Friday, October 05, 2007

War and the Intellectuals (Round 437)

Hitchens' newest piece for Vanity Fair is pretty intense stuff, no doubt a product of his honest attempt to memorialize someone.

There's a lot going on this essay, and yet, there's a lot not going on, too. After a rather astonishing outset that draws the connection between him and his subject -- his subject went to war in Iraq partly inspired by the pro-war writing of Hitchens, and was killed there -- he is remarkably silent in the rest of the piece on the most essay's most pressing issue: the influence of intellectuals on human fate. Note Hitchens' list of possible causes for Daily's death, and note what is missing:
So, was Mark Daily killed by the Ba'thist and bin Ladenist riffraff who place bombs where they will do the most harm? Or by the Rumsfeld doctrine, which sent American soldiers to Iraq in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment? Or by the Bush administration, which thought Iraq would be easily pacified? Or by the previous Bush administration, which left Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 and fatally postponed the time of reckoning?
No mention of intellectuals like Hitchens. No mention of ideology. Having so vociferously fought the "domestic war" -- as Podhoretz and others like to call the battle of ideas between the two sides on the Iraq War -- for so long, and trumped up its importance to the spread of freedom, it is now nowhere to be seen. The human tragedy is all there, the intellectual one totally absent.

What amazes me is that after spending so much on Orwell, Hitchens just isn't asking the right kinds of questions of his idol. Whether or not the Spanish Civil War was the "just war" or not, to support it in retrospect is to undermine the very things Orwell said about the war: that its justness was demonstrably overwhelmed by its injustice. Not the injustice of "goons and thugs," as Hitchens puts it, but much larger things like nation-states, and armies, and technology, and the business sector, and ideologies.

To support the Spanish Civil War in the present, in the form of Iraq, is to have committed an equally astonishing error in judgment: even an army of George Orwells or Mark Dailys doesn't change the fact that wars are not fought by individuals but, to reiterate, by nation-states, and armies, and technology, and the business sector, and ideologies that dismiss these kinds of factors. The ideologies forwarded by people like Christopher Hitchens.


Blogger CW said...

Hitchens will never apologize for his egotistical warmongering. The purpose of the piece was to shroud himself in teary-eyed sentiment. One wonders how many similar tributes their are to dead young Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi women, Iraqi old men, and Irai infants.

6:52 PM  

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