BLOOD, CLASS, AND NOSTALGIA: Anglo-American Ironies by Christopher Hitchens

BLOOD, CLASS, AND NOSTALGIA: Anglo-American Ironies

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A no-valentines retrospective that details the tensions and mutual hypocrisy underlying American-British relations; by the acerbic columnist for The Nation and Washington editor for Harper's. In this provocative analysis, Hitchens argues that American nostalgia for Britain reached fruition only after the declining empire, trying to revitalize itself by linking up with the US, was supplanted by its upstart former colony. Two figures instrumental in altering American attitudes were Rudyard Kipling, who called for America to take up ""The White Man's Burden,"" and Winston Churchill, who has been cited repeatedly by American conservatives since his death, yet growled constantly in his lifetime about American obstructions to British imperialism. When Hitchens confines himself to race, social standing, sophistication, and education, he amusingly debunks politicians' self-serving bosh about the vague ""special relationship"" (Harold Macmillan's famous analogy that Britain should play Greece to America's Rome was designed to provide ""the British imperial manner a fresh lease, and. . .some much-needed tone to the grandiosity of the American century""). But when he criticizes the British influence on America's decisions to assume overseas commitments, form an intelligence agency, and develop nuclear weaponry, this acute observer of diplomatic doublespeak becomes afflicted with moral myopia. He never gives proper attention to the fact that only fear of totalitarianism could induce Americans to relinquish their traditional isolationism. Dripping with elegant malice, this often incisive study is more narrowly focused and ideologically slanted, yet also much better written, than Richard Critchfield's An American Looks at Britain (p. 475).

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux