Mar 1, 2005

Matthew Lyons comments on Hamerquist and Goff exchange


Your reply to Goff offered a lot of good food for thought, and left me wanting to hear more. I appreciate the way you discuss the Iraq war, the neocons, and the question of Middle Eastern fascism, but I have questions about all three. Maybe because I haven't seen the earlier exchanges (although I did hunt up and read Goff's original piece), at several points I felt like an important piece of your argument was missing or unclear.

First, why did the United States invade and occupy Iraq? Agreed, the war isn't a "probably inevitable" result of imperialism, and it's not being fought simply to control oil or boost Hallliburton profits. And, as you point out, if the central aim was to demonstrate the invincibility of imperialist military power, many other countries would have made better targets.

So why was Iraq targeted? I don't think you directly say. A quick reading of your essay suggests that the main goal was to strike at the heart of "jihadism" and the Islamist fascist threat to global capital. But that's a big stretch, since the Baathist state was hostile to the Islamic Right.

Iran -- or, better, the Sudan -- would have made much more logical targets for that goal. And the neocons started pushing to overthrow Saddam Hussein years before Al Qaeda & Co. became central targets of the War on Terror, and the connection between them was always contrived. So what am I missing?

Second, I'm unclear on your reading of neocon geopolitical strategy. You say that "all factions of the global ruling class...see salafi jihadism, particularly its takfiri strand, as the current 'main danger.'" But elsewhere you seem to contradict this (or is it just a difference of emphasis?) with the statement "the neocons, more than other ruling class tendencies, believe that the real danger to capitalist hegemony and power cannot be reduced to 'political Islam.'" How exactly would neocons characterize the main danger, in your view? Again, I don't think you directly say.

Also, even though the neocons are generally identified with a unilateralist US foreign policy, you say it's a mistake to identify them with a resurgence of US imperialism. Okay, I'm willing to be persuaded.

So, do you see evidence of support for neocon strategy within the global ruling class anywhere outside the US (and its British adjuncts)?

Your discussion of fascism is, in large part, a good summary of themes from "Fascism & Anti-Fascism." I especially liked the way you presented the point about a three-sided struggle between global capitalism, fascism, and the left. A new theme, I believe, is your short discussion about fascism's social base among the "declassed and the marginalized." Does this represent a shift in your thinking since "Fascism & Anti Fascism"?

If I understand correctly, you argue that the Islamic Right has many fascistic features but isn't full-blown fascism in ideological terms. What exactly is the difference between them? All of the characteristics of fascism you list ("emphasis on hierarchy, order, discipline and sacrifice," anti-universalism, "forceful subordination of majorities to minorities," etc.) would, I think, fit many Islamic rightist movements (among others). So what do you see as the difference? Is it, as some people argue, that fascism is based on some kind of nationalism, which is different from a religiously defined ideology? Or something else? You talk about the potential that "Islamic radicalism might lead to an organized explicitly neo-fascist movement" Given that many (most?) current-day fascist groups don't call themselves fascists, what does "explicitly" neo-fascist" mean?

Lastly, what sources of information about Middle East politics do you find particularly helpful?

Okay, those are the main points. I hope these comments and questions are useful -- feel free to circulate them, or not, as you wish. I look forward to continuing the conversation.


Matthew Lyons