In his book Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg defines "fascism" as an economic and political system. There's nothing wrong with that, but it misses a vital truth about Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo, Saddam Hussein, and Ahmadinejad: the political use of sadism to recruit millions of followers in a campaign of pleasurable punishment against a scapegoated person or group. Read about the Japanese rape of Nanking, if you can stand it, and you'll see thousands of literal rapes as well as sadistic torture and killing of Chinese people by Japanese soldiers as a matter of policy and for psychological satisfaction.
In sadistic warfare, it is essential to see the conquered enemy suffer. For sadistic regimes, it is not enough to win a war; it is at least as important to see the pain of the victims. If you open your eyes to this very nasty aspect of human behavior, you'll see it -- not just in news headlines about sexual crimes, but in certain political and media tactics as well.
The worst Nazis were ordered outright to suppress any personal impulse of decency or mercy, and to deliberately act sadistically against the scapegoated enemy -- the Jews most of all, but also Russians, gypsies, and any other victim peoples. Saddam Hussein's regime practiced sadistic torture for pleasure, most obviously by Saddam's two sons, Uday and Qusay. In Iran today, sadistic torture is a standard practice, and Ahmadinejad is said to have started his political career as a torturer for Ayatollah Khomeini. Ahmadinejad's personal "spiritual advisor," Yazdi, is on video explaining how rape and torture of boys and women before their execution is permitted by Islam.
Fascism is not just national socialism as a political ideology. It also involves a mob frenzy in which cruelty is whipped up and celebrated. If you listen to Louis Farrakhan, you can hear that same menacing quality in his voice; just like Chicago's Father Pfleger, who could have stepped right out of the Children's Crusade of 1220.
Sadistic insults and fantasies have also been a big feature of the leftist attack against Sarah Palin and her family, just as it was part of the "high-tech lynch mob" that Clarence Thomas finally cried out against in his Senate hearing for the Supreme Court. In America today, conservatives don't carry out sadistic assaults; the Left does it every day. It is not just a political tactic, but a reflection of who they are as human beings. Sadism is the enjoyment of cruelty against others. It was a prominent feature of Russia under the Czars, of the Ottoman Empire, and in historical figures like the Roman Emperors Caligula and Nero and the Athenian traitor Alcibiades. Sadism was practiced among warrior peoples like the Plains Indians, where rape and torture of captured enemies was taken for granted. It was not enough to kill the enemy; he and his women and children had to be degraded and physically punished for the entertainment of the victors. Indeed, group murder and rape is practiced by chimpanzee bachelor groups on their regular raids against neighboring clans. Chimp groups have been known to hunt small monkeys and tear them apart in a frenzy of group hysteria. Some human beings can fall back into that condition, too. Group sadism is a psychologically primitive act, a throwback to a more primitive state of being, which is why it is so common and why it can be used to mobilize mobs who feel they have nothing to lose.
In civilized societies, armed force is always used with the greatest self-discipline possible. That is a defining feature of civilized societies compared to all the others. Self-discipline in the use of force is not a reflection of cowardice, like so much of the left's vaunted pacifism. Self-discipline is an aspect of courage and civilized purpose.
"With malice towards none, with charity for all." Lincoln's words are worth repeating here. Lincoln commanded a horrific war in which terrible acts were done in the name of the Union. When it was over, he did not celebrate the suffering of the South, nor even the victory of the North. "With malice towards none, with charity for all." That phrase defines civilization.
Without over-praising ourselves, that is in fact how the United States has acted in victory. "Charity toward all" was a major reason for the Marshall Plan to rescue Europe, including Germany, and it was a big reason why Woodrow Wilson was so easily suckered by the French and British after World War I. "With malice towards none" drove MacArthur's decision to keep the Emperor of Japan as the head of state after horrific American losses against the Japanese. It was how America behaved in 1990 when the Soviet Union crumbled of its own inner contradictions. We had no victory parades, no annual celebration to commemorate the defeat of our only nuclear foe in history -- until this month, that is, when Iran started its first nuclear reactor.
With malice towards none: That was how George W. Bush acted in Iraq after the three-week knock-down of Saddam's army. That is why we could not leave Iraq in its own bloody mess when insurgency and civil conflict broke out afterward. We stuck with it, against a vicious sabotage campaign from the entire Left, and we established an elected government.
With charity towards all -- but not with Obama's "kick me" sign on his posterior. The United States has no "kick me" sign on our collective butts, no matter how many apologies our Current Occupant cranks out to medieval tyrants at the U.N.
That is why the whole world knows (even if they won't say it) that the United States is the good cop on the beat, not an imperialistic power. It is also why Europe always runs to hide behind Uncle Sam when the Balkans explode in Serbia or Georgia. It is why fierce enemies in the Middle East need us for peace talks, no matter how fraudulent and hopeless those talks may be.
It is also why the sadistic regimes in the world hate us. We are defined by the nasty regimes who rise against us: North Korea, Iran under the Khomeiniacs, the Sudan, Libya under its mad little dictator.
And here we come back to the link between sadistic cruelty and fascism. Armed warfare can bring out the worst in people, but when the worst behavior is whipped up and encouraged by absolute leaders for sadistic satisfaction, that is as much a defining feature of fascism as one-man rule, concentration camps, genocide, centralized economies, control-freakery, and endless self-glorification.
Today's most threatening version of fascism is Islamist fascism, which visibly shows sadistic pleasure in the verbal and physical abuse of women, Jews, and scapegoated men and boys. Sadistic words and actions are not taboo in militant Islam; they are encouraged and whipped up by imams and national leaders. In Saudi Arabia and Iran under the Khomeini cult, rebels and enemies of the regime are not just punished, but they are openly degraded, raped, and killed for the overt enjoyment of the sadistic regime.
Politics is the endless struggle of civilization against barbarism. Civilization has won many battles, but it has never won a permanent victory. It cannot, not until human nature becomes something very different.
That is why it is so important not to lose the faith and to keep the struggle going. Never give up; never, never, never, never. Churchill had it exactly right.