A Friend And A War, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 19 2011 @ 10:40am

TNC compares Hitchens on the Iraq war to Thomas Jefferson on slavery:

Virtues don't excuse sins; they cohabit with them. Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder. Perhaps worse he was a slaveholder who comprehended, more than any other, the moral failing of slavery, and its potential to bring the country to war, and yet at the end of his life he argued for slavery's expansion, and on his death many of his slaves were sent to the auction block. 

At his end, Jefferson sided with those who would eventually bring about the deaths of 600,000 Americans. He argued that the antebellum South would have either "justice" versus "self-preservation." To paraphrase Churchill, it chose the latter and consequently got neither. But Jefferson was a beautiful writer, and a great intellect, whose thinking and prose I consistently find stunning. This admiration does not negate his moral cowardice. Both are true at the same time.

Matt Steinglass makes related points: 

Mr Hitchens's support for the invasion of Iraq largely ruined his writing for me, for most of the last decade. He was viewing things in the Mideast through the lens of these rigid political categories derived from European political conflicts of the 1920s-70s, and he couldn't seem to see how ill-fitting the conclusions often were. He'd then pursue the line of attack in maximalist language, making it even more awkward. I thought his columns made for tedious reading. I also thought they positively obscured what was going on. Even after many of those who had supported the invasion had given up on it, Mr Hitchens refused to admit any error. In a March 2007 column that will most likely not be on anyone's list of favourites, he constructs a tortuous labyrinth of questions which allow him to present the illusion that not only was the decision to invade correct on the basis of what we knew in 2003, but that even in retrospect, the world would not be any better off had the invasion never taken place. Nowhere in this weird syllogism do the words "casualties", "torture", or "dollars" appear.

My take here.