Anti-Americanism is really all that remains of the program of the political left after the collapse of its socialist dreams. For the whole of the modern era, world history was dominated by the struggle between the revolutionary models of France and the United States. (The Bolsheviks saw themselves as the direct heirs of the Jacobins.) But with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, all this changed. As Christopher Hitchens summarizes what happened in an interview with the New York Times, "After the dust settles, the only revolution left standing is the American one. Americanization is the most revolutionary force in the world."
America is revolutionary because it is a society based on institutions and values that are inclusive, tolerant, democratic, anti-authoritarian, libertarian and conservative (skeptical of majorities, embedded with a deeply held moral individualism). It is, as the President said in the wake of 9/11, the fact that America is a beacon of freedom and opportunity to the world that it is hated by the forces of world reaction – principally Islamic fundamentalism and socialist totalitarianism, but also every creed of bigotry, both secular and religious.
Americanization, in the sense of spreading these values and political institutions, is the threat that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and the American "peace" movement have mobilized to oppose. America has been attacked because it is the only revolution standing, and an inspiration to progressive revolutions everywhere. The civilizational war we are now engaged in has united what remains of the Communist-socialist-left, the remants of national socialism (particularly the Ba' athists in Syria and Iraq) and radical Islam and forged an unholy alliance against us. Even more than during the Cold War against Communism, our enemies are entrenched in our own population.
In the article that appears on this page, Hitchens purports to see a difference between the anti-war movement of the Sixties and the current anti-American movement against the war in Iraq. There is no such difference. Alexander Cockburn, whose father served Stalin’s KGB and who himself supported the Communists to the end, wrote in response to Hitchens and other critics of the pro-Saddam peace movement that in supporting Saddam it was no different from the peace movements of the past. In a recent issue of his terrorist support site, Counter-punch, Cockburn observed that the antiwar movement of the Sixties was led by Stalinists, Trotskyists and Maoists. Their creed was totalitarian (and as Hitchens would now agree, therefore, anti-American). Were self-deluded others drawn to their cause? Certainly. Were some patriotic critics suckered into joining their demonstrations? Probably.
What has now changed is not the intention of the leaders of the anti-American peace movement. What has changed is that the enemy is so nakedly the aggressor against us (and not some hapless Third World people like the South Vietnamese). What has changed is not that the enemy is more evil, but that he is more transparently evil. But that is all. The totalitarian agendas of Saddam Hussein and Yassir Arafat are no different from those of Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il Sung --- or Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega for that matter.
Hitchens still wants to avoid the obvious in these matters. In his article he reaches for the standard progressive bogeyman, Pat Robertson: "But what if, just for a moment, one tried to classify something as "anti-American" for its own sake? My nomination would go to Pat Robertson, who appeared on the television in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 atrocity and declared that the mass murder in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania was a divine punishment for a society that indulged secularism, pornography, and homosexual conduct. Here is a man who quite evidently dislikes his own society and sympathizes, not all that covertly, with those who would use violence and fanaticism to destroy it."
This charge is ridiculous and Hitchens must know it. Robertson apologized publicly and profusely for what he said carelessly and casually in a TV conversation. I agree with Hitchens that Robertson has been guilty of bigotry on more than one occasion. But he has publicly apologized for these lapses as well. This does not excuse his remarks but makes them something well short of "anti-Americanism," let alone sympathy for Islamic fanatics out to destroy us. Robertson’s writings despite their eccentricities are strong defenses of the foundations – political, economic and moral -- of America’s tolerance and opportunity and inclusiveness. (And he has been on the right side of this battle far longer than Hitchens or I have.)
Nonetheless Hitchens’ intellectual odyssey, which seems to have begun in earnest on 9/11, has brought him to some important conclusions.1) America is worth defending; 2) American patriotism is progressive; and 3) The triumph of American ideas and institutions is a liberating prospect for most of the world’s peoples. In these sentiments he has brought his own views into harmony with the statement to Congress made by America’s president made in wake of 9/11. And has recognized the irony in the fact that the President’s statement also harmonizes with what he (and I) thought we were supporting in the 1960s: "I feel much more like I used to in the ’60s" -- Hitchens told the Times, explaining his support for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz ‘s plan to democratize Iraq – "working with revolutionaries."