Bayou Calvinist

A Somewhat Eclectic Discussion by a Law Student Concerning All of Today's Major Topics, as well as, a Few Not So Major Topics

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Origins of Islamofascism

I have been reading Hannah Arendt's famous book The Origins of Totalitarianism. In it she makes many compelling arguments on the subject of what leads seemingly sane people to back totalitarian leaders such as Stalin and Hitler. Among these arguments were her insights into the affects of promises of stability and certainty, as well as, the power of the movement's momentum in increasing the support of the masses.

In today's NRO Michael Leeden expresses his thoughts on how in-line with these essential understandings (though his source of these understandings is Erich Fromm, not Arendt) of totalitarianism the Islamofascist movements of today seem to be.

Concerning the search for certainty in an uncertain world, which leads many to adopt totalitarian sympathies, Leeden states:

It's not easy for modern intellectuals to accept the true nature of the Islamofascists, because of the long-discredited but still popular theory that revolutions are a good thing, and are invariably a righteous eruption against social and economic misery inflicted by greedy oppressive governments. In that view, revolutions are signs of progress, another step along the road to modernity.
But, especially in the 20th century, many important revolutions were reactionary outbursts against modernity, a desperate attempt to restore an earlier (and often imaginary) style of politics in which the state, or the leader, made most of the fundamental decisions, thereby sparing the citizens the many agonizing choices that afflict modern man. One of the greatest thinkers to grapple with these issues was Erich Fromm, who explained in Escape from Freedom that totalitarian mass movements helped modern man escape from the burdens of freedom, and then later argued that such mass movements fulfilled a collective death wish, what he called a sort of epidemic of political necrophilia. Fromm is an invaluable guide to much of what is going on in the Middle East today.

On the importance of seeming inevitability and momentum for a totalitarian movement's hold on power he writes:

Revolutionary regimes have fallen both because their own people turned against them, and because they were defeated on the battlefield. In each case, the revolutionary ideology was discredited. We humiliated the fascist revolution in the Second World War, and fascism was drained of its mass appeal. We do not know how European fascism would have ended (or indeed if it would have ended) if the Axis had won the war, but I have suggested that China today constitutes the first case of a mature fascist regime, one in which the ideology is now bloodless, but whose regime remains very nasty, corrupt, and potentially aggressive. Communism had lost much of its appeal in other Warsaw Pact countries even before we defeated the Soviet Empire. Years before the wall was breached, very few people wanted their country to become a new Bulgaria, and Pope John Paul II once wryly forecast that the last communist on earth would be a North American nun.
Islamofascism seems to me to be on the same track to the losers' circle. The Iranian people loathe it, and would gladly trade it for the Westminster model or their own fine 1906 Constitution. Most Iraqis, even though they are still voting along 'religious' lines, have shown little affection for a new caliphate or Islamic republic. No sooner had they voted for the religious blocs than they sat down and renegotiated the division of power. It's not textbook post-electoral politics, but it bespeaks a distinctly non-fanatical approach to government. Several recent polls show that al Qaeda's popularity ratings are careening downward, while our own are rising. I think these positive symptoms are the result of four main factors: the failure of the terrorists to drive us out of the Middle East, the recognition by most people that the terrorists, from al Qaeda to Hezbollah (that is, from Sunni to Shiite), are evil and must be defeated, and the near-universal conviction that the Islamic Republic of Iran is not the sort of place where one should want to live. That mullahcracy is the closest thing on earth to the much-ballyhooed "caliphate" so dear to the mouths of the jihadis, and while some alienated middle-class Muslims might dream of its wonders, most think it stinks. As it truly does.

I share the view with Leeden that Islamofascism suffers from the same weaknesses as totalitarian movements of the past, but I am a little less certain as to whether these movements are destined to fail. My doubts are not because I question that those living in the middle east are slowly coming to notice the disconnect between the fake reality that their leaders are painting and the massive failure of the terrorists to push out coalition forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, nor because I doubt that this recognition is slowly leading to a lessening of Islamofascism's potential appeal. Instead, I doubt the ability of most in western society to perceive these changes. With the constant chant of just the opposite being pushed down their throats by politicians and the media, I fear that our will may be sapped and from this loss will arise a withdrawal from the fight. With our withdrawal, the lying prophesies of the Islamofascists will appear to have come true and their despicable movements will gain yet more support as their eventual success becomes seen as both inevitable and the only provider of secure stability.


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