Christopher Hitchens Lays “Intellectual” Foundation for War in North Korea

02/01/2010 12:33 PM |

angry kim jong-il

Unlike some people on staff, I still have a small soft spot for belligerent, failed-heir-to-Orwell, successful-alcoholic Christopher Hitchens (because he still does stuff like this, which, awesome. Also, even though he’s a xenophobic crank, I still think Martin Amis is ok, too.) But Hitchens Slate column today, a kind of throwaway on How Bad North Korea Is, is a lazy call to war, containing lines like the following:

The propaganda of the regime may actually mean exactly what it says, which in turn would mean that peace and disarmament negotiations with it are a waste of time—and perhaps a dangerous waste at that.


The regime cannot rule by terror alone, and now all it has left is its race-based military ideology. Small wonder that each “negotiation” with it is more humiliating than the previous one.

Ok, so we all get how fucked-up North Korea is under Kim Jong-Il, in the same we all understood Iraq under Saddam was fucked up (that went well). Only totally crazy people would think North Korea is anything other than a dystopic totalitarian nightmare state plucked from the dark, seething, paranoid id of a pint-sized madman. But pint-sized madmen do eventually die, and is now really the time for our putatively insightful intelligentsia to begin the intellectual underlabor for the pre-emptively inclined, military-interventionist wing of the American political class? THE ANSWER IS NO, NOT RIGHT NOW, THANKS.

: In response to several commenters below (whose signal lack of faith in the American educational system, both secondary and post-, is deeply troubling) I will clarify my reading of this Hitchens column as intellectual underlabor for those inclined to preemptive intervention.

The key passage, not cited above, is this: “The whole idea of communism is dead in North Korea […] [The Kim Jong-Il system] is based on totalitarian “military first” mobilization, is maintained by slave labor, and instills an ideology of the most unapologetic racism and xenophobia.”

I initially balked at drawing an explicit comparison to the Third Reich, both because such comparisons generally derail any reasonable discussion, and because it seemed implicit in what Hitchens was saying in this passage. I do, however, stand by this comparison and what it implies for those who would continue to seek diplomatic solutions in the Korean peninsula. This column sets up the context for that cheapest of slanders from the sidelines, “appeasement,” and makes it easier for intervention-hawks to roll out their Neville Chamberlain comparisons.

Hitchens is describing here a psychotic, violent nation state that seeks to humiliate other nation states; as I cited originally, he says: “…peace and disarmament negotiations with North Korea are a waste of time.”

What usually happens next, after negotiations cease?

7 Comment

  • Your analysis is … fucked up.

  • Sigh. Is the author of this still in college?

  • @sigh.
    I know, right, these damn kids. It’s as if none of them have read “The Road to Wigan Pier.” Or Hayek.

  • Dear Jr. diamond, I read the Hitchens article and never got the sense that he was calling for war with N korea, good luck on improving your reading comprehension and good luck on the SAT

  • Ah, the alcoholism chide. This and other predictable accesories no writer resists when taking a poke at Hitchens. Tiresome, but it makes the consumers validated and happy. Sort of the Fox News formula for success.

  • I read the article and assumed he was calling for the extermination of the N Korean “species”. To use his term.

    He never gives a straightforward answer, so how else should this article be understood? I think some of the commenters need to explain what other solution Hitchens is driving at.

  • This is the first time I’ve seen this site, but having a “Horoscope” section certainly puts it into quickly recognizable class. The CH article was actually quite good and I didn’t seem him extermination of North Korea.