Just came back from a Claremont Institute panel featuring Mark Helprin, William Kristol and Christopher Hitchens entitled, “September 11, 2001: Five Years Later.” As one would expect given the lineup, the discussion was intellectually vigorous. Toward the end of the panel, Hitchens caused an uproar when he criticized the Pope’s recent comments for being anti-reason and said something along the lines of, “We are fighting a war to defend secularism.” He drew boos soon after when he continued to attack the Vatican, especially for what he saw as a history of coddling totalitarian regimes (such as when Tariq Aziz was a guest of the Vatican).
Other than that, Helprin repeated what has been a theme of his post-9/11 commentary, which is that America has failed to dedicate the necessary military and civil defense resources to win this war. When asked what he would do now with regard to Iraq, he said he felt like a surgeon being asked to operate on a dead patient. That is, the mistake of sending too few troops and not fighting a war of excess has already taken its toll, and there’s not much more we could do at this point to improve things on the ground.
Kristol offered a somewhat mixed portrayal of the successes and failures of the past five years. While at one point he said he thinks historical analogies are being overused because the Islamist threat is unique, he compared Bush’s leadership with Truman’s in the early years of the Cold War. That is, some successes mixed with big failures (especially in China and Korea).