Saturday, June 26, 2010

Perhaps a tendency toward adulation and loathing comes naturally with the weakness for great causes. Politicians and people Hitchens disapproves of are never simply mentioned by name; it is always the “habitual and professional liar Clinton,” “the pious born-again creep Jimmy Carter,” Nixon’s “indescribably loathsome deputy Henry Kissinger,” the “subhuman character” Jorge Videla,2 and so on. What this suggests is that to Hitchens politics is essentially a matter of character. Politicians do bad things, because they are bad men. The idea that good men can do terrible things (even for good reasons), and bad men good things, does not enter into this particular moral universe.

Something to be said after all, maybe, for the American educational system, under which everyone has to study history. I don't think - I don't think - anyone could see the world this way who had been made to look at the effect of the well-intentioned Woodrow Wilson on Europe after the First World War.

Ian Buruma
reviews Hitch-22 at the NYRB

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