Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Coda on America's Favorite Dictators

The Cold War prompted both sides, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, to hold their nose and support individuals who otherwise should never have been responsible for the lives of other people. Augutso Pinochet was one of those people. He should never have come to power. It was only with the semi-clandestine help of the U.S., that the democratically elected president of Chile Salvador Allende was ousted. A combination of Kennan's containment strategy and Eisenhower's "domino theory" approach to the Soviet Union slated many developing nations to decades of internal terror, civil war, and bloody petty men. Both sides of this titanic ideologic struggle can never wash out the stains.

That being said, the United States policy toward our southern cousins has never been peaceful, benign, or in most cases smart. As far as we were (are?) concerned anything South of the Rio Grande fell under our sway (Monore Doctrine), and key to our economic interests. However, the U.S. did not create the "banana republic", we did however learn to manipulate the internal fragility of these emerging nations from almost day one. You could say we helped perfect it.

The case study for that is Augusto Pinochet, one, if not the longest ruling American installed dictator in the region. He was in some ways the most successful. However, this Wa Po editorial by Fred Hiatt, is just completely ridiculous:
It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.
Let's do the math. Pincohet in power from 1973-1990, its 2006 and six.... hmmm.... um Fred? Fifteen years ago was 1991. Work it out. Leaving behind semantics, and math for that matter, Hiatt's basic premise is not far from the truth. This next bit, well.... Oy!
The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.
To quote the President: WHAT ABOUT POLAND!!! and Hungary, Romania, the former Czechslovakia, et al. former Communist nations who became liberal democracies?

One could argue, and Kirpatrick did, that the establishment of a liberal economy within the framework of a dictatorship, allows for an emergent bourgoisie (I would have used "middle class", but European and US versions of the word differ markedly) that will seek greater liberalism politcally. Yet even with the bastion of Communism, the ex-Soviet Union still produced a bourgoisie, even if it was never called that explicitally. The same can be said for former members of the Warsaw Pact.

While an excellent essay, it is almost pure ideology and does not stand up well to scrutiny. Kirkpatrick's work was a merely a salve for the morally questionable choices our country was making. Hiatt's faulty logic in connecting p->q via Pinochet and Kirkpatrick's thesis is one also. It doesn't take much of a look-see, even if we confine ourselves to Latin America to see this thesis crumble. Let's start with Haiti, Batista's (pre-1959) Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama.

All went either from Right-wing thug to Left-wing thug or vice-versa. The only time the countries of Latin America were able too choose democracy was when we stopped sticking our noses: i.e. United Fruit, The Sugar Trust etc , down their throats.

As for, the now deceased thug, named Pinochet, I wish him off with the three words I keep close to my heart, just for these occasions: BURN IN HELL.

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