I’m not hitched to this bandwagon

Since I offered this cautious defense of Christopher Hitchens’ overall assessment of Iraq about a month ago, I feel it to be my personal responsibility to mention this article, which lays out some of the really troubling aspects of his philosophy. Being a moral consequentialist, I feel that the effects of an action are more important than who or according to what principle they are committed. Thus, I feel that on a theoretical level Hitchens generally has a stronger position on Iraq than those who are anti-interventionist on principle. In other words, if a country has tyrannical leadership without which it would be inarguably better off (and of course the damage caused by their removal and absense must be considered in this, as well as the nature of their successors), its removal is probably morally justifiable no matter by whom or under what circumstances. I’m not saying that the invasion of Iraq fulfills those criteria, I merely posit that it is according to them that it should be judged, rather than some a priori principle regarding the “law of nations” or national sovereignty.

Now it is distinctly possible that the result of the entire Iraq fiasco will, after considering all of these factors, be considered a net gain for its people and the rest of the world. However, even the most enthusiastic supporters would surely have had grave doubts about this at some point in the last couple of years–if, at least, their concern was principally for the material quality of life of those affected. Which is why Hitchens’ complete lack of doubt seems dubious at best. What the article points out is that he seems to be at least as concerned with eradicating conservative religious values and beliefs as with improving those material conditions of life. Of course, even at that he should logically be hesitant at this point, since one of the few concrete results of the invasion so far is a draft of a constitution which would a establish a government that, unlike the previous one, would not be officially secular. I don’t believe that Hitchens is dogmatic enough to believe that the only measure of a society’s well-being is the relative absence of religion from its institutions, but his vitriolic attacks on Mother Theresa and the pope do suggest a mind which does not fully distinguish morally between powerful people with superstitious beliefs and murderous autocrats.

3 Responses to “I’m not hitched to this bandwagon”

  1. Dave Says:

    When it comes to pure opinion, you should really try to evaluate the thing somewhat divorced from the person’s past words. To denigrate an opinion on the basis of past statements is an all too common ad hominem method of attack. For instance it would not refute one’s opposition to the Iraq War to point out that you hold the same opinion as David Duke. See (http://www.davidduke.com/index.php?p=350 )

    On the other hand I was reviewing some recent history about El Salvador and Nicaragua and the intense opposition to the Reagan Administration’s efforts to keep these countries from becoming little Cubas. He succeeded and these places are no longer in the news. The same people who not only opposed Reagan but actively preferred communist rule in these countries are the loudest opponents of involvement in Iraq and use the same rhetoric. That doesn’t mean that Iraq will not turn out to be a fiasco, but it is sure to do so if the lefties have their way. That’s why I hate ‘em.

  2. shonk Says:

    When it comes to pure opinion, you should really try to evaluate the thing somewhat divorced from the person’s past words. To denigrate an opinion on the basis of past statements is an all too common ad hominem method of attack.

    That’s true, but Curt isn’t evaluating a pure opinion here. He’s already done that and more-or-less agreed with it. Here he’s pointing out that, based on various other things Hitchens has said and continues to say, his “real reason” for supporting the war in Iraq may not be the same as the reason he claims. In other words, his Weekly Standard argument (which, again, Curt generally agreed with) may be more of a post hoc rationalization than an actual explication of his thought process. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, but I think it’s reasonable to raise the issue and, moreover, for Curt to distance himself from the distasteful aspects of Hitchens’ perspective while still acknowledging the strength of the previously-cited argument.

  3. Curt Says:

    And what’s probably more important is not what his motivations may have been in the past but where his thought process will lead him and others who follow him in the future. My impression is that he is motivated not just by humanitarian concern for the Iraqi people but by an ideological commitment to “anti-fascist” politics, and I fear that his a priori opposition to religion and belief in using the U.S. military as an instrument of “world revolution” will probably lead in the long run to policies that are very harmful to everyone concerned even if one accepts his premise that removing the Baathist government of Iraq was a worthwhile endeavor (which, judging by the fallout, is still an open question). So bringing up his past views may seem an ad hominem attack, but I am not aware that he has rescinded the ones that have been mentioned, and since I certainly don’t agree with his expressed belief in Trotskyite world revolution I think it bears keeping in mind those general political ideals when evaluating his views on a particular issue.

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