The killing of Al-Zarqawi is the best news war apologists have had for some time. Probably since Saddam was fished out of the spider hole. Whether his death provides the crucial, or even a crucial element in eliminating the strife and chaos in Iraq and thus paving the way for a stable, Democratic state will obviously be a matter of waiting and seeing.
But while previously dispirited war backers woke up rejoicing this morning, the elimination of Zarqawi is, beyond its unknown implications for Iraq, a mixed bag for those on the right dedicated to pumping up the elusive but omniscient and ubiquitous "global war on terror".
While it gives them something to celebrate, and more importantly, a candlestick with which to beat their imagined enemies, a victory in Iraq or anywhere regarding the war on terror implies that something like a total victory should be in sight, or at the least, can be imaged and desired.
But for the budding pseudo-fascists of the right, the "war on terror", like it's Cold War predecessor, isn't supposed to end. In fact, it would be highly desirable that, for right-wing domestic militants, the war on terror never end. This is because the presence of war, particularly an external one, is critical for allowing the right to wage the war it really is committed to, the war against the domestic and internal enemies of its imagination.
In The Anatomy of Fascism, Robert O. Paxton writes:
Enemies were central to the anxieties that helped inflame the fascist imagination. Fascists saw enemies within the nation as well as outside...internal enemies grew luxuriantly in number and variety in the mental landscape as the ideal of the homogenous national state made difference more suspect.
Liberals, Democrats, immigrants, and ultimately citizens of any stripe that appear insuffiently dedicated to the American pseudo-fascist cause which the domestic war on terror militants hold so dear are the enemy.
But this war on domestic enemies requires at least the appearance of an external enemy capable of inflicting great harm on the homeland or on the nation's international aims as imagined by the war fetishists.
The capture or death of a prominent external enemy, while initially inspirational and for a time a useful rhetorical tool against its enemies, shortly becomes a liability if it is assumed that the military victory "over there" is expected to reduce or eliminate the external war that is essential for the pseudo-fascist's domestic war campaign.
And the external war is needed, not just because an external enemy, no matter how remote, may conceivably represent a physical danger to the homeland, but more importantly because, as Chris Hedges has written, war gives us meaning. And out of that meaning flows the domestic militant's sense of values, namely the defense and promotion of the militantly righteous nation state.
And while both the domestic and external wars are obstensibly conducted for and defended on the basis of an abstract sense of moral absolutism, in reality, the proponents of perpetual war--as the war on terrorism is hoped to be by at least some of its most ardent apologists--share only one primal value, as Paxton notes,
...the success of chosen peoples in a Darwinian struggle for primacy. The community comes before humankind in fascist values, and respecting individual rights or due process gave way to serving the destiny of the Volk or razza.
One need only call to mind the endless stream of threats and demands from right-wing spokesman that the media be inprisoned for reporting government activity, that essentially any form of opposition to the administration constitutes treason (especially in what we are continually told is a "state of war"), that undocumented workers coming across the border from Mexico constitute an invasion, and the morally relativistic defenses of military actions in Haditha (and before that Abu Graib) to recognize the moral blindness adhered to by certain partisans of the "war on terror" and the nation's ruling regime.
Morally relativism and dependence on an ever dangerous and omniscient external enemy are the essential ingredients needed (among others) to feed the modern manifestation of fascism. Consequently, the elimination of external enemies, especially highly prominent ones, however over-stated, may ultimately reduce the power domestic supporters of authoritarianism seek.