Thursday, December 16, 2004

Our sonsofbitches - and their's 

In a comment to my previous post about the continuing romanticization of Che Guevara, reader Quentin George writes:

"Have you ever noticed that the Left accuses the Right of supporting dictators (Pinochet, military regimes in South Korea and South Vietnam etc)? Fair enough. But you don't hear anyone on the right glamourising their 'sonofabitch' or considering them hip, or architects of freedom."
Good point and one that certainly bears continuous repeating. We've all seen our fair share of T-shirts with that iconic Che image - fortunately, we haven't seen too many people wearing a Reinhard Haydrich, or a Rudolf Hess T-shirt. The Che attire is respectable enough to be seen around our elite universities and other trendy spots; Nazi apparel is worn largely in private by a few moronic skinheads.

I got to think about this issue - and even more specifically the point raised by Quentin - a few days ago, when the media reported the 89-year old former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet will stand trial for the kidnappings of nine opposition activists and the death of one of them during his rule in the 1970s and 80s. This is, of course, not the first time that Pinochet has been pursued by the courts - we can all still remember a few years ago his arrest in Great Britain at the behest of a Spanish judge who wanted to try Pinochet for the deaths of Spanish nationals in Chile during Pinochet's 17-year rule.

Pinochet is a controversial figure, to say the least. There is no doubt that following his coup against the Marxist Allende government in 1973 some three thousand Chileans disappeared and were murdered by the regime, and human rights largely suppressed under a military dictatorship. For all that, the international left continues to hate Pinochet with a passion to this day. On the other hand, Pinochet's actions have prevented Chile from becoming a second Cuba, and arguably saved more lives than they costed. During the 1980s, Pinochet introduced a range of free market reforms that substantially lifted the Chilean standard of living, and towards the end of the decade he engineered a peaceful transition to democracy.

Seeing how much the discipline of history is dominated by the left, I have a fair idea how the history will judge Pinochet. I don't know how God will. Pinochet was clearly a "sonofabitch", and he was "our sonofabitch." On the balance, he did Chile - and us - a favor by stopping the country's slide towards communism. Yet - and this is the point that Quentin makes and which I used to make in discussions with friends in my pre-blogging days - our side of politics never turned him into a pinup boy, never idealized him, and never romantcized him (see, for example, this piece by David Horowitz).

Over the long years of the Cold War, there were at various points in time significant cults of Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, and for a while even Pol Pot, not to mention a whole host of other, lesser Third World "liberators." There were no cults of Pinochet, Marcos, Roh and other anti-communist strongmen and authoritarians. The difference was the left actually thought that their sonsofbitches were great human beings, Messianic-like figures, benefactors of mankind; we thought that our sonsofbitches were necessary lesser evils.

Needless to say, the left still hasn't come to terms with their moral bankruptcy. And I'm not expecting to hear any apologies anytime soon.

Update: Have I accidentally stirred the pot, or what? (see the comments section)

Just to clarify a few points. Firstly: 1) I wholeheartedly agree that Pinochet was a sonofabitch; 2) I also think that he was better for Chile than the communist alternative; 3) but that in turn doesn't mean that I wear a Pinochet T-shirt or have a Pinochet "Viva la contra-revolucion" poster on my wall.

Secondly: you can always find a few exceptions to every rule, but it doesn't prove anything. I'm sure there were some on my side of politics who did glamorize the anti-communist dictators, but the extent of that phenomenon pales into insignificance when compared the left-wing cults of the Third World "liberators."

Thirdly: I don't claim a sole ownership over morality in politics; but I do claim that I was on the right side of the most important moral and political question of the twentieth century - the question of communism - and that the left was by and large on the wrong side. And by and large still hasn't come to terms with that fact.

Fourthly: of course the right supported its fair share of sonsofbitches - the point is that my side made a tactical decision to do because we thought they were a lesser evil (in practice some were, some weren't). I would have loved to have gone through the whole of the Cold War without having to have a recourse to sonsofbitches but it simply was not possible - unfortunately, in most if not all of these places in the developing world the alternative to our sonofabitch was not a decent, stable, peaceful democracy but "their" sonofabitch, who in most cases would have been far worse than ours.

On the other hand, the left wouldn't even acknowledge they were supporting sonsofbitches - for them, people like Castro, Mao, Ho and others were positive forces for good. That's the difference.

And lastly, the right - either directly or indirectly - has succeeded in replacing a lot of our sonsofbitches as well as many of the left's sonsofbitches with democratic governments. What has the left done to advance the cause of freedom and human rights throughout the world?


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