The EU is the Continuation of Germany
BSSB.BE quillette.com 1/11/2018
* Is the EU merely ‘A continuation of Germany’ by other, sneakier means?
When the bugles call, the conservative’s instinct is to rally to the tattered…” Tattered what? Was it colours or banners? I was trying to remember the end of this line as I walked towards Café Phillies on Kensington High Street. To my surprise, the venue was unusually full, the average age of the patrons around seventy. I checked my Twitter feed. Macron had won in France and the EU bourgeoisie were predictably ecstatic. I ordered a coffee, took a table next to the door, and waited for Mr. Peter Hitchens.
For those too young to remember the birth of this century, the aforementioned quote is from an essay entitled “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” published in The Spectator during the buildup to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. I was eighteen, an idealist, fairly radical (as people usually are at that age) and an admirer of Peter’s elder brother Christopher. In the wake of the 9/11 outrage, there was a widespread feeling that we were on the cusp of a civilisational conflict that would define a generation. It was also the first time I read anything written by Peter Hitchens.
As a sceptic by nature and a reader of history, I found the wisdom of transformative nation-building questionable. However, I am not ashamed to admit that I did not oppose the invasion of Afghanistan. In fact, I was not at all sure of the correct response to 9/11 given the circumstances. But I was instinctively opposed to the use of force as a tool for the promotion of values, even against an enemy as vile as the Taliban. This was in spite of the fact that I am from India, herself a victim of what Christopher called “Islamo-fascism.” Force, as anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of history would agree, should only be retributive and punitive. Transformative force always risks imperial overreach. From the Romans to the British, the Mughals to the Soviets, everyone failed in their utopian wars.
Hitchens’s Spectator essay became famous for creating a rift between the two brothers, reflective of the broader ideological divide in the Western world between Wilsonian values promotion and Palmerstonian conservative realism. This personal rift began to heal in 2005, though their ideological differences persisted until Christopher’s untimely death.
Over time, I began to prefer Burke over Bukharin, an embodiment of the cliché that men tend to grow more conservative with age and education. My optimistic radicalism inevitably diminished and I resigned myself to an acceptance of the power of structural forces and the limitations of human agency.
The Hobbesian idea of an anarchic world – one in which societies are at a different evolutionary stages of development, and the problems of which admitted no simple universalist solution – made a lot more sense to me. I did not discard Christopher Hitchens entirely due to his neoconservatism foreign policy evangelism (I am still closer to his ideas on religion), but I began reading his brother Peter more thoroughly.
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