It is a nice little book by professional debater and opinionator designed to expire his future colleagues. There is a lot I would agree on with Hitchens except for one small thing – it kind of easy to be a contrarian if one gets paid for it, has significant support of surrounding people and no real risk to suffer consequences from “establishment”. In other words in well developed democratic state when attacking existing order verbally or in writing is a very secure and even beneficial career choice. But it there was nothing courageous about it.
Attacking Christian church, Western Imperialism, Capitalism, and such is not only was save, but actually career enhancing activity in the second half of XX century for western intellectual. Even for many intellectuals in Eastern block acting against existing socialist regimes it was not as dangerous as one would think. The common attitude of educated part of population to these regimes could be characterized as “finger in the pocket” with safety pretty much insured as long as finger remained in the pocket.
More important question that Hitchens failed to address was selection of causes between evils. Granted Hitchens does put socialist murderous dictators like Stalin in the same bucket as Hitler (who, by the way, ideologically was not that far away with his National-Socialism from Stalin’s international socialism). However he fails to distinguish between regimes for which murderous activity was necessitated by core logic of regime from regimes for with such activity was just a feature.
For example he is still proud of his support of North Vietnam completely missing the fact that North Vietnamese communist regime was based on statist ideas which by the time of war proved to be murderous to great number of regular people through artificial famines, overwork, and other miseries that followed inevitably with government control over economy. Comparatively the corrupted, undemocratic, and incompetent regime of South Vietnam with all its evil left regular people more or less economically alone content with robbery rather then ideologically motivated slavery and annihilation.
The western idealists – socialists will never accept their own guilt in innumerable killings of Soviet, Chinese, and many other regimes that they enabled by their support, but it would nice if they would at least understood the connection. Hitchens probably more then other getting close to such understanding, but he seems to be not able to step over this threshold.