A particularly cogent and concise answer to David Horowitz’s “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” as well as the fulminations of other neo-conservatives, such as Frank Gaffney and Norman Podhoretz, partial to the phrase, appears in Wednesday’s edition of the far-right Washington Times in the form of an op-ed by Harlan Ullman, one the Times’ token “realists.” Entitled “A Bad Name and a Worse Idea: ‘Islamo-fascism’ is offensive and flawed,” the article points out the many tactical and strategic downsides to the use of the expression in connection to the “global war on terrror” (GWOT). “It is clear that the neo-conservative advocates of Islamo-fascism wanted to link radical Islam with the Nazis and Hitlerian (though not Italian or Japanese) fascism and of course the image of a latter-0day nuclear or biological holocaust,” writes Ullman, adding that not only is the analogy false, but, “any smart strategy [to deal with the threat posed by radical Islam] must be based …on dividing and conquering rather than lumping all the villains as Islamo-fascists.”
While that point is not original, Ullman notes other disastrous consequences of linking radical Islam under whatever guise to Nazism, including the use of torture (although the U.S. didn’t subject even members of the SS, he points out, to the kind of abusive conduct associated with Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay.
My favorite example of lumping all the villains together is found in Richard Perle’s and David Frum’s 2004 screed, An End to Evil. Although they didn’t use the word “Islamo-Fascism,” the way they wrote about the the Arab world in general (and Iran, of course) offers an excellent illustration of the neo-conservative mindset that Ullman complains about. “Religious extremists and secular militants; Sunnis and Shiites; communists and fascists — in the Middle East, these categories blend into one another. All gush from the same enormous reservoir of combustible rage. And all have the same target: the United States.” It’s that kind of conceptual precision that’s sure to win hearts and minds.