Another Moral Heavyweight Steps In

Brian Leiter, from the cushy chair he occupies at UT Austin, weighs in to defend Bertram’s air kiss to Castro:

Political philosopher Chris Bertram (Bristol) offers some sensible observations about Cuba on the occasion of Castro’s retirement, observations that wouldn’t be remotely controversial in most of the world. But since Professor Bertram’s blog also interacts, in some measure, with the right-wing American blogosphere, the reactions from the undereducated and suitably indoctrinated has been predictable.

Golly, I’m sure feeling bad about being edukated by people like Wolin, Schaar and Rittel – whose books Leiter isn’t fit to dust. Because as much as they maintained radical views of the American project, they had a very strong sense of what they believed in and who they were. As opposed to simply defining themselves as a teenager does by who they are not.

Leiter isn’t brave enough to have have comments, but here’s what I would have asked him:

Exactly what do you object to when I say “If the price of universal literacy is prison camps for writers, count me out”?

59 thoughts on “Another Moral Heavyweight Steps In”

  1. Hmm, so an elite aristocratic (at least within the confines of his own mind) snob is defending a dying Communist thug from the hordes of the hoi polloi.

    I think my irony meter just exploded.

  2. This typical sentiment from “academia” begs for Halp Us style response. The contempt for the ignorant masses who have not spent their lives on the public dole in an Ivory Tower couldn’t be any more palpable.

  3. My favorite professor at Texas A&M was unabashedly liberal, yet he’d have never written a paragraph such as that by Leiter. He was always willing to discuss differing points of view, and he expected reasoned arguments supported by observation and facts. He’d have never tolerated such demagoguery, nor sneers masquerading as debate. He was very big on freedom of speach, even for those he disagreed with. I disagreed with him often, and our conversations were some of the most rewarding of my life.

  4. _Hmm, so an elite aristocratic (at least within the confines of his own mind) snob is defending a dying Communist thug from the hordes of the hoi polloi._

    _I think my irony meter just exploded._

    Sometimes, moral infantilism is something out of which one cannot grow. Especially when one lives in an ivory tower.

  5. NukemHill: I deleted your second post as it appeared to be merely a test of the “bold” feature. -If you’re trying to figure out why underlining didn’t format the way you expected, just ask. :)-

    For whatever reason, in WoC‘s implementation of Movable Type, each paragraph you want italicized needs its own leading and trailing underline character. An empty line breaks things.

    –Nort

  6. The low hanging softball that I want to knock out of the park is this one:

    “Compare the population of Cuba to neighbors like Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and who do you think lives better?”

    That’s easy. Without question, the Jamaicans.

    I was living in Jamaica when Castro sent in his thugs to shoot up people and intimidate them from going to the polls. It didn’t take the Jamaicans much calculation to figure out that they wanted nothing of what Castro was offering. It didn’t take many people of my acquaintance being shot up by Castro’s followers to learn all I need about that man.

    Afterwards, I met a few refugees from Cuba and listened to thier stories, but I knew everything I needed to know when they pulled bodies of children out from under the beds they were hiding under in Jamaica. Castro progressive policies at work.

  7. I’m always unsure how to respond to these things. Stupid people are everywhere, especially in the people who believe they are right about everything. We liberals have our Che-lovers and our Euro-trash. Then again, look at the support for Mike Huckabee. Personally, the guy seems nice, but what he says (and his followers believe) scares the bejesus out of me.

  8. And if the price of universal healthcare is eternal thralldom, count me out as well. I’ll pass on being cared for as one might a draft horse.

  9. If the price of universal literacy is prison camps for writers, count me out”?

    I am truly shocked that you would be so judgemental. If the US professional librarians association (sorry I do not know the correct name) see fit to praise Castro and not worry about Cuban librarians jailed for being librarians, then I do not see how you can be critical.

  10. I don’t even think that their ‘universal healthcare and education’ is all that.

    Why is Cuba’s life expectancy so much lower than that of the US? Isn’t that the real measure?

