Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Opposed To and Living With: Fascism

From September 1969 to January 1970, my family lived near Malaga, Spain. It was beautiful, on clear days we could see the Atlas Mountains and the Rock of Gibraltar. One morning fishermen pulled up a huge net of anchovies on the beach behind our house, it was the best catch they had in quite some time. Our maid cooked some of the fish immediately and they were as delicious as anything you can imagine. I was old enough to buy alcohol, because I could reach the counter with money standing on my tip-toes, and champagne was cheap and wonderful. Spain at the time was also a fascist dictatorship that my radical minister father was actively working with the brutally suppressed opposition to overthrow.

There are varying levels of fascism and varying levels of opposition. Just because a government has elements and practices that do not fully respect the freedoms of the people does not mean that blood has to run in the streets tomorrow. There certainly is a very grave risk that active opposition will cause greater harm and oppression to the people concerned than passive strategies. Arguably the hardest correct thing to do is nothing. If you doubt this, look closely at any number of tragic farces played out in South America over the last forty years. Look at the outright tragedies currently in play in Africa. Sometimes the only humane behavior is to try to do no harm.

There are limits to this inaction for humane reasons. At some points, you have to admit that you have done all that you can with restraint and move forward for humane reasons. At other points you must admit that a fascist regime is more than a danger to itself and is in fact a danger to all around it. It can be argued endlessly before and after when the moment to act came, and no answer will ever be satisfactory to more than a handful. It is always too late to overthrow a standing fascist government and always too early to go to war.

I have the privilege of living in the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth. The United States is a beacon of freedom and accomplishment in a dark and hostile world. There are limits to what we can accomplish. We can put a man on the moon, but we cannot put all men on the moon. Even if we could, snotty teenagers would still complain about the lines. Within those limits we have a capacity to act, and a responsibility to make those actions count. Priorities must be made, although it is reasonable to argue passionately for placement.

No small part of freeing the world is getting people here to have some awareness of the function of their opinions. Explaining to the "Meat is Murder" crowd that genocide is also murder needs to happen. People committed to giving cattle voting rights may not be reached, but certainly the time has come to take the forum from them. It is also time to tell people that stating "By any means necessary…" is exactly the same as giving a fascist salute. Wearing tie-die does not mean you support freedom, wearing a tie does not mean you are a fascist.

In light of the current flood tide of fascist governments, it is incumbent upon us as free people to increase our capacity to act. Ethanol subsidies and wildly out of control civil lawsuits diminish our capacity to free others around the world without providing us with any meaningful benefit. I do not think we absolutely must increase the size of our military, but I do think that we need to improve its quality. We do not need another fifty battalions ready to resist the Soviet hordes. We do need at least another fifty fully trained special operations teams active in the field. We also need a very strong training and operations budget for the people we do have. Being able to act capably and repeatedly is what the money goes to. Having a limited force for threatening people does not do the job of setting people free.

It has always been about freedom, and if we have forgotten that, we must remember it again. Although it is inflammatory to describe the political spectrum as pro-fascist and anti-fascist, the clarification is needed. There are some fascisms we can be opposed to and living with. We do not need to declare war on everyone immediately. We must shift the debate from the trivial to the crucial, and we must become better able to strike when the moment comes.
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