Thursday, December 14, 2006

What the World Needs Now

Maybe Jonah Goldberg would like to take a spot in line behind the three aspiring fascists pictured below. This is just remarkable:

I THINK ALL intelligent, patriotic and informed people can agree: It would be great if the U.S. could find an Iraqi Augusto Pinochet. In fact, an Iraqi Pinochet would be even better than an Iraqi Castro. [ed note: why, oh why, is there never an option "C"?]

Both propositions strike me as so self-evident as to require no explanation. But as I have discovered in recent days, many otherwise rational people can't think straight when the names Fidel Castro and Augusto Pinochet come up. [...]

An Iraqi Pinochet would provide order and put the country on the path toward liberalism, democracy and the rule of law. (If only Ahmad Chalabi had been such a man.)
Where do I begin? It's almost a morale-crushing amount of ignorance to ponder.

I'll take note of one thing in brief, and otherwise leave Goldberg's dubious sense of morality alone since judgment on this latter point seems to be, as Jonah might say, "self evident." (more here for a debunking of some of Jonah's other fallacies):
Now consider Chile. Gen. Pinochet seized a country coming apart at the seams. He too clamped down on civil liberties and the press. He too dispatched souls. Chile's official commission investigating his dictatorship found that Pinochet had 3,197 bodies in his column; 87% of them died in the two-week mini-civil war that attended his coup. Many more were tortured or forced to flee the country.

But on the plus side, Pinochet's abuses helped create a civil society. Once the initial bloodshed subsided, Chile was no prison. Pinochet built up democratic institutions and infrastructure....But today Chile is a thriving, healthy democracy.
Here we see the "Pinochet brought democracy to Chile" myth that is rather prevalent amongst the Pinochet apologists. This ahistorical claim is just not true though. Chile was Latin America's longest standing (more details here) democracy prior to the coup that toppled the democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende. Pinochet's dictatorial rule interrupted Chile's democratic trajectory, he did not initiate it. And by what measure does one get credit for razing democratic institutions, and then allowing their incremental, gradual reconstitution?

In a related note, to the extent that Pinochet "seized a country coming apart at the seams," it should be noted that the CIA (under the guidance of Nixon and Kissinger) was taking serious measures to create conditions of chaos and destabilization in order to facilitate the coup itself. In other words, Pinochet was complicit in helping to tear the country apart at the seams, so that he could swoop in it back up? Viva the tailor of Santiago, father of Chilean democracy.

In addition, Goldberg puts forth the utterly bizarre claim that "once the initial bloodshed subsided" - the vast majority of which he limits to the "two-week" period surrounding the coup itself - Chile was not an authoritarian state ("no prison" as Jonah put it). I don't know what standard Goldberg is using to make such a proclamation, but I'd love to hear about it. So too, I imagine, would many Chileans who were terrorized by the repressive society Pinochet crafted. For a brief, though relatively innocuous, look into Goldberg's liberal paradise, read this.

I always wonder how someone like Jonah Goldberg would react if he were to find himself, transported in time and space, to a country like Chile in the mid to late 1970s. Do you think he would be so enthusiastc, so flip, so apologetic, so sycophantic?

Is the answer self-evident?

(hat tip to Kevin Drum)

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