    Where are Cuba’s vast hordes of Scientists and Engineers? Despite the US embargo, why aren’t European countries outsourcing software development to Cuba?

  11. I’m not sure if Bertram’s pompous defenders noticed the hasty redeployments he made in the comments, beginning with:

    I think you must have missed the bit above where I wrote about dictatorship, crimes, repressions and denial of democratic rights. I’m not letting anyone off the hook, I’m responding to the standard US take on Castro, which is grotesquely unbalanced.

    So you see he merely yearned for balance – like a harmless FOX info-babe, not a canting toad-hearted commissar. Right? In the same vein, one could chatter on about how healthy and well-educated the Nazis were (German children didn’t get their milk ration cut off at age 7, and were exempt from labor drafts), about Mussolini’s sanitation projects, etc.

    If the purpose of such additional information is to give a more complete understanding of such regimes, we can’t object. If the purpose is to refute our criticism and rejection of such regimes, then we point out that it simply doesn’t follow, morally or logically. Train stations with clean restrooms don’t balance out Auschwitz. Not to sane people, they don’t.

    But for the moment, let me note that Bertram has put Castro back on the hook. And it’s still a very nasty hook, for all the Che-blather. He admits that Cuba is a dictatorship, which it is – one of the purest personal dictatorships that has existed in modern times.

    So any further arguments justifying Cuba must justify the concept of dictatorship as well – they must argue that (in this case at least) the benefits of dictatorship outweigh the demerits.

    Either that, or they must argue with Bertram, too. Right?

    Since I am, in fact, opposed to human rights abuses, and haven’t said anything to contradict this, these remarks are rather puzzling. Unless, that is, you imagine that it is not possible to admire anything at all about a regime that is guilty of human rights abuses. But that would be an absurd position to take, for obvious reasons.

    We can admire the Roman aqueduct without admiring the slavery that built it. But if we are criticizing slavery, it would be absurd for someone to object, “Oh yeah? What about the aqueduct?”

  12. Splitter!

    _”the benefits of dictatorship outweigh the demerits.”_

    That is exactly what they are saying, I dont care how they try to sweeten it up. The term ‘apologist’ exists for a reason.

  13. Let me put it another way:

    1.

    Those of us, from left to right, who believe in democracy, republicanism, and liberalism (as philosophical principles, not mere political expressions) reject dictatorship out of hand. That is, we do not regard any argument, or any hundred arguments, as sufficient to justify dictatorship. For us, dictatorship is not an option, ever.

    There is no material calculation that can effect this judgment. We would prefer a poor but free society to a lavish slave plantation, on principle. This is our prejudice. No factual or statistical argument can have the slightest effect on it, because we are asserting principle, not weighing alternatives. Just as we would reject murder out of hand, regardless of the size of the life insurance policy.

    Are the “progressives” with us here, or are they not?

    2.

    But to complicate matters, we reject dictatorship not only for ourselves, but for all human beings. We realize that no human social order, including our own, is perfect. We realize that dictatorships exist, and cannot be summarily abolished – the world is an imperfect place, and human ability is limited – but we refuse to recognize the right of any dictator to dictate to any people; the Arab and the African and the Chinese no less than any other human being, and it makes no difference whether such people have ever enjoyed freedom or not, we still call it their right.

    Our relationship to existing dictatorships is irrelevant to this principle. We might befriend, fight, or ignore them, as Filthy Strumpet Politics decides. We can reasonably disagree over how we deal with the dictator, but we never regard the dictator as a rightful model of governance. That is our idealism.

    If the progressive is not with us now, then what is it about these other people that makes it right for the dictator to rule them? What happened to Droits de l’Homme?

  14. PD Shaw –

    I’ve heard the word embraced by some on the left, including a certain person who presides over a leading leftist blog.

    Not all Utilitarians are unprincipled sophists, but the unprincipled sophist can make excellent use of Utilitarianism. The Utilitarian can endlessly defend any evil thing, and endlessly slander any good thing, by putting it on an imaginary balance and piling a mountain of tiny arguments on the other side.

