Monday, October 09, 2006

You can take the boy out of The Nation 
...But you can't take The Nation out of the boy.

Christopher Hitchens, a longtime 'man of the Left' cum neo-con savages Henry Kissinger - and refers to Paul Bremer as his "unindicted co-conspirator."

Screedy goodness from a true master of the art form.

Of course, Woodward's book has handed a free gift to those who cannot engage their minds on any foreign-policy question without using the word "Vietnam." I have written all that I can on the ahistorical falsity of this analogy, but if Kissinger really does have anything to do with the conduct of Iraq policy, then what we should fear is not just another attempt at moral blackmail of those who call for withdrawal. For the analogy to hold, we should have to find that while this militant rhetoric was being deployed in public, a sellout and a scuttle was being prepared behind the scenes. We are not fighting the Viet Cong in Iraq but the Khmer Rouge. A bungled withdrawal would lead to another Cambodia, not another Vietnam. It would be too horrible for Kissinger to live to see two such triumphs.


That one's gonna hurt!

Splash, out


p.s., Also see this column on the role of military chaplains.

Ref. the New York Times story beginning thus: WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 — Congress removed a controversial provision in a military bill on Friday that would have permitted chaplains to offer sectarian prayer at mandatory nondenominational events.

Hitch is absolutely right here. The tendency of evangelicals to want to push sectarian prayer where it does not belong is singularly obnoxious - and does more, in my opinion, to turn off converts to Christianity than any policy of self-conscious agnosticism ever could.

I don't have many Jews under my charge. But I do have a few...and I usually have one or two Muslims on the 1379. My chaplain is welcome anywhere at any time. But if he doesn't have the sense to minister to ALL of my soldiers, EQUALLY, then as a unit commander, he will not be speaking at any function I'm responsible for. I'd rather go out and find my own clergyman who "gets it."

Fortunately, I'm convinced we've got the best chaplain anywhere in the Army - in part because he's sensitive to the needs of all our soldiers, and is well respected in the ranks.

I won't have my religious minority soldiers slighted at mandatory functions.

Splash, out


Lots to think about here.

I love reading Hitch, but like Ralph Peters there are times when Hitch goes off the rails. I don't think he's reconciled his previous thoughts about VN with IZ yet--and am glad he's starting.

The Hitchens chaplain article is to me flawed because Hitch is presenting his case as though he's above the fray--but he really is a passionate and dedicated evangelist for his own atheism. So I take Hitch's views (like his anti-eulogies for Mother Theresa and the Pope) with a grain of salt--lots to chew on, but not Gospel, pun intended. Chaplaincy works; has worked since anyone can remember; a closed minded exclusionist dirtbag can't be an effective chaplain in a country that supports the right to believe whatever stupid crap one darn well pleases.

The evangelicals have folks in their comms chain who neatly push all the emotional buttons on this Chaplain Ego case--the guy who did the uniform thing and the hunger strike in front of the White house while commissioned. That chaplain's being a selfish fool, plain and simple, but his story is easily packaged into "Oh the Oppression"-which is snapped up because there's tension between those with faith and those who have none.

In my experience I've found some folks at work who knew about the story but whose opinion completely changed when they found out the real story about the Navy LT chaplain and his actions.

Concur on your assessment that a chaplain is there to minister to everybody, from his denomination to those diametrically opposed. If a chaplain can't hack it, they should find another way to answer their calling. And that last sentence is paraphrased from some chaplains in the Navy Times this week--most people get it.
N.B. when I mention "evangelicals" pushing the story, I'm not talking people in uniform; I'm talking the civilian tastemakers and opinion leaders for that mindset.
I think Hitch in his middle age has benefited from his study of Orwell, and has come to reject the same "smelly little orthodoxies" that Orwell rejected. Like Orwell, he is still a "man of the left," with all the flaws that brings with it. But he has done a most un-leftist thing, which is to embrace a very traditional sense of morality. His atheism is somewhat striking then - he chastises the pope on a moral basis. I think he gets it right more often than not, like Virtuous Pagan he has a good instinct for natural law and follows that instinct.

What then will become of Hitch? As he continues to explore his rift with the left and his (strange bedfellow) allies on the right, I would not be shocked to find him turning into a Whittaker Chambers-like character, or a Norman Podhoretz or Irving Kristol type of chap... yes, a neo-con, in the classical sense. Nor would I be shocked to hear of him converting to Roman Catholicism, as so many of the older generation of British hard left intellectuals did. That sense of morality, of the existence of right and wrong in most things, often finds Catholicism an amenable home.

It may not work out that way but as a Catholic conservative, I find a deep appreciation of Hitch's morality-based take on world politics, much in the same way that I find a lot to like about Tony Blair's politics, in spite of his reflexively leftist bent. As a moral matter, broadly decent government is more important than government adhering to a particular market or political philosophy, though I normally vote on those grounds - so while I find a lot of Hitch's & Blair's politics dumb, they aren't as loathesome as the secular humanist left, with its almost religious worship of nihilist policies.
What will you do with your religious minority soldiers who are slighted when the others aren't slighted? Such folk do exist, you know. You may have chosen an optimum approach, perhaps the one I would choose myself... but don't kid yourself that a "no slights" approach is possible.
The goal isn't "no slights." The goal is to adopt the constitutional course: While an agent of the U.S. government, I will not allow the imprimatur of an official state religion at official events.

I am also not at all hostile to religious expression. But so long as the chaplain takes the government paycheck, I would expect him to toe the government line. And it's our jobs as commanders to see that it happens.
Jason's spot on. It's not freedom from any type of offense or slight or insulaton from the Other; it's freedom to worship, as well as fair treatment of comrades, and maintaining good order and discipline.
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