George Bush recently declared that we are at war with "Islamic fascism." Muslim-American groups were quick to express furor at the expression. Middle Eastern autocracies complained that it was provocative and insensitive.
Critics of the term chosen by the president, however, should remember what al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and other extremist Muslim groups have said and done. Like the fascists of the 1930s, the leaders of these groups are authoritarians who brook no dissent in their efforts to impose a comprehensive system of submission upon the unwilling.
There was a good discussion over at LGM a few weeks about the usefulness of the term Islamic fascism (or Islamofascism), and commenter gmack presented one the best treatments of the subject that I've seen:
1) One of the things I dislike about discussions like this is that we inevitably start down the path of providing necessary and/or sufficient conditions for when the term "fascism" is applicable.
2) This is inappropriate in this case because the term "Islamofascism" didn't emerge as part of some systematic or scientific effort to study a given phenomenon. Its meaning, if I may put it this way, is entirely built on rhetorical associations.
3) What are the rhetorical associations? The term links a variety of disparate groups together (Al Qaida, Baathists, Hezbollah, Iran, perhaps even Chavez); it then links them all to the great conflicts of the 1930's and 1940's. This has the added benefit of placing those who use the term into the "Greatest Generation," and it also helps to brand those who raise questions about, say, the Iraq war as akin to Neville Chamberlain.
The use of the term Islamofascism has less to do with accurately identifying the nature of the threat of Islamist extremism than it does with signifying the political and ideological affiliations of the one who is employing the term. That is, it is a shibboleth which identifies members of the Warrior Right to each other, as they appoint themselves the heirs of Churchill and Roosevelt and cast their political opponents as the heirs of Neville Chamberlain (if not of Hitler himself).
We could have fun with Hanson and point out that, according to his definition of fascism ("authoritarians who brook no dissent in their efforts to impose a comprehensive system of submission upon the unwilling"), the Mongols, the Crusaders, and the Spanish Conquistadors were all fascists, but that would be missing his real point, which is to label anyone who doesn't buy into this War of Civilizations crap as soft on terrorism, pro-burka, and unmanly.