  15. That is, we do not regard any argument, or any hundred arguments, as sufficient to justify dictatorship. For us, dictatorship is not an option, ever.

    Well stated. It reminds me of a line from Aaron Copeland’s “Lincoln Portrait” that goes, “Just as I would not be a slave, I will not be a master.”

    Rational people would not freely submit to rule by a dictator but there seems to be a certain class of people – often found in academia – that longs to dictate to others. These are the ones you hear making up excuses for the excesses of socialism and communism such as “the right people weren’t in charge” meaning themselves. It was people like this that William Buckley directed his comment, “I’d rather be governed by names chosen at random from the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard.”

  16. Glen, I probably misread your first comment. I didn’t think you were compromising a principle, but you seemed to be compromising the framework of the argument. I think cost/benefit analysis is great for policy analysis and majority rule is undeniably fair, but there are certain points that cannot be decided by utility or democracy. Which I take it is the point of your second comment.

    “Almost every man has a sense of certain things being wrong.”

  17. He objects to the lack of forced prison camp stays and accompanying torture for the the undereducated and unsuitably indoctrinated, who disagree with him.

    Were there any other questions?

  18. PD Shaw –

    I don’t subscribe to the Utilitarians, or their cousins the Pragmatists, but they do include some champions of liberty. John Stuart Mill, of course, and Sidney Hook. Maybe they had more faith than I do that humane values will survive the ultimate cost-benefit analysis.

    When human liberty, and even human life, is ridiculously devalued in favor of “values” like denying chunks of the earth to capitalism, I’m just skeptical about how the math is going to come out.

  19. Glen, I’m hardly a “progressive” (a regressive if anything), but I can’t agree with your universalization of Western values. Some people need a strongman kicking ass or the alternative is anarchy and slaughter e.g., the Palestinians, the former Yugoslavia, the Kenyans, the Lebonese. As John C. Calhoun put it, “Liberty, for those unprepared for it, far from being a blessing, is a curse.”

  20. I have always liked the drawing of left & right coming around to a circle. Go too far down either route, and you come to a point where someone thinks they have the answer for everyone. That’s when you form dictatorships. At some point in no longer matters if the right is responsible for Hitler or the left is responsible for Stalin, these men have become monsters of their own making.

    The more apologies they make for these men, the closer they become to admitting their own place on the circle.

    As long as these arguments are used as demagogues, exceptions that the left needs to excise; I’m ok with destroying these arguments. However, I sometimes feel that these arguments are used to attack and batter the entire left, which I feel is a straw man argument.

    I do not believe in Castro, like him, or want his government to exist in any form. Nor do I continue to listen to those who do. I know alot of people who agree with me in the democratic party, and a lot who don’t. Just as I know alot of republicans who listen to that rat%#@$@! Pat Robertson, and alot of republicans who have the sense to be smarter than that.

  21. I don’t like Pat Robertson. I think he ought to have a long, unpleasant meeting with the tax man. Still I haven’t seen him declared dictator of anything. I haven’t seen his gulags. I’m not aware of him convening any firing squads. I don’t think he has a secret police force.
    Sadly what these talks often come down to is people, not necessarily from the right, (thanks AL) pointing to a number of hideous and successful ( in terms of body counts any way) mass murders who the left support and continue to support to this day. The left in response claims Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are just the same as Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Che and all the rest. So where exactly is that straw man, Alchemist?

