Monday, March 17, 2008

THE HITCHENS DOCTRINE. Slate baits Christopher Hitchens into defending, yet again, the Iraq adventure. Hitchens points to America's history of meddling in Iraq, beginning with "the role played by the CIA in the coup that ultimately brought Saddam Hussein's wing of the Baath Party to power" in 1968, leaving us -- morally I suppose he means -- with only "the option [of] continued collusion with Saddam Hussein or a decision to have done with him." Later he goes much further:
There is, however, one position that nobody can honestly hold but that many people try their best to hold. And that is what I call the Bishop Berkeley theory of Iraq, whereby if a country collapses and succumbs to trauma, and it's not our immediate fault or direct responsibility, then it doesn't count, and we are not involved. Nonetheless, the very thing that most repels people when they contemplate Iraq, which is the chaos and misery and fragmentation (and the deliberate intensification and augmentation of all this by the jihadists), invites the inescapable question: What would post-Saddam Iraq have looked like without a coalition presence?
I Imagine Hitchens is being generous in assuming for the sake of argument that Iraq was "not our immediate fault or direct responsibility", because his premise suggests that it is (though he is much less generous in demanding that opponents of the invasion take responsibility for the mess they were trying to avoid in the first place).

But Hitchens is especially and extraordinarily generous with American blood and treasure. Hitchens' anti-Berkleyite position sets an alarmingly ambitious agenda for a nation that is currently spending billions, if not trillions, on one country it has already blown apart and is attempting to piece back together. America has left her prints on a lot of countries. If things get crucial in Venezuela, maybe our history of involvement there -- from the Olney Interpretation to the 2002 coup -- will make it morally necessary for us to invade to oust Chavez once and for all.

Or we may go back in time and consider how differently America's Southeast Asia adventure would have gone if the Hitchens Doctrine had then been in effect. Maybe we'd still be nation-building in Vietnam, Cambodia, and who knows where else.

Maybe we should just give restitution for slavery and declare ourselves too broke for any further payback, foreign or domestic. Might's well get our national bankruptcy over with in one shot instead of stretching it out over a series of wars.

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