Tuesday, December 19, 2006
# Posted 9:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Of course, President Reagan and his UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick were strong supporters of the Pinochet government in the early 1980s. Yet by the middle of the decade, neo-conservatives led by Elliott Abrams were on the warpath against Pinochet, determined to bring down the dictator and restore democracy to Chile.
And fall Pinochet did -- primarily because of the courage of Chilean democrats, but American help was pivotal. In addition to Abrams and other Reagan administration officials, credit must be given to Sen. Tom Harkin and other liberal human rights activists.
Promoting democracy in Chile was a matter of principle for neo-conservatives, but it was also a matter of honor. Neo-conservatives had to demonstrate that they were serious about opposing tyranny even when the tyrant was an anti-Communist. Neo-conservatives also wanted to bring down a regime whose existence served discredit the American -- and especially the GOP -- commitment to democracy promotion.
The present is not a good moment for neo-conservatives, but their long-standing commitment to democratic principles is one of the reasons I have considerable respect for the movement. Its conversion of so many Republicans away from Kissingerian realism is one of the most important reasons that I changed my registration to GOP.
And now the comment section below is open to all of those who want to balance out my observations with trenchant criticism of Wolfowitz et al. (12) opinions -- Add your opinion
Abrams on Pinochet:
"By the mid-80s, it was clear that he had outlived any usefulness he had ever had," Abrams says. "Even if you thought he was terrific in 1973, by 1983, it was time for him to go."
Yeah, we're talking about a real principled guy here. Some warpath.
Did Abrams actually do anything, or was this just hot air for internal consumption? Did we pull our ambassador? Did we stop our military cooperation? Most favored trading status? Anything?
We put in a tremendous effort to ensure Pinochet lost the referendum. We had Foreign Service Officers assembling ballot boxes in the US Embassy. We helped 19 opposition parties unite as a coalition. We did exactly the things any good, liberal advocate would want in the name of peaceful democracy promotion.
"The present is not a good moment for neo-conservatives."
This is the worse foreign policy disaster of my life time. Maybe the worst ever: on a par with failing to send in U.S. troops when Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland.
Somehow I don't think "we opposed Pinchoet after we supported him" makes up for much.
Aaron, would you really have supported a unilateral American invasion of Germany in 1936? On what grounds - the importance of holding Hitler to his international agreements, even if other parties to those agreements were willing to let him slide?
While I'm glad that the Reagan administration finally turned against Pinochet, the catalyst was not so much a desire to finally bring back democracy to Chile, as it was the Chilean military's immolation of Carmen Gloria Quintana and Rodrigo Rojas de Negri.
I can remember Elliot Abrams did prominently protest against this (Rojas was a US resident and his mother had been granted political asylum) and I'm glad he did, but it should have come much muhc sooner.
I probably wouldn't have supported sending U.S. troops to oppose Hitler, but that would have made my complicit, along with everyone in the world except for Winston Churchill, in the worst diplomatic failure of the 20th century.
Are you comparing Pinochet to Hitler?
No. Of course not.
I'm comparing the foreign policy disaster in Iraq to the series of disasters that led to World War II.
We did exactly the things any good, liberal advocate would want in the name of peaceful democracy promotion.
"Even if you thought he was terrific in 1973, by 1983, it was time for him to go."
Pinochet had outlived his usefulness.
Abrams own words show that he was interested not in democracy, but in agreeable regime change. Democracy is messy. Sometimes you get populists like Chavez. Juntas are reliable.
You seem to be put all the blame on Kissinger (Cheney's most trusted advisor) but then absolving Abrams of all wrongdoing.
An earlier quote of yours:
With regard to replacing elected governments with dictatorships during the Cold War, even one instance counts in my book as "all too common", but actually there weren't that many.
According to the Guardian "One of them, Elliot Abrams, who gave a nod to the attempted Venezuelan coup ..." And if I recall correctly, Abrams didn't plead guilty to democracy promotion.
Abrams shouldn't be in government.
I have difficulty seeing any comparison between the lead up to WWII and what happened after the Coalition went into Iraq.
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