  22. In my youth I had occasion to present a few simple facts to a journalist, and was genuinely surprised at the headline and story line that ensued. It was really a lesson in the necessity of context to make sense of the facts chosen to be conveyed by me, selected by the journalist, and eventually attended to by the reader. Similarly, a holiday trip to Cuba would have been remarkably un-educational except for a day
    spent walking around Havana in the company of an English speaking engineer (under-employed as a night watchman) trying to feed his family as an ‘unofficial’ tour guide. Walking around in his sandals for just a few hours put the whole Cuban experience into the necessary perspective.
    The danger of ‘academia’ is very much a case of knowing more and more about less and less. The complete story is so much more likely to present itself firsthand, that I make it a rule to largely ignore most who have not ‘been there – done that’. There are better presented, salient observations about socialism in this thread, but the sum of the Cuban experience for me was ‘airport security’ Cuban style. Similar to present day security at other airports *except for the squad car that follows the taxiing plane to the runway and waits until it takes
    off* – his job was to prevent some desperate soul from jumping into the wheel wells – risking life and limb to escape the workers paradise.

  23. “we refuse to recognize the right of any dictator to dictate to any people.”

    OK. Now tell me why it is right for the “democratically elected” leader of the USA to dictate to the people of Iraq. I say “dictate” because apparently even a democracy is not enough – it has to be a carbon copy of the American one, which as we all know has many and grievous faults (probably the worst one being no qualifications for voting).

    Has it ever occurred to any of you that perhaps Iraq as a whole doesn’t want to be democratic? And even if it does, may not be ready for it anyway? After all, a country where a large proportion of the population can’t read and write is going to have trouble following the arguments. (Incidentally, is this something to do with the gradually worsening state of the American and British education systems?)

    In such a situation, the people with the most money and power have the best chance of getting elected (or re-elected) by throwing money at the problem. Sound familiar, anyone?

  24. _I say “dictate” because apparently even a democracy is not enough – it has to be a carbon copy of the American one_

    Except the Iraqi Constitution provides for a parliamentary system, a Civil Constitution and civil rights for women.

    _Has it ever occurred to any of you that perhaps Iraq as a whole doesn’t want to be democratic?_

    Maybe we should have a referendum on the Constitution. Maybe we could poll Iraqis and find out what system they want.

  25. I’m pretty much with Fletcher (except for the carbon copy of American democracy bit; I don’t think that is or ever was true). The question isn’t what they want but what they’re capable of given their historical, cultural, and economic conditions. One man one vote one time (like, say the election of Hamas in Gaza) is not democracy, and most relatively backward tribal cultures like those of Africa and the Middle East use “democracy” to establish the rule of the most numerous tribe (see Kenya and to a large degree Iraq). None of this is to defend Castro. His dictatorship was unnaturally brutal because it was an impostion of a foriegn ideology (and one that was intrinsically deeply flawed). But let’s not be under any illusions that Cuba was ever democratic. Batista may have been a less brutal dictator than Castro but he was no Jefferson.

  26. _”Has it ever occurred to any of you that perhaps Iraq as a whole doesn’t want to be democratic?”_

    Yet they continue to turn out for elections… masochists…

    Has it ever occurred to you that Iraqis arent interested in living, which is why they keep blowing themselves up? Makes about as much sense.

    _”And even if it does, may not be ready for it anyway?”_

    Oh. Do you recommend a literacy test? Maybe only male land owners should vote? Or a grandfather clause. Surprisingly successful liberal western democracies dont always spring whole cloth out of the ground. The US spilled an awful lot of blood getting our house sorted out as well.

  27. Mark #31
    I think what’s relevent is just whose blood you are spilling in a quest to _export_ democracy. I adhere to the view that democracy is by definition a substantionally homegrown commodity.

  28. Fletcher Christian –

    The focus of my argument is dictatorship, and the justifications of dictatorship. Not the possible alternatives to dictatorship – let us assume for the sake of argument, and the sake of long-downtrodden man, that reasonable alternatives exist?

    God knows discussions of democracy are depressing enough these days, since it obviously rates lower than clitoral castration in some people’s estimation, but that’s another subject.

    Dictatorship (which need not be personal, but can reside in a party or other collective state entity) exists when an individual has no rights that the government is bound to respect. Dictators may pay lip service to human rights, and claim to endow certain rights, but they recognize no right that limits the power of the state over the individual. Let that serve as a definition for present purposes; it certainly applies to Cuba.

