by Eric Martin
Christopher Hitchens reviews Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention by Gary J. Bass in the most recent edition of Foreign Affairs. As one might expect given the title of the work reviewed, Hitchens is pretty near insufferable in this piece - still brandishing the same haughty sense of moral superiority by dint of his support for Bush's invasion of Iraq that many liberal hawks have since abandoned, or at least had the decency to soft pedal. For Hitchens, though, it's still late 2002 and war opponents are still belittled as people that want to "leave...Saddam alone." He even suggests that we have an obligation to call Russia's bluff - or at least that even if such an act will not be "rewarded with pragmatic results" there would be a value derived eventually.
Despite his shortcomings, Hitchens' recounting of this bit of Civil War-era history was something of a revelation to me:
Many also forget that the international campaign in solidarity with the Union under the Lincoln presidency rallied at a time when it was entirely possible that the United Kingdom might have thrown its whole weight behind the Confederacy and even moved troops from Canada to hasten the partition of a country half slave and half free. This is often forgotten, I suggest, because the movement of solidarity was partly led by Karl Marx and his European allies (as was gratefully acknowledged by Henry Adams in his Education) and because the boycott of Confederate goods, the blocking of shipbuilding orders for the Confederate fleet, and other such actions were to some degree orchestrated by the founders of the communist movement -- not the sort of thing that is taught in school when Abraham Lincoln is the patriotic subject. Marx and Friedrich Engels hugely admired Lincoln and felt that just as Russia was the great arsenal of backwardness, reaction, and superstition, the United States was the land of potential freedom and equality.
I had no idea that Marx and Engels were such admirers of Lincoln, or that they were influential in keeping Europe on the side of the Union in that conflict. A nod to Hitchens for teaching me that. I guess even a blind drunk squirrel finds a nut every now and again.