Lots of debate in the blogosphere recently about President Bush’s use of the term “Islamofascism”, especially since Spencer Ackerman at The Plank argued that the term is harmful because it offends relatively moderate Muslims here in the United States. Drum endorses this view, and today, Mathew Yglesias (subbing for Josh Marshall), makes another pragmatic argument against it. In the comments to Ackerman’s piece, Stephen Schwartz, who originally popularized the phrase in Weekly Standard, gets into a typically blogospheric spitting match with Ackerman.
But even if the description is true, it’s far from clear that it means anything significant as to American foreign policy. If there was any regime with good fascist bona fides, it was Franco’s Spain–which we happily cooperated with for decades, and gave the US air bases. Franco’s party was called the Phalange, and lent its name and its ideology to Lebanese Christians–who were closely allied with Israel during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
The reasons for this, of course, have to do with geopolitics, the relevant power distributions in international politics, and–perhaps most importantly–these regimes’ views of their own self-interest. Using “fascism” in this or any other context doesn’t tell us much about what the United States should do.
I think that as a matter of political theory, there is something to the argument, as radical Islamists share important elements of fascist ideology (notably, an adherence to charismatic leadership, anti-Semitism, romantic reactionary ideology, and most importantly a belief in violence as a value for its own sake), but as a way of thinking about policy, it doesn’t do very much intellectual work. Given that we have a President who doesn’t do very much intellectual work, this should hardly come as a surprise.