    It’s not necessary to agree on what rights human beings enjoy, or how those rights originate. Many reasonable people don’t agree on that. It’s also not necessary to believe that certain individual human rights apply to all human beings – though I can’t understand how anyone who is not a 19th Century slave-trader can maintain that some people are fit only for servitude.

    Against any possible formulation of the Rights of Man, the dictator’s apologists might claim:

    1. Human rights are inferior to the material benefits that the dictator can provide. “Free” societies cannot or will not provide the same benefit package.

    2. Providing some degree of material benefit to some portion of its population is sufficient justification for a dictatorship, even if people in free societies enjoy equal or greater benefits.

    3. Dictatorship is justified regardless of whether it benefits its people or not, because the dictator provides come service to the rest of the world that outweighs the rights (if any) and the material good (if any) of the people under his heel. He provides stability, prevents civil war, contains the spread of Somethingism, or keeps some despised and mistrusted population under check.

    I don’t care one pinch of fertilizer for any of those arguments, but that’s just a few off the top of my undereducated head. I’m sure Prof. Leiter is just brimming with sensible observations on the subject.

  29. Isn’t how we’ve treated Castro for 50 years how we should treat all dictators?
    Does the US treat all dictators the same way even when they deprive their own people of democracy and free speech?

  30. pedrog:

    Does the US treat all dictators the same way even when they deprive their own people of democracy and free speech?

    No, of course not, nor would it be possible to do so unless we were God.

    Failure to consistently confront evil, for good reasons or bad, does not justify evil. Those who pretend that it does are often the same ones who tout peace, diplomacy, and alleged “world opinion” as superlative values, and those are precisely the things that often prevent us from completely ostracizing the dictator.

    Incidentally, for a serviceable definition of the principles I’m talking about, see “The Euston Manifesto”:http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=1 – in particular 2) No apology for tyranny and 3) Human rights for all.

  31. John, two points: First, I don’t trust the health/longevity statistics from Cuba at all. Second, there’s no doubt Haiti is screwed up royally; Communism isn’t required to totally ruin a country, it’s just a useful shortcut.

  32. John, repeating the same post doesn’t add value. It’s considered sp*m. We ban for that. This is your first warning.

    Marshal Nortius “Big Tuna” Maximus

  33. Haiti is not a democracy and never has been. However if you compare the Dominican Republic and Cuba.. no one would leave the DR to go to Cuba. They are not fools. And it is not culture – there are plenty of exchanges and Dominicans love Cuban music and food and Cubans..! But they also feel sorry for them.

  34. Since the 2006 Freedom House Report indicates that both Haiti and Cuba are “Not Free,” I’m not sure the source of this false choice.

    Would you rather live in a free Cuba or a not free Cuba? Is a violent strong man the only way a 77 year life expectancy can be claimed? If Cuba became free, would the life expectancy crash?

    I would rather the Cuban people be free.

  35. mark: _John, If I were 56, I’d rather live in Cuba._

    Hah! I almost went that direction, but I thought this was the year of idealism.

  36. PD, always play the odds (written from JFK waiting for a delayed flight to Las Vegas).

    Of course, the choice between living in Cuba or Haiti at any age reminds me of my little sister’s dilemna when we were on vacation as kids in the family station wagon, touring the Rockies. “Would you rather are car plunged down the mountain, or get crushed by a rock,” she was fond of asking.

  37. PD, “are” should have been “our”
    My morning flight was cancelled. I’ve been in this lounge for 7 hours, where to make up for the cancelled flight, the wine has not only been flowing freely, it’s been damned good. I’ve taken good advantage of the airline’s apologetic mood. My spelling and grammar, never my strong points to begin with, may have suffered as a result.

