Cowely on Hitchens

It’s always unwise to make predictions, as any horseracing tipster or macro-economic forecaster must know, but Hitchens was wrong about the Taliban, with whom the western allies are now being forced to negotiate from a position of weakness, and the whole Afghanistan and Iraq misadventures. His general knowledge of the Middle East is superficial, he speaks no Islamic languages and, unlike, say, the politician-writer Rory Stewart or the Indian novelist Pankaj Mishra, he has made no serious, long-lasting attempt to immerse himself in the politics and cultures of this extraordinarily diverse and heterogeneous region, ravaged for so long by civil war and despotism, and destabilised by repeated foreign interventions.

In a long review of Koba the Dread, Hitchens writes that: “History is more of a tragedy than it is a morality tale.” Too often, when discussing the 10 years of war since 9/11, and in his chosen role of defender of “secularism and democracy”, Hitchens seems to have exchanged his tragic sense of history for the rhetoric of the western triumphalist.

The war on error,” Jason Cowley, FT, 23 September, 2011.

This is a terrific appraisal of Christopher Hitchens. It should be noted, as this blogger has done repeatedly, that Hitchens used his column in Vanity Fair to write a noisome cheer piece on the Tunisia of Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali (so much for Hitchens as a freedom struggler). Much of his writing on the Arab region or predominantly Muslim countries consists of impressionistic reports on tourism trips and puerile (though cleverly worded) generalizations. His columns and essays on Arabs and Islam (and things related to them) tend to leave the reader with much to be desired in the way of insight and knowledge. One hopes for a rigorous breakdown of Hitchens’s writings on the Middle East and on Islam/Islamism soon.


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