for the Bible, slightly less so thanks to the post-Jesus revisions/contradictions), but it doesn’t have much application beyond packs of hostile, tribal goat-herders surrounded by other hostile, tribal goat-herders.

    Oh yeah – “Islamofascist” is great term for those who take the Koran seriously. Democracy, Hitler and the imperfect match with the dictionary definition of ‘fascist’ are pretty irrelevant.

  8. As silly as the “islamofascism” tag is, it does serve as a viable, simplified conversational handle for the big and complex concept of people motivated by their religious beliefs to kill ‘unbelievers’, until such time as their religious beliefs are made manifest in government or quasi-governmental ruling bodies, employing a range of characters from out-and-out thugs with a penchant for killing non-brown people, a la Zarqawi, to grandiloquent dreamers who fashion themselves at or near the top of such ruling bodies, a la bin Laden and his confidantes. It took me almost a paragraph just to skim the surface of the issue.

    I look at the tag ‘islamofascism’ as a flawed attempt to label this kind of movement as something a little more precise than “terrorist”, as you don’t have to be muslim to be a terrorist. I hardly think discussing this tag, or any other that comes close, is “a victory for the pro-war right”. There’s a real need for a term like that to denote the threat we’re talking about. Islamofascist probably isn’t it, but I hardly see that as shifting the frame of debate here.

  9. This is not a nationalistic organization that is trying to seize control of a particular government.

    Could have fooled me. AQ effectively seized control of Afghanistan until we booted them out. Hez had effective control of part of Lebanon and, from what I can tell, was very much following in Hitler’s footsteps toward building a base and seizing control of the whole country.

    Not to mention that AQ’s ultimate goal was a single, unifying caliphate spanning the entire region and subsuming its various governments.

    No, nothing fascistic there. I mean, we all know these peaceful Muslim charitable organizations aren’t interested in seizing control of anything, and that that Muslim governments aren’t in the least interested in establishing police states or engaging in adventures beyond their borders.

    Geez. How dumb do they think we are?

  10. “The Koran (correct spelling)”

    Depends on what transliteration system you’re using.

  11. The European Fascists and the Islamic ones have this in common: they murder people. This is their main mode of operation.
    The circumstances of Hitler’s accesion to power are irrelevant, calling his movement a “political” movement is false; it was a murderous movement.

  12. “AQ effectively seized control of Afghanistan until we booted them out.”

    That’s misleading; the Taliban seized control of the government, and invited Al Qaeda to operate in their territory – making Al Qaeda closer to the petroleum industry, working closely with the Republican Party to use the U.S. government to suport their global initiatives.

    The Hezbollah comparison is more appropriate, though. They genuinely do have nationalist, not internationalist, aims, and are working to be the dominant party in Lebanon as an end unto itself. And, of course, to establish the Shiite crescent a regional power and eliminate Israel.

    There’s a difference btween playing in your own sandbox, and trying to take over the world.

  13. “Note to Bush: if that doesn’t work, try calling them Frenchorrists.”

    Wouldn’t that make them terroir-ists?

  14. Arguably, the distinction between the modern Islam-oriented “terrorist” movements and the historical “fascist” movements of the early and mid 20th century is less significant considering that the fascists usually attempted terrorist acts and violent overthrow *before* pursuing “legitimate” means for taking political power. If they should start to exhibit similar “legitimization” tactics to the fascists (arguably, Hezbollah and Hamas have already started this), the distinction would dissipate even further.

    I’m no fan of the “islamofascism” label, but it may be far closer to historically apt than most detractors suggest.

  15. As silly as the “islamofascism” tag is, it does serve as a viable, simplified conversational handle for the big and complex concept of people motivated by their religious beliefs to……….

    Why doesn’t “Islamist” fill the same need?

  16. “Wouldn’t that make them terroir-ists?”

    Those are people violently opposed to California wines.

  17. Self starters who are religious fanatics only? Are you serious? I know there is a subset of the anti war crowd who really wants to believe this, but it is an absurd claim.

    The regime in Iran seriously has nothing to do with anything? The state/client relationship between AQ and the Taliban meant that the state connection could be ignored? The states in question really don’t appear interested in expansion? Come on guys.

  18. If “Islamofascist” doesn’t sound silly enough, how about “Islamo-Nazi”? (Penultimate paragraph.)

  19. Fascists didn’t take over by bombing planes or hold Bundestag members hostage.

    Um to say that the Nazi’s (before and after they came to power) didn’t use vilence and fear as a political tool would be incorrect.

  20. Um to say that the Nazi’s (before and after they came to power) didn’t use vilence and fear as a political tool would be incorrect.

    So it’s a good thing he didn’t say that.