  38. # 39 John Ryan
    Would you rather live on Hatii or Cuba ? Life expectancy in Hatii 57 or Cuba 77

    You need to put this into historical perspective. If you had asked that question 50 years ago, you would have been mocked out of the auditorium. In 1960, life expectancy in Cuba was 64; in Haiti, 42. (World Bank Development Indicators Online, access through state library license. They don’t have data for the 1950s, but the differences would be similar.). From 1960 to present, life expectancy in Cuba and the rest of Latin America has caught up, or nearly caught up , with the US. From 1960 to 2005, here are some life expectancy figures: US: 70 to 78, Latin America: 56 to 73, Chile: 57 to 78, Costa Rica: 62 to 79, Cuba: 64 to 78, Peru: 48 to 71. For all the brouhaha about Caudillo Fidel’s great health care, Cuba’s progress in life expectancy parallels the rest of Latin America.

    Another myth is that Caudillo Fidel took over a country with abysmal health care. In 1957, Cuba had around 1000 inhabitants per MD, comparable to the US and Western European countries, better than many countries in Europe and all the “Third World” countries with the exception of Argentina, Uruguay, and Hong Kong.(UN, World Health Organization yearbook) While Caudillo Fidel may have contended that he inherited a banana republic, those bananas were pretty good.

    Perhaps one way of looking at Cuba under Caudillo Fidel is to look at how Cuba kept up with technological progress. Back in the 1950s, TV was the next big thing. In 1957, Cuba’s number of TVs per 1,000 inhabitants was first in Latin America and fifth in the world . We fast-forward a half century, where Internet access is now the next big thing. For 2004, Cuba was last in Latin America and 171st out of 211 countries in Internet access per 1,000. (World Bank Development Indicators)

    RENAISSSANCE AND DECAY has information on TV, medical, and literacy data for Cuba, pre and post 1959, albeit somewhat dated, and shows that by many measures, Caudillo Fidel ran a prosperous country into the ground. Cubans in the 1950s would have been appalled to be compared with Haiti. That someone today would compare Cuba to Haiti shows how Cuba has deteriorated under Caudillo Fidel’s stewardship.

    Here is a lecture by a Swedish MD the illuminates misconceptions about the Third world. Highly recommended.

  39. Corvan: You don’t think Pat Robertson would be a Stalin, if only he had the opportunity? Compare Robertson’s rhetoric on gays, sexuality and liberals to Nazi rhetoric on Jews in the 1930’s. Both blame single groups for all of the worlds ills: for Hitler this included World War I, poverty and immorality. For Robertson; this includes Hurricanes, floods and 9/11. My point: once someone engages in the politics of “They’re killing us”, it’s only a short step to “We need to kill them first”.

    Fine; want more Facist dictators that the right apologizes for; How about Pinochet? Just the other day someone posted how Pinochet “Brought democracy to Chile in only 50 years” (If you consider torture, murder and violent vote supression the path to democracy).

    There are a load of other third world facist (or facist-leaning) nations that exist with problems similar to the communist nations you suggest. Often 1st world nations (and often those on the right) apologize for now & then: Coastal Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Musharraf’s Pakistan, (etc).

    Hell, Guilliani’s firm worked for Qatar: A TERRORIST HAVEN. Isn’t that just a little worse than a random blogger who defends Cuba?

  40. Alchemist:

    “Hell, Guilliani’s firm worked for Qatar: A TERRORIST HAVEN. Isn’t that just a little worse than a random blogger who defends Cuba?”

    Qatar could definately use a little democracy, but its hardly a state sponser of terrorism. Qatar is a US ally in the region, which readily agrees to the US basing of troops there. It is one of the better managed Arab states, with a high GDP, no income tax, high standards of living, and by the standards of the Arab world socially and culturally progressive.

    Qatar is a constitutional monarchy, where women have the right to vote. While real authority is in the hands of the Emir, people do have a say in thier day to day affairs. In this it far exceeds Cuba, and more closely resembles England of a few centuries past. It’s got more than its share of problems, but I don’t think there is any shame in doing business there. If anything, given the progressive trend in Qatar, doing business there is likely to bring about further reform. This is quite different than doing business with faux progressive regimes like Castros.

    “There are a load of other third world facist (or facist-leaning) nations that exist with problems similar to the communist nations you suggest.”

