In recent weeks, we have been treated to an intellectual discussion on the nature of our enemy that, frankly, is long overdue. More often in his public appearances, President Bush has referred to them as “Islamic fascists”, setting aside at least momentarily the characterization of our conflict as a “war on terror”, a term which I believe has been a mischaracterization from the outset, referring to a tactic, not to the essence of the enemy. So what is a fascist regime? Any objective reading of the usually reliable dictionary sources and popular historical usage reveals common threads of definition—totalitarian, imperialistic, strict ideological control, xenophobic, dictatorial, typically racist, and belligerently nationalistic. Are these traits recognizable in any current movements? Now, for those such as the Saudi government or the Council on American-Islamic Relations who have objected to the connection of the religion of Islam with movements so characterized, let’s add additional context. One of the widely read and still ardently followed founders of modern jihadism was the Egyptian radical and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, whose writings clearly indicate the linkages of radical jihadist Islam with the intellectual roots of fascism as practiced by the Nazis in the 1930’s. Qutb roundly denounced all secular law as blasphemous and considered Sharia law the only legitimate ordering of society. Have we heard any leading moderate or mainstream Muslims denounce the widespread teaching of this ideology or deny its fascistic tendencies? Do we see evidence of any meaningful introspection on these points at all? If so, it hasn’t been very often or very loud.In his book, Salt of the Earth, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) includes some very candid comments about Islam: “……..the interplay of society, politics, and religion has a completely different structure in Islam as a whole…..which simply does not have the separation of the political and the religious sphere which Christianity has had from the beginning. The Koran is a total religious law……….Islam has a total organization of life that is completely different from ours; it embraces simply everything…….One has to have a clear understanding that it is not simply a denomination that can be included in the free realm of a pluralistic society.” Not much room for the Western ideal of liberty of conscience here and, although he doesn’t use the word, it is clear that the term totalitarian fits rather well with the Pope’s description. In this characterization, President Bush has been very clear since the attack of 9/11—“we have seen their kind before”. The first essential of successful warfare is moral clarity, but a close second is to know your enemy and call it by its proper name.
Last month I posed the question—what will it take to convince the West that the war on Islamofascism is World War III and every bit the equivalent of the global conflicts, including the Cold War, that preceded it? Here’s hoping that the recent disruption of the plot to arm as many as ten commercial airlines as WMDs on America can be the tipping point for the skeptics, the appeasers, and those who still have lingering doubts about the nature and intentions of the enemy.