Friday, December 15, 2006


After excoriating Pinochet for the brutality of his dictatorship, the Washington Post points out some uncomfortable facts (via Instapundit):
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.
Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.
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.
Do read the whole thing. Jeane Kirkpatrick's essay was published in Commentary in November 1979. I have a lot of respect for her, although I disagree with some of her stances. Oliver Kamm has a critical take on Kirkpatrick at his blog. He also takes issue with conservatives who express positive (albeit, strongly qualified) views on Pinochet's economic policies, and argues against the myth that the 1973 Chilean coup was engineered by Henry Kissinger and the CIA.
Meanwhile, Alvaro Vargas Llosa writes in the Wall Street Journal (requires subs.; via Fausta's blog which also has other interesting links):
The difference between the two men is that Castro, who has been in power almost three times longer than Pinochet and has committed even more crimes, continues to have some supporters around the world while Pinochet was one of the most reviled men on Earth. Why was Pinochet more hated than every other dictator?
Democrats in the developing world were also uneasy knowing that a soldier with very limited intellectual acumen was able to preside over an economic transformation. The Pinochet reforms came about almost fortuitously when, given the devastation of the country's economy, the general hired a coterie of young economists familiar with the ideas of one Milton Friedman, whom Pinochet had never heard of. Because free markets tend to bring about prosperity regardless of the moral nature of the regime that opens a country's economy, Chile prospered. We also know that dictatorships don't last very long once they open the economy because the middle class tends to expand and develop a desire for political and civic participation. That is why Pinochet lost the referendum in 1988 and why Fidel Castro, who toyed with limited markets in the 1990s, quickly reversed course.
Some free marketers argued that free-market reforms opened the way to democracy to justify his regime. But the reforms could easily have been implemented without killing 3,197 people, torturing some 29,000, and sending thousands more into exile -- the horrendous human rights violations exposed by the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation in 1991. In fact, Pinochet probably contributed to postponing the cause of free markets in Latin America because most governments feared being associated with his regime. The fact that the Chilean conservative opposition distanced itself publicly from Pinochet in the 1999 and the 2005 elections -- and that its former presidential candidates stayed away from the military hospital where the general died on Sunday -- suggests the wish to break the awkward connection once and for all.
Even though Pinochet was a brutal tyrant, I still think this fails to explain the incredible double standard that large swathes of the left apply to Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others, including Salvador Allende (who was not only an anti-semite and a homophobe, but had connections with the Nazis, both financial and ideological: see this hair-raising post, linked in Fausta's comments). I disagree with supporters of Pinochet, and I think the US should have pressured him much more vigorously (including, if need be, with threats of military intervention) to stop his regime's repression and gradually bring the country back to democracy, however I find it odd that some parts of the left will be such vehement apologists for dictatorships - but only if they cause unmitigated economic disasters!

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