    Probably so. Part of the problem is that ‘facist’ here is so vague that I can’t qualify what you mean. Facism is in my opinion just another variaty of socialism, so we probably don’t agree on what it means. Let’s stick to ‘authoritarian’, which has a meaning I think we can agree upon. I agree that there are other authoritarian governments with problems similar to Cuba. Few if any have problems as extreme, and all of the ones that do have leaders that either are or were formerly darlings of the left – Mugabe for example.

    “Often 1st world nations (and often those on the right) apologize for now & then: Coastal Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Musharraf’s Pakistan, (etc).”

    Neither Pakistan or Saudi Arabia is a model state. Yet, I’d stack them up against Cuba, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and until recently China and Vietnam. Musharraf is a thug, no equivication. But he’s also a thug that loses elections, allows true opposition parties, and some amount of free speach – things that dictators like Castro or Kim Il-Jung never do. It’s not that I’m going to apologize for Musharraf, but that I think that if you criticize Musharraf you can’t possibly defend Castro. I wonder why you feel the emotional need to weigh in in favor of apologizing for Castro?

    As for Pinochet, there are similarities with Castro, but the difference between Pinochet and Castro is night and day. Yes, Pinochet is responcible for the deaths of about 3000 individuals, plus the torture and political imprisonment of 10’s of thousands. Full stop. Yes, Pinochet was a dictator that deprived innocent people of basic human rights. Full stop.

    But not to excuse any of the above, but rather to contrast it to Castro, Pinochet was only in power for 15 years. Almost all the human rights abuses occurred in the early days following the coup. He did not run his country into the ground. He did not ever accrue or try to accrue total power in Chile, as evidenced by his swift departure. He allowed and even encouraged private property. He never was nor tried to become a cult of personality. And quite unlike Castro, he did not enter power under false pretenses. Castro assumed power while claiming to oppose communism (while secretly being supported by the KGB), and with a promise to bring democracy. Castro consolidation of power was gradual and ever increasing. Pinochets release of power was gradual and ever increasing.

    With Pinochet, the problem is that you have a choice not between ‘good and evil’, but between ‘bad and worse’. I believe if Allende had been allowed to take over, he’d still be there and we’d be naming him in the same breath as Castro. It’s quite possible that Pinochet’s coup would have failed or even never taken place if Allende hadn’t invited Castro to Chile. Fear of a Castro style regime was the motivating force behind the coup, and the principle reason that the rank and file military supported the coup.

  41. @ Alchemist
    Fine; want more Facist dictators that the right apologizes for; How about Pinochet?

    What most people do not realize about the democratically elected Allende is that three weeks before the coup, the also democratically elected House of Deputies passed by 81-47 a resolution titled the Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy. An excerpt follows.

    “5. That it is a fact that the current government of the Republic, from the beginning, has sought to conquer absolute power with the obvious purpose of subjecting all citizens to the strictest political and economic control by the state and, in this manner, fulfilling the goal of establishing a totalitarian system: the absolute opposite of the representative democracy established by the Constitution;
    6. That to achieve this end, the administration has committed not isolated violations of the Constitution and the laws of the land, rather it has made such violations a permanent system of conduct, to such an extreme that it systematically ignores and breaches the proper role of the other branches of government…”

    In general and in specific, the resolution could be interpreted as an invitation to a coup. Allende himself called it such. The democratically elected members of the House of Deputies would not have passed such a strongly-worded resolution by a commanding 63- 37% majority if their constituents, the Chilean people, were not also disgusted with the Allende government’s repeated violations of law and democratic procedure.

    Chilean President Patricio Aylwin, who was elected President of Chile right after the Pinochet years, had been head of the Christian Democratic Party during the Allende years. He played a leading part in the crafting of the Declaration, which as many have pointed out, was an invitation to a coup. Aylwin supported the coup, and later helped lead the winning NO vote in the 1988 referendum that lead to the December 1989 elections that replaced the Pinochet regime, before he was elected President in a center-left coalition. History is messy.

