Really, does this guy have any defenders left (I'm thinking of you, Matt)?
My answer is that I simply can't defend Hitchens, at least not for his uncritical and unswerving support for the Bush Gang over the war in Iraq, or for his apparent embrace of neoconservatism. Hitchens has said that he will support whomever he feels is more serious about fighting the war against jihad, and seems, inexplicably, to have taken Bush at his word on this, even though the policies of the Bush Administration have proven disastrous in too many ways to count.
I do defend, however, Hitchens' analysis of the nature of the jihadist threat, and the liberal principles which undergird his belief that this threat must be opposed in the strongest way possible. But, again, I'm simply at a loss to explain why he has thrown in his lot in with some of the least liberal, least democratic people in this government, or how he has convinced himself, against almost all available evidence, that their policies are the appropriate ones.
Many on the left (people who should have known better) rejected Hitchens when he refused to be used as an instrument in the Clinton White House's smearing of Monica Lewinsky. I was rather impressed with his actions, because, you see, I always hated Sidney Blumenthal's haircut. This isn't to say that the GOP's pursuit of Clinton over that affair wasn't despicable and ridiculous, only that Clinton's attempted slandering of a twenty-two year old woman as a means of drawing attention away from his own astounding lack of self-control was also despicable. For the crime of revealing an inconvenient truth, the liberal intelligentsia cast Hitchens out, and, despite his proud self-described contrarianism, I'm sure it stung. The abrupt stoppage of dinner party invitations probably has something to do with why he has been so easily seduced by the neocon Palpatines: it's a thumb in the eye to those who rejected him and, further, like anyone, when it comes right down to it he enjoys access to power, to say nothing of access to think tank buffets and open bars. Okay, that's my two dollar long-distance psychoanalysis.
One more thing. My allusion to Anakin Skywalker is not unintentional, even though it may be somewhat unserious (and entirely geeky). I think Hitchens is easily the best polemicist working today. There is no one who comes close, either in print or in live debate, and this is a big reason why I've been so slow to recognize that he has, in fact, been turned. I just can't get over his mastery of the form. This kind of virtuoso comes along maybe once in a generation, and it breaks my heart that he now puts his virtuosity to work playing only Wagner.