Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Hitchens Hypothesis

Hitchens attempting to clean his conscience. I am predisposed to like Christopher Hitchens. He is a witty and erudite writer. His view's on everything from Orwell to religion are often perfectly in tune with my own (though his ignorance of Nietzsche is unforgivable). It is because of these great correspondences that his advocacy of the war in Iraq is all the more painful and baffling.

However, more than his tortured logic of using violence to stop violence, is his generalization of Pacifists and Pacifism as a whole. Those on the left who opposed and oppose the war are being somehow disingenuous he believes. We are using the word peace as a smokescreen for hidden bigotry. Perhaps he is right, but if true, Mr. Hitchens is privy to information denied to the rest of us.

As a pacifist myself, I know one need not be a Quaker to see the folly in war. I have no qualms regarding self-defense when the need arises. However, War with a capital W, is a military institution, and institutions have their own bigotries and agendas. The Military-industrial complex that Eisenhower (finally) warned us about so long ago has failed to make much of an impression upon the, as always, temperamentally bellicose American people. The concept that the military is just a department in the government and not a full partner does not seem to cross the mind of men and women inculcated since birth with the propaganda of God, Country and Guns. Not necessarily in that order.

We must also forgive Mr. Hitchens blindness due to his other handicap. Coming from a privileged background, and educated in quality private schools in a foreign land, he may be unable to see that it is always the poor who fight the wars and the rich who prosper from the loss. As someone who has studied Marx it is all the more astonishing that this should not smack him in the eye. Perhaps as a recently anointed citizen, like all converts since Saint Augustine, he can find little to fault in his new faith.

In an article published in 2001 on the invasion of Afghanistan, he had the following errors to relate:

"Well, ha ha ha, and yah, boo. It was obvious from the very start that the United States had no alternative but to do what it has done. It was also obvious that defeat was impossible. The Taliban will soon be history. Al-Qaida will take longer. There will be other mutants to fight. But if, as the peaceniks like to moan, more Bin Ladens will spring up to take his place, I can offer this assurance: should that be the case, there are many many more who will also spring up to kill him all over again. And there are more of us and we are both smarter and nicer, as well as surprisingly insistent that our culture demands respect, too."

"Ha ha ha to the pacifists", The Guardian, Wednesday November 14, 2001.

The Taliban appears now resurgent, Bin Laden is apparently alive and well, and as for being smarter and nicer, is it nice to bomb civilians and call them "collateral damage", or smart to believe that violence ever brought an end to violence?

To paraphrase that old saw of Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to stop thinking."


Dave Agnos said...

Interesting insight on Hitchens. I too love the man's work, particularly his bashing of God and Mother Teresa, as well as his high praise of Thomas Jefferson. Still, I was not aware his opinion of Nietzsche has not been a well informed one; that's a shame. I wonder if it has anything to do with the British tradition that has stigmatized an unfair bias against Nietzsche because of what the Nazis did with his ideas.

On that other matter, I hate the war too, but eventually, we have to draw a line somewhere. When you have an enemy that finds the idea of "sitting down for talks" to negotiate some kind of peaceful, pacifistic resolve utterly revolting, what choices are left? We want the enemy to think with a Western perspective, but they don't; they're stuck in the past and don't want to see the future.
I think Hitchen's abrasive bluntness on the war against terror has much to do with his patriotism to Western culture. Saying things like "we are both smarter and nicer" implies that our Western culture has advanced beyond the petty disputes that plague the Middle East. Much like Victor Davis Hanson in his book, Carnage and Culture, Hitchens would just as soon argue that the West will win simply because it is superior (superior as in, our values have proved to be more progressive throughout history than those common in the Middle East).

Regardless, good post!

Lancelot Kirby said...

Whenever I have heard him speak of Nietzsche, it has appeared he is mistaken in his understanding.

Speaking of Nietzsche and war. I believe (naturally) that Nietzsche would agree with me. War is merely the exercise of Nationalist might, and the aristocrat should be above politics. If man must destroy himself that doesn't mean the over-man need concern himself if lesser men's follies


Dave Agnos said...

Well said. Politics should indeed be the play things of the Last Man as the issues addressed in politics concern the herd. Since Hitchens has now become a citizen of the United States, perhaps he is just stretching his newfound American wings? How else does one typically prove their love for a country's ideals besides indulging in a nationalist rapport?

Back to Hitchens on Nietzsche, could you point me in the direction of where I might find such misunderstanding? Are they, perchance, anything as deluded and innane as those found in this blog? I'm really curious, by the way, of what you think of that guy's opinions on Nietzsche.

Lancelot Kirby said...

He may indeed be trying to prove his love of country, but he has a selective way of doing it. On BookTV he said he would not be voting in the next presidential election as he has no favorite among the contenders.

I haven't been able to really look at the blog you suggested, but the most recent sign of Hitchens' ignorance of Nietzsche was during his talk here: http://richarddawkins.net/article,2025,THE-FOUR-HORSEMEN,Discussions-With-Richard-Dawkins-Episode-1-RDFRS

Anonymous said...

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Lancelot Kirby said...

Thanks, I try. Feel free to comment anytime.