    BTW, check out the record of Pinochet’s Chile, Fidel’s Cuba, and democratic Costa Rica in getting Infant Mortality to below 20/ 1,000 live births. Also correlate this with population per MD. The results will surprise many.

  42. _I can’t understand how anyone who is not a 19th Century slave-trader can maintain that some people are fit only for servitude._

    So I’m a 19th century slave trader because I don’t believe that “these”:http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/clips/13aug07.doc#hama people and “these”:http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=105&sid=1345204 people and “these”:http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/news/kenya.violence/?iref=mptopics people are capable of democracy? There are civilized people in the world, and there are savages. It’s not politically correct, but the truth rarely is. That’s why the postmodernist left has so much invested in discrediting the notion of truth. (I’ve never done a link before, so I’m praying it works.)

  43. Basically: I agree with just about everything you say celbrim, which is my point. Just one last thing: I think Pinochet only left government because he was under vast international & political pressure to leave. He did the right thing, but only because he basically had to to prevent the next coup.

    I agree that fascist (and my choices are guilty of this) is a watered down term. I basically intended at as an authoritarian system run by the military (which Pakistan is/Saudi Arabia really isn’t). Case in point: Mushraff lost elections, but he isn’t going to leave his position of power anytime soon.

    My point is that there will always be apologists on the right and the left for ugly, despicable and inhumane leaders/governments/systems. I think it’s good to identify (& mentally separate) those whose view most mirror your own, and I applaud AL for doing so. My fear is that some on the right then exclude right-wing totalitarian groups (for example: Jonah Goldberg’s new book).

    Evil doesn’t have a pollitical affiliation, all it takes is one guy/girl believing that he has the answer for everyone, and is willing to violently remove all those who disagree with him/her.

    I made the exact argument with an atheist-apologizer (on the other side)last week.

  44. So I’m a 19th century slave trader because I don’t believe that these people and these people and these people are capable of democracy? There are civilized people in the world, and there are savages.

    Let’s take, for the moment, the stance that you are absolutely correct and these people are not capable of democracy.

    Today.

    What about in 10 year? 50? 100? 1000?

    Go back far enough and quite a lot of our ancestors were murderous savages. Their ability to handle democracy is something they get to choose, it is not for you to judge.

    So yes, you are a slave trader. Are you not deciding that these people do not have the right to freedom?

    And please don’t get this confused with any obligation on our part to instill democracy. Recognizing that slavery is wrong full-stop is a separate (although related) issue than any moral obligation to exercise force to free slaves. The first is a pure moral choice, the second is the one with the messy practicalities intruding.

  45. When I read people saying that some nation or other is not capable of democracy, I wonder how they think it will ever become capable. Here’s what Lord Macaulay wrote about this point in his Essay on Milton (1843):

    “Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learnt to swim. If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait for ever.”

  46. Dr. Weevil:

    Most of what are commonly called “Western” countries are free because their inhabitants made them so – with the exception of Japan, perhaps.

    The peoples of the Middle East, for example, are not being stopped by any outside agency from running their various nations as democracies. And it’s none of our business, either. When they’re killing OUR people, that’s when it becomes our business.

    Saudi Arabia, to take an example, was just as mediaeval and barbaric in 1850 as it is now – possibly more so. And so was every other Moslem country. The reason why this is now the West’s problem can be summed up in one word. Guess which one?

  47. Treefrog,

    Japan and Germany didn’t “develop” democracy. We imposed it on them. South Korea was a dictatorship for years before it developed democracy, but that also was the direct result of American influence and protection of South Korea from North Korea. You may well be right that the people I pointed out will develop democracy in the next couple of centuries. I’m in no way suggesting we stop them if that’s the case. I’m simply saying that they are not now capable of democracy, and it is not our job to impose it on them. It’s our job to look after our national interest, and attempting to turn primitive savages into liberal democrats is not doing that job. It’s nothing to do with their “rights” only their capabilities.

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