by Benjamin Rhodes | September 14th, 2006 | |Subscribe

9/11 has brought with it some new terminology, most notably “war on terror” which has taken a tendency to make war on nouns (prominently, “poverty” and “drugs”), and shifted it to making war on a tactic. Now we have “Islamofascist” – too young to have a dictionary definition, but prominent enough to merit mention by the President (and a wikipedia definition).

Islamofascism represents a bunch of things, including linking the fight against terrorism to the fight against Hitler. The Hitler thing is a little strange, but pretty clearly represents a desire to recall the victory of WWII and to cast those who disagree with tactics in the war on terror as appeasers. Beyond their both being violent and hating Jews, I’m at a bit of a loss on equating a stateless terrorist network to the Third Reich, particularly since there cannot be any clear “victory” – any occupation of Berlin or Japanese surrender – against people who have no capitol or sign no surrender agreements. But that’s a topic for another day…

The more dangerous part, I think, is conflating groups with different aims. What do the Iranian government, Hizbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, and Islanmist movements from Indonesia to Kashmir to Chechnya to London have in common? A lot less than we’re making them out to have in common if we slap a big old “Islamofascist” label on them. They may all be bad, but you don’t approach a nationalist or separatist movement in the same way that you approach an apocalyptic jihadist movement (and certainly not a government). And the argument doesn’t even hold that they are all adherents to the same ideology of radical Islam – one need only look at Iraq to know that Iran’s ayatollahs don’t march in lockstep with Sunni terrorists.

Much more could be said about this, but the bottom line is conflation hasn’t served us that well. Whether it was “al Qaeda and Iraq” or the “axis of evil” – what made for simplifying, rousing, and self-congratulatory rhetoric has translated awkwardly into policy. And this is not just a habit of this Administration or this conflict. You could go back a little farther and find that conflating a Vietnamese nationalist movement with Soviet imperialism was a stretch as well.  


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1 Comment »

  1. » “Islamofascists” wrote,

    [...] Over at the excellent PSA Blog, Benjamin Rhodes makes a case against the Bush administration’s latest name-trend, “Islamofascism,” which has, granted been circulating for some time.  But the GOP fall strategy is ramping up use of this term for political reasons that are rather obvious.  Also obvious is the attempt to connnect the “Global War on Terror” to the WWII struggle against Hitler and fascism.  While fascism and many Islamist groups may have a totalitarian mindset in common — and while many Islamist groups are either implicitly or tangentially responsible for terrorist acts — “Islamofacism” isn’t really gonna get anybody anywhere. [...]

    Pingback on September 20, 2006 @ 7:22 am

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