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The Christopher Hitchens Factor

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It’s no fun having a blog if you can’t make wild, unscientific predictions. I say John Kerry will win the Presidential election on Tuesday. Things being as they are, we may not know for months (or ever) if I’m right or wrong, but there it is. Readers can check back later to see how smart or stupid I am.

I haven’t based my prediction on any polling. I have ignored the polls as much as possible. It’s close. That’s all the polls say. No, I’m basing my election call on what I’m calling the Christoher Hitchens factor.

My reading is that Hitchens is tentatively trying to reestablish his Left-wing credentials. If you read between the lines of his articles, he is looking a bit wobbly. He’s declared himself a Kerry supporter (barely) in an Oct. 26 survey of Slate contributors. He’s also said some critical things about Bush in an Oct. 2 article for the Mirror. I predict that Hitchens is about to jump back across the political divide and that a lot of other “liberal hawks” are ready to do so too.

The strange political journey of Christopher Hitchens from Left to Right (and possibly back again) mirrors the confusion that has stuck the entire Left since September 11, 2001. The barbarity of that event temporarily stunned the Left into silence. I would say there was a dim understanding that abject moral relativism and a lack of confidence in liberal democracy was not going to be sufficient. The Left split into three camps. The first is what could be called the Sept. 10 camp, the flat-earthers. This group carries on as if Sept. 11 never happened. The second is the Michael Moore camp, the “peace in our time” crowd. This group was radicalized by Sept. 11, and blames American foreign policy for the attack, sometimes even to the point of wanting to appease terrorists. The last camp is the liberal hawks, of which Christopher Hitchens is the chief exponent, at least in terms of punditry.

I think that people in this last group quickly decided that democracy, human rights, free speech, and all the rest of it are, in fact, things worth believing in and defending. But looking around for allies, the only people they saw willing to act were the neocons. The neocons shared their belief that democracy could, should, and would spread. “Viral democracy” is the term you sometimes hear. The Christoher Hitchens’s of the world suddenly found themselves repudiating Michael Moore and talking up the finer points of Karl Rove.

I’m going to get off the fence, here, and admit I thought the Iraqis would meet the American soldiers with flowers in their hair and then show them where all the nuclear weapons were hidden. The Iraqi people, overjoyed with freedom, would then elect a government of moderates, embark on a modernatization program that would make then the Japan of the Middle East, and democracy would sweep the region like it swept Eastern Europe in 1989.

I was wrong.

I don’t know how bad things are in Iraq because I’m not there, and I’m sure they aren’t as bad as some critics say, but nevertheless, nothing I read about Iraq convinces me that this was the way the Administration wanted it to happen or expected it to happen. The situation, while far from hopeless, is not going to conclude in a neat and tidy liberal democracy anytime soon. In fact, democracy in Iraq may fail altogether. Meanwhile, who’s keeping an eye on the Taiwan Straights, the Korean DMZ, or Iran’s nuclear program. Not this Administration.

Because of this, I predict the liberal hawks will break their alliance of convenience with the neocons. Because it is unlikely that undecided voters are neocons and much more likely that they are tortured liberals, I also predict that the undecided voters will break in favour of Kerry.

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  • RJ

    Liberal Hawks will likely remain in Bush’s camp, IMO. And turnout will decide this election, again IMO.

  • Shark

    Three groups of “liberals” after 9/11?

    Terrorist appeasers?
    Liberal hawks?

    Hey man, Halloween’s over! Put away that straw man!

    um, there is a fourth group, btw:

    people who thought invading Afghanistan was a good idea — and thought Iraq was a bad idea that drained money, lives, and resources from the fight against terrorists — and that Iraq would become a deadly quagmire from which we’ll never emerge ‘victorious’.

    And guess what:


  • There’s a fifth group; those who were initially prepared to give the supporters of the Iraq invasion the benefit of the doubt, but now recognise that the corrupt and incompetant administration has completely screwed it up, possibly beyond recovery.