  21. Nor did I make a single one of the statements Jason Ligon seems to have read.

    The hawks’ incapacity to understand the issues would be boring, if it wasn’t doing so much damage to our security and getting our soldiers killed.

  22. Guys, argue with the joe in the thread, not the joe in your head.

  23. Thankfully, the American people have now caught on and the Bush Administration cannot con them anymore with their use of certain words and or actions such as gas prices decreasing until election day…then spiking again after to make more profits for the oil companies. thankfully, we are getting ready to take back our country…FOR ALL AMERICANS..
    Where is Condi Rice? She must have hidden herself in a corner with her tails between her legs after her dismal performance during the mid-east crisis (and it hurts for me to say that as I am a minority member of our society)

  24. “Thankfully, the American people have now caught on and the Bush Administration cannot con them anymore…”

    Don’t bet on it.

  25. NO BLOOD FOR OIL REPUBLICISLAMOFASCISTS WITH CORRUPT TIES TO AFGHANISTAN PIPELINES… YEEAAARRRGHHHHHHHH!

  26. Fascists didn’t take over by bombing planes or hold Bundestag members hostage.

    For years the SA committed a great deal of street violence against Jews and Communists and such, and some theorize that Nazis were behind the burning of the Reichstag, so yes, violence was a big part of what got the Nazis into power. It was a mix of democratic and non-/anti-democratic actions. Certainly it would be false to conclude that the Germany of, say, 1936 is what the majority of Germans had voted for in 1933, so one can’t put all the blame on “democracy.”

    I think rafuzo is close to correct: “Islamofascist” is an imperfect term but better than any alternative I’ve heard. Tim, I don’t think “Islamist” works because (as I understand it) one can be an Islamist without wanting to impose Islamic rule by violence and terror. I could be wrong, though.

  27. I’m late to this, but isn’t the whole critique of the term here that it misleadingly connects states to what are really the actions of “self starters?”

    To call this a religious movement absent political motives is absurd. To imply that the fascist tag is so horribly misleading because this has nothing to do with state aggression is absurd.

    If you aren’t making these claims, I don’t know what you are griping about. If you can’t call expansionist military dictatorships fascist, what is left for the word?

  28. Jason-

    I thought that “self-starters” was a reference to radicals living in Western countries starting their own terrorist cells with little or no help from people overseas, and certainly no direct interaction or funding from states. Such groups do seem to exist.

  29. Pres. Bush and others are using the “Fascist” label in the same way everyone else does – if they don’t like someone, they call them a Fascist.

    They also use the term to make people think that all Arabs and/or Muslims are tied into some sort of “Axis” and therefore, if we fight against Arabs or Muslims in one country, it is part of a larger fight against “Islamofascism.”

    Sure, Islamic extremists share qualities that the Fascists & Nazis had. So do Christian fundamentalists and Bush League war hawks. After all, the Fascists believed in violence to acheive their goals, and in a strong state. Can anyone deny that Bush has used violence to try to achieve his goals in Iraq, or that John Yoo and other administration advisors believe in a strong state?

    Given the use of suicide bombers by Islamic extremists, maybe “Islamo-Shintoism” would be more accurate.

  30. Jack Reed says (as quoted):
    “…and then they forget to do the hard work of digging into the facts and coming up with a strategy and resources that will counter the actual threats we face.”

    And the lefites, applauded by David Wiegel, came up with a “strategy and resources” which in short says: Do nothing, except sabotage anything the current administration is trying to do.

  31. Islamofascists ? No !!!
    “the actual threats we face” is Bush.

    That’s the conclusion the left’s “hard work of digging into the facts” leads to. In this they are perfect fellow travellers to the Islamo-neo-fascists.

  32. Jacob:
    Whether it applies to the lefties or not doesn’t detract from its veracity with respect to the righties.

  33. This comments thread is f–king retarded.

  34. The objections to the term “Islamic fascism” remind me of the objections to the term “gay marriage” — i.e., that because “marriage” has always been heterosexual, you can’t call it “marriage” if it involves two men or two women.

    Sure, Islamic fascism isn’t exactly the same as the Mussolini variety — it is, after all, taking root in a different culture. But it has cross-pollinated quite a bit with European fascism (thanks to German and Italian influence in the middle east during WW2), and shares many traits with fascism.

    Ok, so maybe “Muslim theological totalitarianism” would be more technically accurate. “Homosexual social and legal contracts for lifetime mating” would be more technically accurate, too — but I’m not expecting that term to catch on either. 🙂

  35. If memory serves, the Ba’ath party, which used to run Iraq and currently runs Syria (you know, that counrty which backs such Islamic terrorist groups as Hezbollah) was founded to emulate the Itlalian Fascist and German Nazi movements. The historical connections between today’s islamic terrorist movements and the original fascists is not as nebulous as most people here seem to think.

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