The Corner

Pinochet V. Castro

I have to finish a piece for the mag and prepare for a Liberty Fund conference, so I can’t Cornerize (Cornify?) as much as I’d like. But, as I think I’m going to write a column about Pinochet tomorrow, I thought I’d just throw one quick point out there. Hypocrisy-watching is going to be a full-time job in the months to come. Right now, the Pinochet-hating left is talking about the manifest evil of the man in purely idealistic and universal terms. In other words, because it is always wrong to censor, to oppress, to torture etc. Pinochet must be condemned in absolute and unqeuivocal terms. Just listen to the Human Rights crowd for five minutes and you’ll hear how there can be no excuse for the things Pinochet did. Meanwhile, conservatives sympathetic to Pinochet (and I basically count myself among them) are making excuses to one extent or another for Pinochet because he stopped the spread of Communism in his country and allowed it to prosper. There’s a good and rich argument to be had here.

But…you know what? Fidel Castro is going to die sooner rather than later. And when that happens, you’re going to hear crickets chirping in certain quarters of the left before you hear similar denunciations of Castro, who remains more of a tyrant than Pinochet was. And, you can be sure, conservatives will suddenly sound universal and idealistic in their condemnations of human rights abuses under Fidel.

There are many important caveats and exceptions to be made here, and I don’t have the time for any of them. So I will skip to the end and simply note that working with S.O.B.’s is fundamental to foreign policy. It was yesterday, is now, and will be tomorrow and ever after. The relevant moral question will always be, Why? Why tolerate this S.O.B. and condemn that one? To what end? Why give X room to manuever, a free pass, etc. when you’re trying to depose and contain Y? I think in the grand debate we can characterize as Pinochet V. Castro, Pinochet wins in a cake walk, as the late Jeane Kirkpatrick would surely agree. Indeed, what fascinates me is that so many people can disagree.

Oh: Here’s NRO’s useful symposium on the death of Pinochet.

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