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February 16, 2005



What is the supposed logic of that paragraph? "We are superior because I say we are, therefore we will not lose. Now go watch Everybody Loves Raymond"??



Maybe something just went wrong the day lefties stopped to yell "stop polishing your knob with your power fantasies, you freako" at people polishing their knob at power fantasies?


Why hasn't anyone given Hitchens his own talk show yet? He could pontificate there to his heart's content, with a big pitcher of 'water' by his side, just like Dennis Miller used to. Tonight's guests: Martin Amis, Richard Perle, and Pink! Next week, Joe Namath.


Hitchens may not be the wisest guy in the world, but what is controversial about that post? He's just saying that we have military superiority, if we are willing to use it, we can't be beaten. This, as far as I can tell, is a non sequiter. The implicit part of the post (that we are willing to use it as long as necessary to win), is I suppose, the controversial part. After all, while we nuked a Japanese city, and firebombed German cities, and engaged in pretty horrific wars in the past for as long as it took to win (WWII cost the US over 300,000 dead), it is not clear that we are willing to do the same things today. Perhaps this is what you meant.
In any event, clear it up... Do you call him an asshole because
1) You disagree that we have military superiority
2) You disagree that as long as we use that military superiority, we can win,
3) We are willing to use that military superiority, or
4) some other implicit statement in the quote?



Steve asks for :

some other implicit statement in the quote?

Yes. It's a subliminal for some herbal enhancement spam i received two days ago.

"With our Herbal Enhancement Clinical Viagro(tm), your conquering manhood will develop into something you have to see to--to believe. You'll be in command, in charge, the boss, head man, top dog, big cheese..."

(forgot the rest of the airplane quote)

C'mon. He even ends with some icky "i'm not saying, but it's telling" figure. Blech.

Jeremy Osner

Steve -- the flaw in that argument is "if we are willing to use it, we can't be beaten". Hawks make this statement all the time but I have never seen any evidence offered to support it -- it is offered as a tautology. Does it seem like a tautology to you?

Scott Lemieux

No. No, he could not.


But Hitchens doesn't say that if the insurgency is defeated it will be the fault of the war's opponents at home. He says, "the insurgency will be defeated" -- in other words, "those of you who hope that the insurgency will eventually drive the U.S. out of Iraq are dreaming, and you need to get a grip on reality, because this President means business" -- or something like that. The "conclusions" you are supposed to draw derive from the inevitability of American victory: a successful insurgency "can't happen." I say this in the interests of accuracy, not not to get Hitchens off the hook -- this may be a more offensive and dubious statement than the one Belle thinks he was making.

David Moles

Among the many obvious problems with Hitchens' logic is the idea that all outcomes can be divided into two exclusive categories, "the US defeated" and "the insurgents defeated".


But Hitchens doesn't say that if the insurgency is defeated it will be the fault of the war's opponents at home.

The obvious way to resolve it would be to find the reference for which he was "mocked."

BTW, the Hitchens/Ali debate took place last October.


I can't figure out if this is about Postmodern Literary theory run amok, (the viewer's perception dictates reality) or that Hitchens does not remember the term "Phyrric Victory". It's entirely possible to be victorious on the battlefield and still lose in the long term. No, the US cannot possibly lose the battle in conventional military terms. But it's certainly possiblke to bankrupt yourself "winning". Ah, says Hitchens, but if we refuse to admit the possibility it cannot happen? I must try this with my creditors sometime.

And I seem to remember Hitchens kicking it with Miller a few years ago on one of Miller's talk shows--you might be on to something, Carlos.


I think he just means that the insurgency WILL be beaten, so that supporting/joining it is pointless, and its actions are injuring/killing Iraqis and damaging Iraqi infrastructure for no benefit.

And, anyone who really cares about Iraq's future would grit their teeth and work with the occupiers, even if they hate them, because the occupiers cannot be beaten with military force.

I have to say I kind of agree, since the violence is the main reason/excuse the US gives for occupying Iraq in the first place. Turning peaceful and cooperating, but applying constant, constant diplomatic pressure via the UN, etc., would be much more productive, I think.

Lindsay Beyerstein
Military superiority is something you have to see to--to believe.

But seeing is neither necessary nor sufficient for justified belief (in someone's military superiority or very much else).

