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Neo-conservatives decided that World War III is to be waged against "Islamic-Fascists" or "Islamo-Fascism."
Who is reading from the new script? William Kristol, Bill O'Reilly, Christopher Hitchens, Michelle Mankin, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Nick Cohen, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Daniel Pipes, Glenn Beck, Oliver North even George W. Bush, prompting legitimate complaints from Muslim-Americans.
Middle Eastern powers include pan-Arab socialist dictatorships (Syria), monarchies (Saudi Arabia), constitutional theocracies (Iran), and assorted fundamentalist movements. None are "fascist." For three decades of political scientists, "fascism" is a phenomenon of industrialized societies and exhibits features alien to the Middle East.
1. Economic fascism is based in a merger of big business and big government. Sometimes, a formal corporatism emerges; other times, the private sector (monopolies and oligopolies) simply pass over into the public sector (as in the US), capturing the state and using it to wage that most profitable of activities: war. This later scenario is what happened in the United States, and the incestuous relationship between Big Business and Big Government ushered in a new Gilded Age of cronyism and corruption. Benito Mussolini was clear: "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power."
For the Middle East, the preconditions of mature capitalism (and thus fascism) simply do not exist.
2. Political fascism normally includes, as it did for Italy and Germany, a retreat from already-existing democratic practices an erosion of democracy. The political class begins to express a disdain for human rights and international treaties, lashing out at pillars of civilization like France. Power is increasingly centered on the executive branch, and elections become less transparent, even fraudulent. Civil liberties are restricted, and constitutions are ground under the hobnailed boot.
Political fascism always depicts dissent as treason, and there is an obsession with scapegoats and plots. There are frequent mixed messages about the enemy: the enemy is strong, then weak; the enemy is important; then irrelevant. Today, the Party depicts Hezbollah as having unlimited funds from Iran and, simultaneously, selling pirated DVDs and fake Viagra in your town.
Political fascism is based on militant nationalism, pseudo-populism and an adoration of military power. As Huey Long said, former Governor of Louisiana: "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the American flag." For different reasons, these values tend to resonate among economic elites at the top and the lower middle class at the bottom. In the United States, however, it appears that the lower and working classes are now questioning their leadership or losing themselves in End of Empire entertainment: pan y circo (bread and circus).
In its advanced stages, political fascism depends upon mass surveillance and, more crucially, eternal war. Italy's mad adventures in Ethiopia and Germany's insane and unwinnable two-front war were nursed by the ideology of eternal war.
Middle East powers particularly the movements neo-cons describe as "Islamofascist" are emerging in non-democratic systems. They are also pushing for more, not less, political democracy because the popular classes will catapult them to power and keep them there.
Hamas, for example, won in an election. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood would very much like to go to the polls in more transparent elections. Shia Muslims in Iraq are also keen on voting. Iran's president won an election handily. And when the dust settles in Lebanon, the next sure winner at the ballot box will be Hezbollah, when Lebanese Christians, Sunnis and Druze will surely wait in lines for hours to endorse this radical Shia group. Democracy, it seems, is about to flourish in the Middle East it's just not yielding the puppet regimes hoped for in Washington, London (Airstrip One) or Tel Aviv. Tony Snow claims "they hate democracy." Don't be snowed.