Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Our Man Hitchens Unplugged

David Horowitz' Frong Page Magazine had an interview with the man on Iraq and the Left and it makes for some very interesting reading. Read the whole thing. But here are a few snapshots.

On convincing his former comrades:
"Most of the leftists I know are hoping openly or secretly to leverage difficulty in Iraq in order to defeat George Bush. For innumerable reasons, including the one I cited earlier, I think that this is a tactic and a mentality utterly damned by any standard of history or morality. What I mainly do is try to rub that in.

As I’ve told you before, there are some former comrades who take a decent position but they all half-understand that it’s now an anomalous one in terms of the “Left” as a whole. Some pessimistic liberals who don’t wish to sabotage the effort still describe the war against jihadism and dictatorship as “unwinnable”.

My short reply is that it is un-loseable. We still haven’t captured Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic, who are hiding somewhere in Europe ten years after murdering over 10,000 Muslims in one day. But their protector regime is gone and one day they will be caught or killed. Osama bin Laden is dead in my opinion, and probably has been dead for more than a year. Saddam Hussein is alive, but not where he planned to be.

The Taliban and the Ba’ath and the Serbian Socialist Party will not regain power, however much violence they muster. These are facts. The combat as a whole will never be “over”, because it is part of a permanent struggle between reason and unreason, among other things. But to assert that rather minimal point is also to assert that the enemy cannot win. Given the proven nature of that enemy, I hope I need not say any more about what I think of its subconscious sympathizers, let alone its overt ones."

On being called a neo-con:
"[T]here is a sort of buried compliment here that I find I am willing to accept. The neo-cons, or some of them, decided that they would back Clinton when he belatedly decided for Bosnia and Kosovo against Milosevic, and this even though they loathed Clinton, because the battle against religious and ethnic dictatorship in the Balkans took precedence. This, by the way, was partly a battle to save Muslims from Catholic and Christian Orthodox killers. That impressed me. The neo-cons also took the view, quite early on, that coexistence with Saddam Hussein was impossible as well as undesirable. They were dead right about that. They had furthermore been thinking about the menace of jihadism when most people were half-asleep.

And then I have to say that I was rather struck by the way that the Weekly Standard and its associated voices took the decision to get rid of Trent Lott earlier this year, thus removing an embarrassment as well as a disgrace from the political scene. And their arguments were on points of principle, not “perception.” I liked their ruthlessness here, and their seriousness, at a time when much of the liberal Left is not even seriously wrong, but frivolously wrong, and babbles without any sense of responsibility. (I mean, have you read their sub-Brechtian stuff on Halliburton....?) And revolution from above, in some states and cases, is - as I wrote in my book A Long Short War - often preferable to the status quo, or to no revolution at all.

The matter on which I judge people is their willingness, or ability, to handle contradiction..."

On our ability to win this war on terror:
"Since I do still find that I use the method of historical materialism (not yet surpassed by any rival) I think it’s worth stating some unarguable propositions. First - all jihads have always failed. The last serious one, which was the declaration of a holy war by the Ottoman Empire in 1914, ended by the loss of that empire as well as the loss of the war, and was a defeat and erasure so complete that many people who hear Osama bin Laden’s call for the restoration of the Caliphate don’t even know what he’s screeching about. Lesser jihads tend to consume themselves in quarrels over spoils or doctrines: an irrational view of the world will tell against you in the end, as is shown by the crazy and self-destructive tactics now being pursued by Islamists in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey and elsewhere. They wish to be martyrs - we should be willing to help.

Second - dictatorship is a very unstable and uncertain (and highly vulnerable) method of rule. Third, no combination of dictatorship and clericalism can possibly stand against the determined power of the United States. In other words, the eventual result is certain victory, military and political, however long the task may take. It can be useful to bear this in mind. The job of citizens is to make sure that this American power really is self-determined, and not left either to professionals or to amateurs. We are not watching for the outcome of this war: we are participants in it and had better comport ourselves as such."

And on being asked by the interviewer only about the left's shortcomings:
"Concerning Iraq, I have to remind you that those of us who took the regime-change position (I invited the readers of my Nation column to support the Iraqi National Congress and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan several years ago) were confronted first by the arguments of Bush Senior - who wrote openly that it was better and safer to leave Saddam in power in 1991 - and of Bush Junior, who ran against Gore on the question of “nation building”. We also had to fight against the CIA, as we indeed still do, and against the Buchanan-type forces grouped around the magazine The American Conservative. Finally, we faced the conservative Arabists of the State Department and at least half of the staff of Kissinger Associates. So don’t be so goddam cocky about who was, or was not “pro-American”. Having changed my own mind after the end of the first “Gulf War”, I had at least as many arguments to conduct with Washington’s right wing as I did with the soft or the dogmatic left, and would not wish this any other way.

I liked that last point and he is right. I do not think Bush would be the president he is but for 9-11. Somehow, he shed his isolationist instincts and we are better for it.

The interview is in two parts apparently,...the next is on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict! Yikes...I have no doubt the Hitch will make my head steam with some of his thoughts on that topic. Nonetheless, when I do agree with him, I agree with him fully and when it comes to this war and the US's place and role in the world, Our Man Hitchens is right on target.

By the way, one of the most interesting interviews I ever read with Hitchens is found here. I recommend this one.


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