Monday, June 26, 2006

Snark On


In the weeks and months after September 11, the nation was afraid. And confused. We faced a new enemy, an apparently brutal and skillful one, that we little understood. A grateful nation's eyes turned to Christopher Hitchens, whose neologism "Islamofascism" established a key precedent for the age: in this new era one would not be expected to know what one was talking about in order to have strongly held opinions as to what needed to be done.
As Ron Rosenbaum explained in a classic January 2002 New York Observer article, Hitchens was, along with Andrew Sullivan, a George Orwell for our times. Coining the term "Islamofascism" was a "brilliant stroke . . . devastatingly effective in describing who the terrorists, the al-Qaeda/Taliban nexus, really are." Yes, yes. Paul Berman did us the further favor, in his book Terror and Liberalism, of revealing that, despite appearances, not only were Islamic jihadists the same as Nazis, but both were also the same as secular nationalist Baathists. For that matter, despite decades of superficial rivalry, Syrian Baathism was the same as Iraqi Baathism. And, of course, as Hannah Arendt taught us long ago, if something is the same as fascism (as many things are these days) then it's also the same as Communism.
This was all very enlightening, needless to say. But the threats of the past are now obsolete -- since the liberation of Iraq, neither Islamofascism nor Baathofascism nor even Naziofascism need trouble us much.