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Monday, December 18, 2006

National Review Writer Calls for an Iraqi Pinochet

Technorati tags: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; 's is against s -- until he's for them

After his death, we've been seeing a few "Hooray for Pinochet!" articles. Generally, they go like this; Pinochet was a monster, sure. But he embraced Milton Friedman's and the 'Chicago school's' economic theories, so that's OK. Never mind that he's the man who made 'disappear' a transitive verb; i.e., I disappear, you are disappeared. To people for whom freedom can only be measured in economic terms, Augusto Pinochet was a flawed, but genuine, hero.

It's kind of like the old defense of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini -- it was all worth it, because he got the trains to run on time.

So it really shouldn't surprise anyone to see National Review's Jonah Goldberg clumsily tying together a "hooray for Pinochet" sentiment to the future of Iraq. Goldberg's a little short on smart -- his only real claim to fame is being the son of neocon maven Lucianne Goldberg -- and he demonstrates this often. Generally, his articles start out OK, then get crazy somewhere near the middle. It's like he loses interest in logic along the way.

But this article is different. Goldberg goes right to the crazy straight out of the gate.

Jonah Goldberg: Iraq could use a Pinochet but not a Castro:

I think all intelligent, patriotic and informed people can agree: It would be great if the United States could find an Iraqi Augusto Pinochet. In fact, an Iraqi Pinochet would be even better than an Iraqi Castro.

That really is the very first paragraph. Never mind that there are very few people who actually would agree with that -- all that means, apparently, is that there are very few 'intelligent, patriotic and informed people.' What the hell being 'patriotic' has to do with anything is beyond me -- I kind of doubt Jefferson or Madison would've been big fans of Augusto Freakin' Pinochet -- but there ya go.

Goldberg gets right down to explaining that vast majority of people who think Pinochet was a monster in his second paragraph.

But as I have discovered in recent days, many people can't think straight when the names Fidel Castro and Augusto Pinochet come up.

See? There's my problem. I can't think straight, because he brought up the magic words 'Pinochet' and 'Castro.' The rest really is the typical Goldberg column; riddled with lazy thinking and baseless assumptions. His piece reads like his pieces always do -- as if he's stuck for something to write about and has a deadline looming. There's nothing especially remarkable here. Not even the "hooray for Pinochet" sentiment.

But it is a good demonstration of the way the right argues. Basically, they give you two choices and demand you choose between them. Never mind that the world is so complex that there are almost never only two possibilities, the entire argument always boils down to two choices. Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists. Either Iraq has a Pinochet or it has a Castro.
Either we invade Iraq or Saddam Hussein will come to your house and stab your kids with a broken bottle. The choices are seldom realistic.

What Goldberg is assuming is that there actually will be an Iraq after the smoke finally clears. That's not an extremely realistic assumption. The kurds, for example, will split the first chance they get and the Sunni and Shia are engaged in civil war. The US civil war was an historical oddity -- few civil wars end in unity. If Iraq remains a nation, it'll be a nation in name only. It'll be at least three separate ethnic regions, with a very weak central government. War and ethnic cleansing will be the only things these regions really share.

And neither a Castro or a Pinochet is likely. No one in Iraq is interested in communism and, without communism, fascism -- who's only real purpose is to be anti-communist -- has no appeal. We'll wind up with what we pretty much have now; regional and ethinic leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr. Not surprisingly, al-Sadr doesn't fit either the Castro or Pinochet mold. Goldberg's 'choices' have no basis in reality.

And, in deciding we have to choose what kind of dictator we should have in Iraq (as if 'we' will be the ones suffering under this hypothetical tyrant), Goldberg exposes his hypocrisy. In 2002, arguing in favor of war in Iraq, he wrote:

Those who fetishize "stability in the region" really mean the stability of cruelty and tyranny (and those who blame Israel for the attitudes of the Arab street are arguing, in effect, that it would be better to abandon one friendly democracy than to establish 50 of them). A stable, Nazi-run Europe would have been no friend and an unstable but democratizing Middle East would be no foe. After the Gulf War, the signs were there for a U.S.-led transformation of the region, but we turned our backs on those we had encouraged to rise up and embraced, once again, those committed to keeping their subjects down. Until that status quo is crushed and flushed clean by the tide of history, there will always be bin Ladens. Indeed, that is where the moral and realpolitik cases for war intertwine.

The biggest favor the United States ever did to militaristic Japan was to crush it militarily. Our victory ushered in prosperity, democracy, and a productive peace. The Iraqi people would be lucky if we did them the same favor.

Goldberg called this 'the moral case for war.' Now that the war's in the dumper, Goldberg's willing to abandon his 'moral' stance and embrace the very form of government that he thought we absolutely had to erase.

I see two possibilities -- either Jonah Goldberg's a hypocrite or he's an idiot. Unlike the right, I won't engage in this limited 'two choices only' thinking and offer a third possibility.

He's both.