Thursday, 10 March 2011
I come to praise Caesar
I wrote the following polemic last year for another, multi-author site. I’m reviving it here because the subject was alluded to in another discussion elsewhere. Enjoy. :-)
It’s a dangerous thing to put one’s head in the lion’s mouth. Still, I enjoy danger, I enjoy taking risks. I’ve hinted before that I might write in praise of Augusto Pinochet, the late dictator of Chile, the saviour of his country and a friend of my own. So, yes, I come to praise Caesar, not to bury him. I come to pull him from under a mountain of dead dogs, heaped upon him by the left in the process of damnatio memoriae.
First, let me say a word or two on the political and historical context. The Cold War, as Niall Ferguson says in The War of the World, was anything but cold; no, it was a prolonged struggle between the communist and the free world in which a series of conflicts by proxy were fought out, all the way from Korea to Nicaragua.
It was a war that threw up some real horrors, as wars do, none worse than Pol Pot, none more genocidal than the Khmer Rouge. It was a struggle, moreover, that the West looked at points as if it might lose, especially in the period leading up to the end of the war in Vietnam, a period which saw the advance of communist and communist supported regimes across a good part of the world. It was a war that saw all sorts of dirty tricks being used, as counter-attack followed hard upon attack. It was against this background that the Marxist Salvador Allende came to power in Chile, backed by a communist-left alliance.
Yes, bad things happen in wars and it’s simply inconceivable for Richard Nixon not to have worked towards the downfall of this regime, given the Cuban example, and given the poor strategic situation across the world. Even so, it’s quite wrong to see the 1973 coup as no more than a CIA-inspired operation. No, the incompetent Allende brought his downfall upon himself. In his brief period of power he had effectively wrecked the Chilean economy. It is a terrible thing to destroy a democracy, of that I have no doubt, but Allende’s democracy was effectively destroying itself. If Pinochet was an evil he was a necessary evil.
The military coup of 1973 was certainly violent, perhaps more violent than strictly necessary. Still, it was considerably less violent than the murderous revolution in Cuba. Pinochet killed his thousands, certainly, but Castro his tens of thousands. I simply do not understand those on the left, alert to human rights abuses in one place, blind to them in another.
I certainly don’t deny that the general came as a surgeon, but after some drastic procedures Chile started a miraculous and sustained recovery. Pinochet’s free market reforms made the country the most dynamic economy in Latin America, a position it retains today. It’s also as well to remember that, once the economic problems had been addressed, it was Pinochet who restored Chilean democracy on a stable and lasting foundation. Contrast that with Cuba where dictatorship deepened as the economy was ruined; contrast that with Venezuela, where a Castro clone is in the process of destroying a naturally rich economy while he increases his personal power.
And, of course, if it had not been for Pinochet, if it had not been for the vital support that he extended during the 1982 Falklands’ conflict our task there would have been all the more difficult. Sadly he was demonised by the liberals and the left; disgracefully he was placed under arrest and held against his will during a visit to this country, a shabby and vindictive return for past favours.
The General deserves to be better remembered, remembered for his courage, his vision and his determination. Time is bringing a better understanding of General Franco; time will bring a better understanding of General Pinochet.
Posted by Anastasia F-B at 15:22
Labels: chile, right-wing politics, south america
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Viva El Gran General Pinochet! El salvador de Chile. Los communistas al Mar!ReplyDelete
Chile has the best military in South America, trained in the Prussian tradition " Los Boldos" They have an annual military parade of which there are many videos on you tube. After the tragic out come of WW2, AH and thousands of high ranking officers of the Third Reich settled in Patagonia, Argentina and southern Chile. The then Argentine gov. of Juan Peron was most accommodating.ReplyDelete
Pinochet looks a lot like Mel Brooks in this photo!ReplyDelete
Perhaps a more apt comparison to Chile under Pinochet would be next door Argentina under the generals - the dirty war that eventually led to Argentina's attack on the Falkland Islands.ReplyDelete
These undeclared civil wars are vicious and there are fanatics on all sides willing to commit atrocities in the name of their cause. I believe that these low-level internal conflicts deserve far closer study by historians and sociologists, especially given the enormous death tolls they have accumulated in some parts of the world.
Anthony, I'm not quite sure that he knew exactly what was involved, or who was involved! Poor old Peron, so often condemned as a fascist when he was anything but.ReplyDelete
Calvin, I hadn't noticed the likeness! I agree that the so-called dirty wars could do with close and objective examination.ReplyDelete
I find it hard to accept, Anthony, that the outcome of WW2 was tragic. Tough on the German gangsters, but OK for the rest of us.ReplyDelete
Or is it, a el mar? well anyways the bottom of the ocean is a good place for them. In a decade or two you will probably have Somali pirates in the English channel and in the Nort Sea.ReplyDelete
@ Michael: History is Biased by the victors to demonize the vanquished, the truth is usually some where in between. Is everything really OK?ReplyDelete
Chile is in a very precarious geological situation, with the close poximity to the tectonic fault and is prone to ocean tsunamis. Japan just got both and Hawaii is probably next. The Magnetic perturbation on the planet is causing the polar shift, climatic and geological events will accelerate. Get away from tectonic fault lines and low costal areas and volcanos for obvious reasons. Make long term survival preperations as utilities etc. will be out of service to many areas. Countries with developed infrastructures suffer less than undeveloped areas but non the less it will be a bad go. It would be a good idea to pay attention to global events as the cause of these events will soon be apparent. The crossing of Nibiru which Nasa has re-named "Tyche"(Tiki).ReplyDelete
Ana, Pinochet ok that is right! he was good for the economy of his country, the west help him a lot too, but he was a dictator and he killed many people, communist but finally normal citizen with different thoughts than him, the government of Pinochet help England against Argentina, imagine the same in other context, imagine France helping Argentina to conquer the island Malvinas, that sounds very low, a betrayal. Well in some way Chile must say thank to Pinochet for the development of his country but in the same way he was a dog with terrible behavior, a dictator is a bad form to respect rights, to respect people, what about democracy? do you like England with a dictator? nothing justify Pinochet behavior, he was the demon, he was in conflict with my country, he built a strong army for that reason, he wanted impose his army ´s power over civilization, that is not fair and not good, people want other kind of leaders, people deserve better things than Pinochet even with some good ideas in the way. A hug. Mario.ReplyDelete
Perhaps Anthony means "tragic" in the sense that while we ostensibly won the conflict, we became, in many ways, the enemy we defeated: militarized, tyrannized, exploited by the military/industrial complex - just like Germany and the Soviet Union. Look at Europe today, and it is hard to identify any aspect of society that does not resemble the statist regimes Britain opposed more than the liberal society of pre-war Britain. We have become the mirror of our enemy.ReplyDelete
Senorita, muchas gracias for feeding the lion.ReplyDelete
Yes, comparing Pinochet to other dictators makes him look good. The same goes to Franco. It is much more appropriate to compare both with each other. Both came through violence to power, and both turned less and less violent through time, reformed their respective economies, and even build democratic structures for the life after them. However, if they lived today, that shouldn't save them from being judged like any other person for their crimes.ReplyDelete
Anthony, the quake was so bad.ReplyDelete
Mario, thanks; you make some excellent points. We did have a dictator here once, Oliver Cromwell, who ruled England as Lord Protector in the seventeenth century. I would never advocate dictatorship as a permanent solution to a country’s problems. It is important, though, to see these things in context; it’s important to understand Cromwell and Pinochet against the background of their times.ReplyDelete
Calvin, I read a horrifying story in the Sunday press about European Arrest Warrents. I'll add something on this later in the week.ReplyDelete
Retarius, I'm always feeding lions. You know that. :-))ReplyDelete
Jean Paul, yes, I suppose. I'm going to add a piece on Franco later this month.ReplyDelete
There is more to come, the weak points like japan and New Zealand go first as they are on major tectonic faults.ReplyDelete
My quibble is with the word "outcome". The only people who think the outcome was tragic are the Germans
@ Michael: Yes, one word not two.ReplyDelete
so you're saying that killing thousands in order to have a good economy is worth it?!!ReplyDelete
No, Tresmas , I am not. What I am saying that the events of 1973 have to be understood in wider context. I do not make history; I just write about history.ReplyDelete