Thursday, June 30, 2005

I used to really like Christopher Hitchens

Is Christopher Hitchens actually stupid or he is just faking it?

Shortly after September 11th, I became enamored of Hitchens, as he took it as his calling to fight the far left's reflexively anti-American response to the attack itself and the Bush Administration's response. He notably took up this cause through his "Contrarian" column for the Nation, until he quit because, as he memorably put it, "[The Nation] had become an echo chamber for those who were more afraid of John Ashcroft than Osama Bin Laden." An accusation, by the way, with which I agree. And, as that quote shows, when he's good, Hitchens has the ability to cut to a central point concisely, elegantly, and entertainingly. I even cornered the poor guy on an airplane going from D.C. to Boston, blabbering about how much I liked his writing and his public opposition to the Nation's mindlessly anti-war position.

But that was then. The Afghanistan war was a no-brainer, as far as I'm concerned, but Iraq really isn't, even though I did (and mostly still do) support it. But given how many things have gone wrong, even strong supporters of the war would have to look at aspects of how it's been carried out and question the Bush Administration's policies. But for some reason, not Hitchens, and it's been disappointing to see someone that smart debase his intellect by acting as though the discussion now is still as simple as it was immediately after September 11th. His on-going theme is that critics of the Iraq war are exactly the same as the Nation's -- nevermind that Iraq war critics (as opposed to war opponents) now include the likes of Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria and Andrew Sullivan.

Hitchens has picked a single theme for all discussions of the post-September 11th war on terror and he's holding onto it like a dog with a bone. No matter what the issue under discussion -- sufficient troop levels, Abu Ghraib -- he's got his theme and he'll force the facts into it. Unfortunately, he's also smart enough to realize that sometimes that just doesn't work -- explain again how the fight against Islamo-fascism is helped by publicly exposed prisoner torture by US interrogators? -- so he focuses with a laser-like intensity on a particular aspect of the issue which will still support his pre-existing theme. Of course, since most issues have some level of complexity -- for example, using torture is bad, but the US is clearly not the equivalent of the Nazis or Saddam Hussein -- this will work.

His latest work of pedantry? An attack on "anti-war" types (his description) who accuse the Republican architects and supporters of the Iraq war of hypocrisy for not sending their sons to Iraq. Hitchens argues that people don't "send" their sons to war; their children are adults who make these decisions for themselves. Well, yeah, but he's off on a tangent while ignoring the central point. While it's obviously true that parents can't force their children to enlist, parents do work hard to influence what choices their children make after high school. Particularly the upper classes, which is where the Republican politicians who create and support the war primarily reside. How many of their kids ended up at college, do you suppose? How many ended up at prestigious colleges? I'll bet most. Unless he's just impossibly stupid, Hitchens knows darn well that these parents would have used as much influence as possible to make sure their kids ended up at college -- which, by definition, also means they were not urging their kids to serve their country by enlisting. But so what? We've got a volunteer military, so who cares? It only matters because Republicans are constantly grandstanding on the issue of the military, making sure they always praise military service as the highest and greatest good, and then using this exaltation of US soldiers to deflect criticism of their actual record on the war. So it's reasonable to see if their private actions support their self promotion as the party that reveres the military, and one way to figure this out is to see whether they've urged their children to join up. And frankly, for most of them, their private actions don't support their public statements. But Hitchens surely realizes that, right? It just doesn't fit his pre-determined message.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?