Apparently unable to say anything good about Iraq or bad about the sensible people that opposed the war, Chris Hitchens has turned his attention back to Afghanistan, and the War on Drugs. But first, he has to make some sort of perfunctory comparison between Iraq and Afghanistan:
Why should it be that the intervention in Afghanistan has apparently gone so much better than anyone would have predicted, while the intervention in Iraq has proved to be so much more arduous? There are a number of thinkable answers to this question. Afghanistan had already had the experience of theocracy and civil war, to the point where its citizenry was sickened and inured. The Taliban had only been in power for a fairly short time, while the Iraqi Baath Party had had more than three decades in which to debauch the country’s treasury and accustom its citizens to fearful obedience. Most of Afghanistan’s neighbors generally want the Karzai government to succeed, or at least to see some version of stability, while some of Iraq’s neighbors short-sightedly believe that they might benefit from a discrediting of the Allawi government in Baghdad.
Ok, so, first things first. Apparently, Hitch is unaware that anyone predicted the Iraqi operation would be arduous. Just how drunk was he in February and March of 2003? Indeed, if I recall correctly, lots of people were predicting it would be worse than it has turned out, because some actually believed the President when he said that Iraq had WMD. Well, maybe somebody let Hitch in on the secret before the rest of us found out. . .
Second, is it just me, or is the rest of the paragraph self-contradictory? The Afghani people knew brutal oppression, and were eager to throw it off. The Iraqi people knew brutal oppression, and then someStep 2 happens, and they behave differently than the Afghani people. Ok, whatever. I don’t read Hitch for his consistency.
Third, Hitch apparently forgets that Afghanistan and Iraq share an important neighbor, Iran. Maybe Hitch is thinking about Jordan, or Kuwait, or Saudi Arabia, or Syria, but it seems to me that Iran is a pretty substantial part of the equation for both countries. Moreover, I hardly think that Pakistan is an ideal neighbor, since it a) is harboring the most dreadful elements of the former Afghani regime, b) underwrote that regime for most of its lifetime, and c) has a security service with a vested interest in re-establishing that regime. I should give Hitch a bit of a break; perhaps he’s never taken a class on elementary causation, where we discover that a constant cannot explain a variable. . .
Let’s give credit where it’s due. Hitch does have a point, and it’s a reasonable one; the War on Drugs, to the extent that it is destroying Afghani opium production, is contrary to the War on Terror.
Our entire state policy, at home and abroad, is devoted not to stopping a trade that actually grows every year, but rather to ensuring that all its profitable means of production, distribution, and exchange remain the fiefdom of criminal elements. We consciously deny ourselves access to properly refined and labeled products and to the vast revenue that could accrue to the Treasury instead of to the mobsters here and overseas.
More than fair. Kudos are in order, as Hitch has somehow managed to identify something sensible to be contrary about. But it’s the next paragraph that really gets me:
This demented legacy of the Nixon administration will have to be abandoned sooner or later, and I believe that the threatened sacrifice of Afghanistan to the dogma may be the “tipping point.” There are numerous policy planners, prison officials, policemen, elected politicians, and scientific specialists, on the intelligent Right as well as the intelligent Left, who have concluded that decriminalization is an urgent necessity. It’s hard to think of any other single reform that could make more difference in more areas. The idea offers a way out of the current sterile red state/blue state dichotomy. It ought to be the next big thing.
Yeah, let’s fob it all of on Nixon, who apparently remains evil in Hitchens pantheon. It’s so hard to tell these days. . . But identifying Nixon as the culprit means that he doesn’t have to deal with Reagan or his new hero, Dubya, and their fervent support for the same program. Also, note how Hitch suggests that the good guys are the “intelligent right” and the “intelligent left”. Last I heard, the very leftists that Hitch most oftens mocks and denigrates are fairly consistent in their opposition to the War on Drugs. So, I guess that both the “intelligent left” and the “dunderheaded left” are on Hitch’s side. Who knew?
Indeed, it seems to me that the people who most vigorously support the War on the Drugs happen to be the very same people that Hitch has aligned himself with in the War on Terror. Perhaps this is troubling for Chris? Does it make him wonder, maybe, if the War on Terror is just another War on Drugs, always to be fought, never to be won, but sucking up cash, lives, and civil liberties along the way?