Santorum's word choices

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has a gig writing a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His latest column had some interesting choices of words. He said that the words "jihadist or mujahedeen or Islamo-fascist" are all now in the category of forbidden terms. Folks are officially advised not to use these terms anymore. Putting jihadist or mujahedeen into this category strikes me as very peculiar as I don't think either term has ever been considered insulting. In fact, mujahedeen was the term used by Osama bin Laden and his fellow fighters against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. This may be the State Departments' way of saying "Don't glorify our enemies."

"Islamo-fascist" on the other hand, was very clearly a silly term when it was first coined. As Paul Krugman pointed out:

[T]here isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t.

I commented on this a few months back in response to David Horowitz's "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week." I had a commenter make the very earnest argument that because various Arab groups have declared themselves to be fascists, that they were then fascists. Well, 'fraid it's not that simple.

David Neiwert on the blog Orcinus responded to Jonah Goldberg's book "Liberal Fascism" by doing a lengthy series of posts delineating precisely what fascism is and is not. One of the best posts for readers who aren't entirely clear on the concept is largely written by "Woodrowfan," a guest blogger who runs through Goldberg's chapter that calls President Woodrow Wilson a fascist. Woodrowfan examines Wilson's actions against 13 criteria and finds Wilson only took the fascist position four times. More than is proper for a American president, but not a good reason to award him that particular title.

Do Arab Muslims fit the Orcinus definition of fascism? Hardly.

-- the right of the chosen people to dominate others without restraint from any kind of human or divine law, right being decided by the sole criterion of the group's prowess in a Darwinian struggle.

Um, no. Arabs are hardly in a position to win a "Darwinian struggle" against the West. It's precisely the restraints imposed by higher ideals and principles that has been their salvation in struggle after struggle against Israel.

-- the beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group's success

Yes, Arabs have been quite violent towards national and religious opponents, but it doesn't seem to me they glorify it. They feel that wonderful things await martyrs who perish in a glorious cause, but that's hardly the same thing.

- a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions


-- the belief that one's group is a victim, a sentiment which justifies any action, without legal or moral limits, against the group's enemies, both internal and external

No, it seems to me Arab diplomacy was characterized well by Donald Regan:

Asked what he had recommended to the President when no hostages were freed after arms shipments to Iran in February 1986, Mr. Regan said, ''I told him that we'd been snookered again, and how many times do we put up with this rug merchant type of stuff?''

The image of Iranians and Arab Muslims acting as "rug merchants" is utterly inconsistent with the idea of Arabs feeling that they are in a unique crisis sort of situation and with the sentiment that "Ordinary moral strictures don't apply to us because we're victims." A "rug merchant" in Regan's view, is someone who carefully calculates advantage and cost and opportunity and who acts accordingly. A "rug merchant" is a supremely rational actor, unlike how we could expect a fascist to behave.

Nah, the term "Islamo-Fascist" is just silly.

I'm in 100% agreement with the following sentences of Santorum's:

"We are not fighting a war on terror," I said then, "any more than we fought a war on blitzkrieg in World War II."
Blitzkrieg, of course, was a tactic. So is terrorism.

There are designated military specialties, or in the case of the Navy, there are "rates." Neither the Army nor the Marine Corps has a "terrorist" specialty, nor does the Navy have a "terrorist" rate. One cannot be a "Terrorist Second Class" as there's simply no such job description in any military service. However, Santorum goes on to say:

In World War II, we fought against German Nazism, Japanese Imperialism and Italian Fascism - militarist, totalitarian ideologies that governed these societies and motivated believers elsewhere to rally and spread these movements across the globe.

My understanding of history is that states fight for pragmatic, mostly economic reasons. Sure, ideology plays a part, but I don't really see it as actually motivating nations to start wars. Of course, fascism as defined above is not really a rational system, but as we saw, fascism doesn't apply to Muslims in today's world.

This statement puzzles me: "We are at war only with terrorists motivated by Islam who view themselves as true followers, as self-described holy warriors." Obviously, this does not describe anywhere close to all of the people US forces are battling either in Iraq or Afghanistan. Most of those people are fighting strictly because the US has invaded their homeland and with Iraq, because the people of Iraq have suffered horribly with over a million dead, several million displaced and shortages of all sorts of necessities. The declaration that the US is battling jihadists who are fighting as holy warriors is certainly true for a large number of people over there, but I doubt that it describes all that many.

"In speeches I give across the country, I ask basic questions about the ideology and motivation of the enemy. The response? Blank stares." Well yeah, when one describes the enemy as motivated by ideology but when no one really knows what that ideology is, yes, confusion will result. If the Iraq War is simply a colonialist war to obtain Iraq's oil, yes, it will result in blank stares when one tries to paint it as an ideological struggle. Describing the war as something it's not will indeed result in confusion.

No comments: