In Part 1 yesterday, I gave the background to the Pinochet Conundrum. Quite by accident, I read a post a few weeks back which appeared at (of all places) Return of Kings, which stepped away from the site’s usual Wars Between The Sexes spiel and gave still more background to Pinochet’s rule. It’s definitely worth reading the whole thing; and a number of the comments, many from actual Chileans, are extremely interesting.
But the long (very long) essay by Vladimir Dorta at Chicago Boyz gives, I think, the most balanced view of the Allende / Pinochet era and is definitely worth fifteen minutes of your time.
Here’s the truth of this whole issue, and why I’m asking you folks to read so much about Pinochet: the facts of the era are immensely complex, the issues as profound today as they were then, and when all the information is assembled, you will realize why the Left has taken so many pains to reduce the whole thing to a simplistic “Pinochet was an evil, murderous dictator!” trope. For one thing, the Left specializes in bumper-sticker slogans and aphorisms because the details of the issue — just about any issue — frequently expose their position as deeply flawed; and for another, history has since proven their support and near deification of Allende is mistaken, and profoundly cynical.
So in that same vein, allow me nevertheless to try to encapsulate the Pinochet Conundrum with my own brief take:
Pinochet was a dictator who deposed and assassinated his country’s elected president, and then had thousands of Marxist counter-revolutionaries murdered without trial or any legal process, before restoring Chile’s economy and rescuing millions of working-class Chileans from poverty. But such actions seldom occur in a vacuum; the truth of the matter was that Pinochet’s military coup against the Allende government was itself a reaction to the terrible dissolution of a modern democracy into a Marxist misery-pit by Salvador Allende, who (in modern parlance) was trying to install a Chavez-type society in Chile, and destroying Chile’s economy in so doing.
Let’s play a little revisionist history here for a moment. Let’s assume that right before Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez could truly begin to change his country’s polity into a Leftist dictatorship, an Army colonel named “Pablo Martial” had deposed and assassinated him, brutally eliminated his Chavista adherents, and installed market reforms which would eventually (but quite quickly) make Venezuela a paradigm of prosperous democracy in South America.
With that assumption, here’s my question: knowing now through hindsight what has since befallen Venezuela and its hapless population as a result of Chavez’s ruinous policies, would we still be so quick to denounce Colonel Martial’s actions? And would working-class Venezuelan women today be scattering flowers in front of Colonel Martial’s private residence, as their Chilean counterparts still do to this day outside Pinochet’s modest home in Valparaiso?
Because make no mistake about it: Chile under Allende was heading in precisely the same direction as Venezuela would do under Chavez. No clinical reading of the numbers could yield anything but that conclusion. And Chile is still enjoying the prosperity which Pinochet’s “brutal regime” created, over twenty years later, while Pinochet’s secret police force is but a distant memory (despite the Left’s desperate attempts to keep it alive).
And that, my friends, lies at the heart of the Pinochet Conundrum. It’s a timeless issue and is always an uncomfortable one, which is why we need to understand it fully, without the noise of propaganda. I hope I’ve helped that understanding, because at the heart of the matter, the Conundrum is not about Pinochet; it was never about Pinochet. It is about evil being done to prevent a greater evil. And how we decide which is the “greater evil”, and whether we should support the evil which destroys it, is the most vexing and timeless question of all.