The Corner

Dictators

From a reader:

Dear Mr. Goldberg,

In your Dec. 30 column you mentioned the BBC’s directive not to call Saddam Hussein a “dictator.” An amusing contrast is their readiness to use that term with others such as Augusto Pinochet. Here are a few examples that Google turned up:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3237740.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3186871.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/country_profiles/1222905.stm

The last link is a brief history of Chile which has a “Pinochet dictatorship” section. I was curious whether they used “dictator” in other country profiles. Not for Iraq. In Cuba’s they do, but not for Castro, only for one of his predecessors.

I think it’s perfectly accurate to call both Hussein and Pinochet dictators. However, if one was requiring strict criteria for using this subjective characterization, Pinochet would much less qualify as a dictator than Hussein, e.g., level of dissent allowed, domestic body count, and the degree which others in his junta limited his one-man rule.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now. @jonahnro

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