It would appear that democracy promotion remains at the heart of the foreign policy vision of at least a few neocons.  Though you might have thought that Iraq (or Lebanon or Palestine or Iran or Bolivia or Venezuela or Bahrain, etc.) would have seemed to show it as a terrible goal for U.S. policy and a source of danger to U.S. interests, the death of the former dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, has reminded them that advancing a policy that directly contradicts U.S. interests (as democracy promotion clearly does) is absolutely vital.  No surprises here, since neoconservatism is first and foremost not about securing American interests, but is interested in using America as a vehicle and a springboard for their revolutionary and power-acquiring goals. 

Here is part of Frum’s post:

For even if there were no US fingerprint on the gun that killed Allende, the episode left behind an enduring resentment and mistrust, a not easily effaced blot on American advocacy of democracy and freedom. The suspicion generated by Chile lingers in Latin America – and through the world – to this day. The US helped Italy and France to beat back even more virulent communist parties in the 1940s and 1950s without violence and dictatorship. Was there really no hope of doing the same in Latin America in the 1970s?

All credit to the Reagan administration for rethinking its axiomatic anticommunism and working to oust Pinochet after 1984. Credit above all to Elliott Abrams, then assistant secretary of state for Latin America and the leading advocate of the anti-Pinochet policy.  

On the cost side of the ledger, consider one prominent example of what Carteresque/neocon support for democracy abroad encouraged: the overthrow of the Shah, resulting in a bloodletting every bit as nasty and cruel as what took place in Chile.  I find myself under the impression that the neocons regard the 1979 Iranian fruits of encouraging domestic political opposition against an authoritarian government as less than desirable.  What can I be thinking?  Another glory of advancing democracy might include the new South Africa.   

No one seriously defends the atrocities of Pinochet’s regime.  They were abominable, and Chileans–not some farce of an international human rights posse–should have held him to account for what he and his regime did.  It is interesting that he does not bring up the brutal and corrupt rule of Alberto Fujimori, who was a harsh despot with only the veneer of democratic legitimacy but also someone who delivered his country from the potentially much worse despotism of the Shining Path.  Had there been a similarly strong push to oust Fujimori in the name of dread democracy, Peru would almost certainly be worse off today.  As it is, the absurdity that is democracy has restored the failed Alan Garcia to power, whose tremendous ineptitude and weakness allowed the Shining Path to flourish in the first place. 

Many conservatives still do, quite rightly, see Pinochet as a preferable alternative to what probably would have been instituted in Chile.  How you see Pinochet is probably closely related to how you see Franco.  If you think Franco a fascist who should have been defeated rather than made into an ally after the war, as at least a few neocons and hangers-on seem to do, Pinochet probably seems equally unacceptable.  If you think it better that a right-authoritarian government that eventually gave way to a more liberal political system won instead of a shaky facade of a democratic republic that masked leftist dictatorship that would have likely spilled still more blood and ruined the country, Pinochet looks like the lesser of two ugly options.  Those who think Hugo Chavez is a legitimate ruler because he is elected will be in the anti-Pinochet camp, and those in the anti-Pinochet camp will be hard-pressed to find reasons to speak in favour of the failed coup attempt against Chavez.  

If the fate of nations and actual people does not concern you terribly, but only the spread of dreadful democracy at whatever cost to those nations and those people, and if U.S. interests are at best secondary, backing or tolerating Pinochet seems like a bad move.  If it is revolutionary ideology that interests you instead, Pinochet was clearly an embarrassment and a liability–how can the global revolution move forward with Pinochet hanging around our necks? 

Should Pinochet have been more Caesar and less Sulla?  Yes, he should have.  Should we, because of Pinochet’s failures and our loose association with his crimes, therefore promote a form of government that is virtually guaranteed to create illiberal democratic despotisms and populist authoritarian dictatorships in various corners of the world?  Well, if we reasoned like small children (Pinochet was a cruel despot, therefore we should promote democracy…even if it empowers worse despots!) we should do exactly that.  If we instead considered the probable outcome of the policy, we would never again utter the word democracy again in the context of foreign policy, except possibly to discourage it.  Instead, Frum opines:

These days Wolfowitz and Abrams are out of fashion, and Kissinger and Nixon are back in vogue. But if those who thought like the first two had exerted more sway in the 1970s and 1980s, and those who thought like the latter less, America’s reputation would shine more brightly today.   

It’s fun how he speaks of this in terms of fashion, as if it were a product of the changing of the seasons rather than a direct consequence of the magnificent failure of neocon delusions.  No, this year, realism is simply in!  Wolfowitz and Abrams have just been pushed aside by a finicky public–it isn’t that their avowed policy has brought shame and ruin upon us.  This is because, I suppose, the second round of the Wolfowitzian approach has instead burnished and added to the glory of the name of the United States. 

I suppose when the national reputation is in flames, it does give off a certain illumination.  In the dull flickering of the fire that daily consumes our good name and the lives of American soldiers, you can just make out the neocons running off into the darkness to hide from the consequences of their actions and policies.