Hitch on the cowboy cliche

I’m going to avoid commenting on the State of the Union Address, other than to say it could have been worse. I hope it goes without saying that I think it would have been better if Gore or McCain were delivering it.

I do awfully enjoy seeing Christopher Hitchens– British wag, former Marxist, Kissinger-indictment-ringleader– defending Bush against the charge that he is a reckless cowboy in this excellent Slate article. I have to agree with Hitchens that this characterization is fair neither to cowboys nor to Bush. To wit:

To have had three planeloads of kidnapped civilians crashed into urban centers might have brought out a touch of the cowboy even in Adlai Stevenson. But Bush waited almost five weeks before launching any sort of retaliatory strike. And we have impressive agreement among all sources to the effect that he spent much of that time in consultation. A cowboy surely would have wanted to do something dramatic and impulsive (such as to blow up at least an aspirin-factory in Sudan) in order to beat the chest and show he wasn’t to be messed with. But it turns out that refined Parisians are keener on such “unilateral” gestures—putting a bomb onboard the Rainbow Warrior, invading Rwanda on the side of the killers, dispatching French troops to the Ivory Coast without a by-your-leave, building a reactor for Saddam Hussein, and all the rest of it.

While I do think we can afford some more time to carry out inspections and show some evidence to convince our more peaceable (or naive) allies why Saddam is dangerous, I am damn tired of the French riding around on their multilateralism high horse. As Hitchens points out, they are the last to talk.

Oh, wait. Actually, wouldn’t the Germans be the last to talk– or does the Hitler-Mussolini pact count as multilateralism? (Sorry, low blow.) Hitchens’ comments on Schröder are flawless as well:

It’s true that Bush was somewhat brusque with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, but then Schröder is a man so sensitive that he recently sought an injunction against a London newspaper for printing speculation about his hair color and his notoriously volatile domestic life. What we are really seeing, in this and other tantrums, is not a Texan cowboy on the loose but the even less elevating spectacle of European elites having a cow.