Moral Clarity

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THE PLANK DECEMBER 11, 2006

Moral Clarity

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language":

Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, 'I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so'. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

'While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.'

Roger Fontaine, former NSC staffer under Reagan, from the National Review's symposium on Augusto Pinochet (a "tragic figure" in Otto Reich's words):

Human rights did suffer under Pinochet. And Chile spent years under Pinochet recovering from his predecessor Salvador Allende's mad dash to a Soviet style command economy. It has also lately been shown he was personally corrupt. Finally, at least for Americans, there was the small matter of the caudillo's secret services committing murder on the streets of Washington, D.C.

But Pinochet will also be remembered as leaving the country better off than he found it. It was Pinochet who obeyed his own electorate by stepping down from power after he lost a national referendum. And unlike his fellow Latin American generals, he let market-oriented civilians lay the basis for Chile's economy -- the most productive in the region. Can his fellow caudillo in Cuba -- soon to be among the departed as well -- say the same?

That seems to be the theme in conservative quarters today. Pinochet may have killed a few people, and tortured a few more (or a few thousand more, whatever), but hey, at least he followed in Milton Friedman's footsteps. And anyway, he wasn't as bad as Castro...

--Bradford Plumer

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