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“A War to Be Proud Of”

Posted by Richard on August 29, 2005

TKC at The Pubcrawler raved about Christopher Hitchens’ latest, demonstrating with quotes that it starts strong, finishes strong, and:

And there really is no soft spot in the middle.


It is a must read.

Ditto from me. I’ve admired Hitchens’ writing ability for some time, and I’ve praised him before (here, for instance, as one of the voices of sanity on the left). He outdid himself in this Weekly Standard column, both in quality of writing and clarity of content. Pubcrawler provided the marvelous opening and closing paragraphs, so I’ll take a look at the middle. It’s a long and ambitious middle.

Hitchens argued that the "post-Cold War liberal Utopia" — Fukuyama’s "end of history" — didn’t last long. He cited Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, Milosevic’s attempt to destroy Bosnia, Khomeini’s offering a price on Rushdie’s head, and the beginnings of genocide in Rwanda, and he then made a couple of interesting observations about this list (emphasis added):

Milosevic (anticipating Putin, as it now seems to me, and perhaps Beijing also) was riding a mutation of socialist nationalism into national socialism.  It was to be noticed in all cases that the aggressors, whether they were killing Muslims, or exalting Islam, or just killing their neighbors, shared a deep and abiding hatred of the United States.

I’m glad to see a leftist recognize the short distance between "socialist nationalism" and national socialism and notice the omnipresence of anti-Americanism among murderous, genocidal, aggressor regimes and movements throughout the world.

Hitchens contended that, in the decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, almost everyone — and he included himself, as an early opponent of the first Iraq war — was hypocritical and inconsistent on these critical international issues. He noted a few exceptions (emphasis added): 

But there were consistencies, too. French statecraft, for example, was uniformly hostile to any resistance to any aggression, and Paris even sent troops to rescue its filthy clientele in Rwanda. And some on the hard left and the brute right were also opposed to any exercise, for any reason, of American military force.

The only speech by any statesman that can bear reprinting from that low, dishonest decade came from Tony Blair when he spoke in Chicago in 1999. Welcoming the defeat and overthrow of Milosevic after the Kosovo intervention, he warned against any self-satisfaction and drew attention to an inescapable confrontation that was coming with Saddam Hussein. So far from being an American "poodle," as his taunting and ignorant foes like to sneer, Blair had in fact leaned on Clinton over Kosovo and was insisting on the importance of Iraq while George Bush was still an isolationist governor of Texas.

Astonishingly, Hitchens argued that bin Laden "did us all a service" by attacking the U.S. on 9/11:

Had he not made this world-historical mistake, we would have been able to add a Talibanized and nuclear-armed Pakistan to our list of the threats we failed to recognize in time. (This threat still exists, but it is no longer so casually overlooked.)

I get his point, but I’d still like to think we could have recognized the threat without having to watch people jump from hundred-story buildings…

Hitchens then laid out the case for following up Afghanistan with Iraq about as clearly and succinctly as it can be done, and followed up by addressing something that’s bothered a lot of us who agree with his case for Iraq (emphasis added):

However, having debated almost all of the spokespeople for the antiwar faction, both the sane and the deranged, I was recently asked a question that I was temporarily unable to answer. "If what you claim is true," the honest citizen at this meeting politely asked me, "how come the White House hasn’t told us?"

I do in fact know the answer to this question. So deep and bitter is the split within official Washington, most especially between the Defense Department and the CIA, that any claim made by the former has been undermined by leaks from the latter. (The latter being those who maintained, with a combination of dogmatism and cowardice not seen since Lincoln had to fire General McClellan, that Saddam Hussein was both a "secular" actor and–this is the really rich bit–a rational and calculating one.)

There’s no cure for that illusion, but the resulting bureaucratic chaos and unease has cornered the president into his current fallback upon platitude and hollowness.

There’s more — much more:

  • The probable state of Iraq if we hadn’t toppled Saddam.
  • The good fortune of war proponents in having "an astounding number of plain frauds and charlatans" on the other side.
  • The further good luck (and I’d argue that it’s not luck at all) of "a certain fiber displayed by a huge number of anonymous Americans."
  • His frustration with the Bush administration’s inability to effectively defend its policy and its unfortunate reliance on the "provincial and isolationist" appeal to fight "over there" so we won’t have to fight them here.
  • The top ten positive accomplishments that the Bush administration should be touting.

You simply must read this column. Again, wow.

Jim Forsyth’s "The Racism of the Anti War Movement" — which TKC recommended and quoted in the same post — is a much shorter piece, succinctly making the point of its title, and also well worth a look.

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2 Responses to ““A War to Be Proud Of””

  1. TKC said

    One thing about Hitchens is that he makes remarkable arguments. This one one of the best pieces I’ve ever seen from him. He takes what you would not think is likely and proves it to be true.

  2. Anonymous said

    He’s amazingly intelligent for a liberal. He took me aback with “bin Laden did us a favor” — I reject that, but I understand the thinking behind it. That’s someone who’s willing to look at things in unconventional ways.

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