No comment

Here’s one from Jonah Goldberg that speaks for itself:

>Pinochet’s abuses helped create a civil society. Once the initial bloodshed subsided, Chile was no prison. Pinochet built up democratic institutions and infrastructure. And by implementing free-market reforms, he lifted the Chilean people out of poverty. In 1988 he held a referendum and stepped down when the people voted him out. Yes, he feathered his nest from the treasury and took measures to protect himself from his enemies. His list of sins–both venal and moral–is long. But today Chile is a thriving, healthy democracy. Its economy is the envy of Latin America, and its literacy and infant mortality rates are impressive.

By the way, I’m a big believer in competence and expertise in matters of war and peace. So here’s a little bet that Goldberg made in February 2005 with Juan Cole:

>Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn’t want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let’s make a bet. I predict that Iraq won’t have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I’ll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there’s another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I’m all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don’t think it’s right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I’ll donate the money to the USO. He can give it to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is.

It’s been almost two years.

10 thoughts on “No comment”

  1. Not sure why this speaks for itself. Maybe I’m being dense, but isn’t Goldberg just claiming that there were good consequences of evil policies? Nothing irrational to that point.

    In fact, even if he is arguing that therefore it is false that these policies are evil, it seems perfectly plausible if he is some sort of strict Utilitarian.

    I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from a past mistake. Goldberg was wrong, which says nothing about whether his views are right or wrong today, or whether he is an expert or not on these matters. I don’t recall why he thought that there would be no civil war. His attack on Cole looks like it commits a few informal fallacies along the way, of course.

  2. I see! The argument is that Iraq needs a Pinochet. Wow that is a dumb argument.

    Hmmmmmmmm, a ruthless strongman? Or, a ruthless strongman beloved by the C.I.A? 🙂

    Or, to put the best possible spin on it, that I can see, Goldberg commits fallacies of post hoc propter hoc and false analogy, in all likelihood.

  3. Matt–

    Thanks a bunch for that. That Pinochet the military strongman qua military strongman caused all of the wonderful reforms is not only bad logic, it’s false.

  4. Well, but Goldberg doesn’t have to claim that Pinochet qua strongman caused all of the wonderful reforms, only that he had a significant role in changing Chile.

    It’s a “trains running on time” argument, isn’t it? Concentrating authority in the hands of one person with the power to eliminate and intimidate opponents can make it easier to change a society. Saddam Husein was fairly successful it seems until the Iraq-Iran war and the invasion of Kuwait.

    But I would still argue that the logical problem with Goldberg’s column is that it ignores salient differences between Chile and Iraq, and credits Pinochet, or Pinochet as tyrant and human rights abuser, probably with too much of a role in Chile’s economic successes (though I’m not qualified to judge this). There are obviously moral problems with his column as well that are the cause of the frisson of outrage at it. Also, it seems to ignore the obvious response that Saddam Hussein was Iraq’s Pinochet, which makes the column reach a level of silliness that beggars belief.

  5. I think the difference would be this–if it is only by stongmanning that Pinochet was able to enact democratic reforms, then Goldberg can claim that a strongman is necessary. If Pinochet enacted those reforms in spite of being a military strongman who slaughtered his enemies, as it seems from the op-ed, then Goldberg hasn’t established that a strongman is necessary for reforms. So the democratic reforms are idiosyncratic to Pinochet, but not causally related to his being a strongman–Chile was a democracy with a popularly elected president until we showed up. And of course, you’re right, Iraq had its own Pinochet. His name was Saddam and he was our dear friend, like Pinochet.

  6. But Goldberg is arguing that Iraq needs a strongman who wants to introduce free market economics and establish a civil society, I assume. Not just any strongman, but one who has as a result (whatever the cost in human right’s abuses) the effect of establishing a democratic capitalist society.

    All he’s arguing is that at this point it would be worth the cost in Iraq for a Pinochet like strong man to take control and force the country to become a democratic capitalist society. If that’s true, surely it’s only because the administration’s invasion and occupation have so thoroughly ruined the country that targeted human right’s abuse might be better than the indiscrimanate wide-spread destruction that has been the result of our failed policies.

    But, he doesn’t have to show that this is the only possible way of achieving the outcome, or even that Pinochet and his policies were a sufficient cause of it in Chile. Just that the overall benefit might make even Pinochet desirable. A more fundamental indictment of himself and the administration he supported is hard to imagine.

    His argument is also part of that right-wing smart boy trope of the defense of the indefensible. You adopt a “pragmatic” tone and suggest that whatever the abuses, and however horrific, the value of the outcome can’t be rejected and that the abuses were part and parcel of achieving that outcome. There’s a level of moral obtuseness in these arguments that I think is deliberate–it’s gives them a sort of thrill of rebellion against the standard moral views of “liberals” I suspect.

  7. I think your analysis is right. I was merely taking issue with whether that causal connection had been sufficiently established in the case of his governing model, Chile. There isn’t in other words sufficient reason to suppose that Pinochet’s abuses caused civil society (versus Pinochet’s democratic reforms). And you’re right, as you pointed out earlier, 2006 Iraq and 1973 Chile can hardly be compared.

  8. Colin Anderson: “… it would be worth the cost in Iraq for a Pinochet like strong man to take control and force the country to become a democratic capitalist society.”

    Ah, what… umm, how…. How can anyone use the words “force” and “democratic” in the same sentence?!?!?

    The Right Wing supporters of the U.S. invasion of Iraq really should just tell the truth: The U.S. wanted Saddam to do their bidding and he did not. Sending in the “Economic Hitman” did not work, sending in the “jackels” did not work, so we sent the military. Any other description is from a dreamworld, a “Captain America” comicbook world.

    The war in Iraq is about controling resources, not “forcing democracy.”

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