The blustering, obscene, insatiable, limitlessly restless author of Hitch-22 doesn’t come across as much of a priest manqué, not even a whisky priest. What he most resembles, to an almost uncanny degree, is a particular kind of political romantic, as described by Carl Schmitt in his 1919 book Political Romanticism. Schmitt was ostensibly writing about German romanticism at the turn of the 19th century (the intellectual movement that flourished between Rousseau and Hegel) but his real targets were the revolutionary romantics of his own time, including two of Hitchens’s Trotskyite heroes, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. For Schmitt, political romantics are driven not by the quest for pseudo-religious certainty, but by the search for excitement, for the romance of what he calls ‘the occasion’. They want something, anything, to happen, so that they can feel themselves to be at the heart of things. As a result, political romantics often lead complicated double lives, moving between different versions of themselves, experimenting with alternative personae. ‘Reversing one’s position between several realities and playing them off against one another belongs to the nature of the romantic situation,’ Schmitt writes. Political romantics are ostensibly self-sufficient yet also have a desperate need for human comradeship. ‘In every romantic we can find examples of anarchistic self-confidence as well as an excessive need for sociability. He is just as easily moved by altruistic feelings, by pity and sympathy, as by presumptuous snobbery.’ Romantics loathe abuses of power, but invariably end up worshipping power itself, sometimes indiscriminately: ‘The caliph of Baghdad is no less romantic than the patriarch of Jerusalem. Here everything can be substituted for everything else.’ Above all, in place of God they substitute themselves. ‘As long as the romantic believed he was himself the transcendental ego, he did not have to be troubled by the question of the true cause: he was himself the creator of the world in which he lived.’Update: Many "romantics" have found human comradeship in what author Bruce Bawer calls "the Peace Racket":
We need to make two points about this movement at the outset. First, it’s opposed to every value that the West stands for—liberty, free markets, individualism—and it despises America, the supreme symbol and defender of those values. Second, we’re talking not about a bunch of naive Quakers but about a movement of savvy, ambitious professionals that is already comfortably ensconced at the United Nations, in the European Union, and in many nongovernmental organizations. It is also waging an aggressive, under-the-media-radar campaign for a cabinet-level Peace Department in the United States. Sponsored by Ohio Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich (along with more than 60 cosponsors), House Resolution 808 would authorize a Secretary of Peace to “establish a Peace Academy,” “develop a peace education curriculum” for elementary and secondary schools, and provide “grants for peace studies departments” at campuses around the country. If passed, the measure would catapult the peace studies movement into a position of extraordinary national, even international, influence.
The Peace Racket’s boundaries aren’t easy to define. It embraces scores of “peace institutes” and “peace centers” in the U.S. and Europe, plus several hundred university peace studies programs. As Ian Harris, Larry Fisk, and Carol Rank point out in a sympathetic overview of these programs, it’s hard to say exactly how many exist—partly because they often go by other labels, such as “security studies” and “human rights education”; partly because many “professors who infuse peace material into courses do not offer special courses with the title peace in them”; and finally because “several small liberal arts colleges offer an introductory course requirement to all incoming students which infuses peace and justice themes.” Many primary and secondary schools also teach peace studies in some form.
Peace studies initiatives may train students to be social workers, to work in churches or community health organizations, or to resolve family quarrels and neighborhood disputes. At the movement’s heart, though, are programs whose purported emphasis is on international relations. Their founding father is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor, Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research five years later. Invariably portrayed in the media as a charismatic and (these days) grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom. In 1973, he thundered that “our time’s grotesque reality” was—no, not the Gulag or the Cultural Revolution, but rather the West’s “structural fascism.” He’s called America a “killer country,” accused it of “neo-fascist state terrorism,” and gleefully prophesied that it will soon follow Britain “into the graveyard of empires.”
No fan of Britain either, Galtung has faulted “Anglo-Americans” for trying to “stop the wind from blowing.” If the U.S. and the U.K. oppose a dangerous development, in his view, we’re causing trouble—Milošević, Saddam, and Osama are just the way the wind is blowing. Galtung’s kind of thinking leads inexorably to the conclusion that one should never challenge any tyrant. Fittingly, he urged Hungarians not to resist the Soviet Army in 1956, and his views on World War II suggest that he’d have preferred it if the Allies had allowed Hitler to finish off the Jews and invade Britain.
Though Galtung has opined that the annihilation of Washington, D.C., would be a fair punishment for America’s arrogant view of itself as “a model for everyone else,” he’s long held up certain countries as worthy of emulation—among them Stalin’s USSR, whose economy, he predicted in 1953, would soon overtake the West’s. He’s also a fan of Castro’s Cuba, which he praised in 1972 for “break[ing] free of imperialism’s iron grip.” At least you can’t accuse Galtung of hiding his prejudices. In 1973, explaining world politics in a children’s newspaper, he described the U.S. and Western Europe as “rich, Western, Christian countries” that make war to secure materials and markets: “Such an economic system is called capitalism, and when it’s spread in this way to other countries it’s called imperialism.” In 1974, he sneered at the West’s fixation on “persecuted elite personages” such as Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov. Thirty years later, he compared the U.S. to Nazi Germany for bombing Kosovo and invading Afghanistan and Iraq. For Galtung, a war that liberates is no better than one that enslaves.
His all-time favorite nation? China during the Cultural Revolution. Visiting his Xanadu, Galtung concluded that the Chinese loved life under Mao: after all, they were all “nice and smiling.” While “repressive in a certain liberal sense,” he wrote, Mao’s China was “endlessly liberating when seen from many other perspectives that liberal theory has never understood.” Why, China showed that “the whole theory about what an ‘open society’ is must be rewritten, probably also the theory of ‘democracy’—and it will take a long time before the West will be willing to view China as a master teacher in such subjects.”Yeah, that Mao was...awesome.