Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Kissinger on Chile

I happened to be in the car and hear a bit of an NPR interview with Henry Kissinger (not sure about the link, though here is a link to what I think is another part of the interview). My ears perked up at one exchange, and then I was disappointed in interviewer and interviewee.

The topic was realism vs. idealism. Point blank, Kissinger was asked about "engineering the coup in Chile." What had been a pretty smooth interview suddenly became confrontational. Kissinger's main response was that a) this happened a long time ago; b) in a short interview there was no way to get at the details, which are being manipulated for political reasons; and c) we needed to always remember that policy makers are serious people doing their best for the country.

Unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity. No one in the United States created the coup. The coup was domestic. To say otherwise is to pretend that Chilean politics had almost nothing to do with it. The most important thing the Nixon administration did was to send clear signals that if a coup succeeded, it would receive immediate support (I write about this in more detail earlier this year). That was an important part of the puzzle but it is not synonymous with "engineering." I would've preferred a question that asked why the U.S. supported the destruction of democracy when we claimed to revere it.

But Kissinger's answer was mostly non-sequiturs. Who cares how long ago it was? You don't get a pass just because you supported destroying democracy a long time ago. And who cares what kind of interview it is? If you alternate views of the facts, then give them. Finally, the third part--which he repeated--is scary. So if a policy maker is serious, then outcome doesn't matter?

I have to figure this last point has become his primary justification for the most controversial policy decisions. If he meant well (which of course can be defined in any way) and was serious about it then if things went wrong, people died, etc. then he has no real responsibility.


Anonymous,  6:03 PM  

So, why did the US undermine democracy in Chile in your opinion?

Greg Weeks 6:17 PM  

Because Nixon and Kissinger thought Allende was Castro part 2.

Anonymous,  6:32 PM  

In the sense that he wouldn't respect US businesses or democracy, or both?

Could they draw the conclusion that domestic political life in Chile was similar to domestic political life in Cuba? That seems like a stretch.

Greg Weeks 6:34 PM  

Both were (or soon would be) manipulated by the USSR, which represented a threat to the U.S. esp. because it would spread everywhere. That, at least, was the belief. Domestic realities were irrelevant.

Anonymous,  7:03 PM  

What about the School of the Americas? Within which Pinochet was supposed to be trained?....along with other LA Generals?

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