Hanson’s latest is filled with a few such outlandish statements that I don’t understand why anyone, neoconservative or not, takes him seriously:
First, Islamic fascism is already the creed of the government of an oil-rich and soon to be nuclear Iran.
Well, no, the creed, so to speak, of the Iranian government is Jafari Shi’ism, which is a religious creed and which is the religious source of the government’s theocratic legislation. There is no meaningful sense in which the label fascist applies to the current Iranian government. That does not mean that they are not committed to using whatever kind of violence will advance their interests or that they are not committed to jihad.
It means that Iranian theocrats committed to jihad are not fascists, just as communists are not, properly speaking, fascists, though they possessed enough similarities with each other to be recognised as sharing many common traits of totalitarianism. Sometimes observers at the time would call fascists brown communists while calling communists red fascists, trying to emphasise that they were two sides of the same coin, but the differences remained clear and stark nonetheless. The incidental or tactical convergence between the two inside Germany in the 1930s or in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was surprising not because the two were diametrically opposed, but because they were competing revolutionary ideologies that despised the other as a competitor can despise his rival for pursuing a similar goal by different means.
The jihadis do not really fit this mould of having similar goals but pursuing them by different means; their vision is of an entirely different kind of order from the one imagined by other totalitarians, and one that is not easily confused with the vision of fascists. We call them fascists at the risk of completely misunderstanding the nature of that vision and fighting the kind of conventional war focused on toppling regimes that we fought in 1941-45. The inclusion of Tehran as one of the centers of “Islamic fascism,” which identifies Iran as an enemy in spite of the fact that it has never had anything to do with the Wahhabi or Salafi jihadism that motivated the 9/11 attackers and Al Qaeda, is a perfect example of how our strategy and definition of the main war are being partly dictated by the stupid formulations of propagandists and fascist-obsessed ideologues.
The entire “Islamic fascism” meme comes from a refusal to make distinctions and a refusal to acknowledge differences between the theocratic government in Tehran, the secular government in Damascus, the Shi’ite militia in Lebanon, the jihadis in Waziristan and the insurgents in Iraq. If Hizbullah is “fascist,” so are the Badr Brigades in Iraq–but, wait, the Badr Brigades are attached to a party in the Iraqi government, which we support. Shall we go after them as well in the great anti-fascist crusade? These various governments and groups are not fighting for the same thing, nor are they on the same “side,” nor do they necessarily have anything to do with each other. If we conjure up some mythical international alliance of “Islamic fascism,” we might very well succeed in forcing all of these disparate, distinct and unconnected forces to join together out of common cause against their common enemy, but what we will surely not achieve is any sort of success in combating any one of the threats that each one may or does pose. This is coming from the same kinds of people who thought that we would win gratitude in the Islamic world by helping Muslims and Islamic terrorists in Yugoslavia (no worries about Bin Laden or Iranian sponsorship of jihad when it involved killing a few Serbs, right, Hanson?), and comes from the same kinds of people who still agitate on behalf of Chechen terrorism. Do they really have any credibility to speak on these questions?
Regardless, this is the same sort of short-sighted, unperceptive, clumsy thinking that classified Nehru as vaguely pro-communist because he wanted to keep India non-aligned, which later resulted in our allying with India’s enemies and forcing India into the arms of the USSR. It is the same thinking that labeled Mossadegh as possibly pro-Soviet because he didn’t want to play ball with British imperialism over Iran’s oil resources and led us to depose Mossadegh and embitter an entire generation of Iranians against the United States thanks to our support for the Shah’s misrule. This in turn prepared the way for the revolution and created the deep hostility between Iran and America that has only gotten worse with time. Brilliant stuff. Let’s just keep replicating that kind of success with more conceptual confusion and failures of strategic thinking!