Few Americans could have seen that the Vietcong were militarily superior to the American armed forces in the jungles and deltas of Southeast Asia.

Lindsay Beyerstein

I'm not making any claims whatsoever about morality or international law. I'm just saying that, as usual, Hitch's "apercus" are utterly irrelevant.


You called Hitchens an asshole and signed it with your name. Will he now put you on a list and share it?

Timothy Burke

It's a stupid statement because it wallows in ignorance about what constitutes "defeat" and "victory" in war. The unconditional surrender of a highly organized mass military that happens to be meaningfully controlled by and correspondent to the sovereign political authority within a territory is an unusual victory condition in war. It doesn't happen that often, if you think about warfare in a broadly comparative and historical vein. Not only does it not happen that often because those kinds of wars are unusual, but also because that's not often the political objective that spurs a national or political leadership to mobilize its military power.

What is "victory" in Iraq? What has the United States declared to be its war aims? Nothing less than the creation of a stable, liberal democracy which will also be an ally to the United States and a regional bulwark for the spread of democratic rights and norms. Those are war aims which by their very nature cannot be secured purely or merely through force of arms. There is no smart bomb which can create a cultural of freedom once dropped, no tank in our arsenals that shoots constitutionalisms out its barrel.

We've already had the experimental test of the proposition that all you need to do is defeat a tyrant with military arms, that democracy grows automatically once autocracy is destroyed. That's the original neocon plan: topple Hussein and enjoy the parades as a grateful and democratically endowed people throw flowers at you. So on to Plan B: democracy is hard, and is not a function of military superiority alone.

Jesus Christ on a stick, even Robert Kaplan knows that the job takes something more than tanks and bombs and soldiers and guns. Hitchens is really moving into territory far beyond contortionism and double-standards: the question now becomes strictly whether he's conscious of the hideous, farcical corner he's backed himself into or whether this is like the desperate, instinctive battle of an animal with its leg in a trap to gnaw itself free. Anybody who was a real thinker would long ago have tried with some humility to work his way out of the dilemma by conceding what must be conceded and trying to preserve the core of his original argument.

Abiola Lapite
Few Americans could have seen that the Vietcong were militarily superior to the American armed forces in the jungles and deltas of Southeast Asia.

They weren't. They were politically superior, but militarily? Not a chance.


The version of Hitchens on this side of the water runs something like:

We cannot LOSE as long as we BELIEVE (in the justice of the war, in St. George W. Bush, in vengeance for the WTC)

therefore those who do not BELIEVE are TRAITORS.

Sorry for the caps, but it is my impression that those who think in this way, think in all caps, all the time.


"think in all caps, all the time"

This is typographical superiority and it cannot be defeated.


Ah, the Hitchens theory of war -- Bertie Wooster does Clausewitz! One of the funniest moments in the non-funny presidential campaign was some media event at which Hitchens and I think it was Andrew Sullivan analyzed the Kerry in Vietnam controversy. Hitchens reached back to his Dad's experience -- his father was, apparently, a naval officer --and actually had the audacity to use it as if it somehow legitimated C.H. himself talking like an old salt. Wow, fatuousness of that caliber has to be preserved. It is awesome. Long live the Big Hitch!


Hitchens is a rudderless ship. One day he'll write that he's proud of allying himself to stalinists in order to advance the fight against apartheid. Then he'll condemn Mother Teresa for fighting poverty by accepting alms from a dictator. He'll boast about his stance against Vietnam (and against Kissinger) then he'll boast about his stance for the invasion of Iraq.

He was right about Vietnam for all of the wrong reasons (Soviet communism WAS a scourge on the world, moron!) and he's wrong about Iraq for all the right reasons (Islamofascists are a scourge, too, but what does that have to do with wasting billions of dollars and thousands of lives in Iraq?).

In other words, he's now grown up, and finally, after a lifetime of thought and maturation, he's become Robert McNamara.

It's all madness and no method--or, rather, the method is found in this: Christopher Hitchens is a GREAT HERO. He's more noble than Mother Teresa, more cunning than Kissinger, more jewish than Mel Gibson (what kind of person has to "come out" about being Jewish? A David Irving fan?). If only they'd had a leader of his stature in Britain during WWII--instead of poor old winnie--the whole thing might have come out differently.

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