Thursday, April 17, 2003

Chile Con Friedman-Orrin Judd bounces off of this AP piece reporting on Colin Powell apologizing for the 1973 coup in Chile-"It is not a part of American history that we're proud of[.]" The State Department denied that the US had a hand in the coup. This CNN piece from 2000 looked at CIA knowledge of the coup, but evidence points away to direct instigation of a coup; the Nixon administration didn't like Allende and worked against him in public opinion, but didn't start the coup. Orrin replies with
Of course we did it and we should be proud of that. Had we done the same for Cuba in the early 60s and were it, like Chile, now a model of economic freedom and development, there'd still be some nitwit wringing his hands over how mean we were to Castro. It is, in fact, Cuba we owe an apology, not Chile.
I've raked Orrin over the coals for his support of a Cuban invasion in October 1962 before.One of the problems with making a parallel with Chile and Cuba is that the Allende government that was overthrown was popularly elected. The second problem with the parallel was that it was largely a internal military coup that got rid of Allende; the US didn't mind the coup and likely nudged it along, but it seems to have been a home-grown effort. By contrast, we've seen no significant internal uprising in Cuba that we could have coaxed along; we would have if it were there. Before we go forward, a quick history of the Allende years is helpful. This history of the era seems to be fair, pointing out Allende's election in 1970; it was a close plurality in the midst of a nasty recession that needed to be confirmed by the National Congress. The Allende regime proceeded to nationalize most key industries, often without compensation to the owners of the nationalized companies. The result of the socialist agenda was hyperinflation and middle-class unrest that led to the 1973 coup that put General Pinochet in power. There are two main reasons why people on the right want to justify the coup despite the human rights abuses of the Pinochet years. The first is that it makes the coup proper made sense at the time, both from a humanitarian sense and from a geopolitical sense. The coup itself seemed to be in Chile's best interest, given the basket-case that the economy had become. It wouldn't be the last time kicking out an elected government made sense. For example, Musharaff's coup in Pakistan has been a net plus for the country, as he led the military in taking over a dysfunctional. We've also seen "autocoups" by Fujimori and Yeltzin that were seen to be improvements at the time as well as the forced removal of the Philippines' Joseph Estrada via massive protest. Democracy is important, but there are times where extralegal measures are called for The second reason is the Pinochet government understood economics, bringing in some free-market reforms that American conservatives like. The Pinochet regime turned to "the Chicago boys," a group of Chilean economists trained at the University of Chicago, to revamp the economic system. Chile's privatized social security system is a model that many proponents of Social Security reform point to. Liberals like to get their digs in at Milton Freedman and other Chicago-schoolers by pointing out their connection to Pinochet. Of course, the Pinochet regime is the poster boy for the liberal human rights crowd; a thug they can bash for killing and torturing people with a clear conscience because he's a conservative, and a conservative with ties to Nixon and the unreformed CIA. Part of this is the searching-under-the-streetlamp effect; a relatively free Chile allowed for a lot of documentation while more brutal socialist regimes lacked the freedoms to bring such abuses to light. Another part is the association of Pinochet with the he's-our-SOB school of politics of the Cold War issue; talking about the Allende coup takes the leftist back to the bad old days before the rightist thugs started to get toppled. Another part of it is that the economic reforms Pinochet put in place are still there; the popularly-elected governments of the 90s and today kept most of the free-market reforms and merely improved on human rights. If they can discredit Pinochet, they've got a shot at discrediting the free-market reforms. Liberals seem to be focused on Pinochet for the wrong reasons and conservatives have some cause to try and look at the good side of his regime, but let us not forget the large number of people killed and tortured by his thugs. Chile's a better place today than in 1973. However, we can have economic growth and stability without disappearing people. That's a message that needs to be sent to Riyadh and to Singapore and to Beijing.

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