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New English Review ^ | Aug 2009 | Theodore Dalrymple

Posted on 08/05/2009 11:08:33 AM PDT by AreaMan


by Theodore Dalrymple (August 2009)

Does the end justify the means? This question, difficult to answer in the abstract with a categorical negative or affirmative, occurred to me when I read that Alberto Fujimori, former president of Peru, had been sentenced to seven and a half years’ imprisonment for corruption, to run concurrently with the twenty-five years he is already serving for abuse of human rights.

As it happens, I was in Peru just before, during and after the election that first brought Fujimori to power. His opponent was the world-famous novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa, whom I, like many others, assumed would win. Indeed, I hoped that he would win. He was highly intelligent, extremely eloquent, had a clear idea of what was needed for Peru to emerge from its current nightmare, and he was standing for election out of patriotism and for the good of his country. He had nothing to prove, nothing to gain; it is rare indeed to encounter a candidate so transparently unmotivated by personal goals.

Fujimori won. I hadn’t appreciated just how much his obscurity might help him, so great was the disillusionment in the country with national figures. Fujimori was a distinguished academic agronomist, but you could be the most famous agronomist in the world and still live in the most perfect obscurity. One Peruvian peasant captured the mood perfectly when asked why he had voted for Fujimori. ‘Because I didn’t know anything about him,’ he replied. In other words, every man’s past disqualifies him from high public office.

The Peru that Fujimori inherited was in terrible condition. Inflation was so rapid that you couldn’t buy anything of any value in the local currency: you had to use dollars. Money-changers, of whom there seemed to be thousands, stood in the streets, waving thick wads of notes at passers-by in exchange for dollars. Once, in Arequipa, my friend and I walked out to visit a convent there. The rate was 90,000 intis per dollar (and each inti was 1,000,000 old soles) on the way; on the way back, an hour later, it was 110,000 – or, to put it more dramatically, 110,000,000,000 old soles. I suppose that inflation of this kind at least makes you adept at mental arithmetic.

But inflation was, if not the least of Peru’s worries, at least not the worst or greatest of Peru’s worries. That honour belonged to Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), the Maoist insurgency that at the time controlled quite a lot of the national territory. I was convinced that, if Sendero won, there would be another Cambodia in Peru: a Cambodia on a much larger scale. And it was far from certain at the time that Sendero would not win. Indeed, if I had had to put my money on it winning or losing, I think I would have put it on it winning.

The history of Sendero was instructive, from two points of view. The first is that it destroys the notion that such revolutionary movements are the direct and spontaneous product of the grievances of the poor. The second is that it illustrates the dangerous folly of expanding tertiary education as a means of economic development rather than as a consequence of economic development.

The founder of Sendero was the professor of philosophy at Ayacucho University, Abimael Guzman, known to his acolytes as Presidente Gonzalo; his ideas, if such they merit being called, being the application of Maoism to Peru, were known collectively as Gonzalo Thought. Although living in clandestinity, he was already the object of a grotesque cult of personality and he wrote and spoke in that terrible langue de bois that is not the least of the tortures inflicted on society by communist regimes because it claims a monopoly of public speech and bores into the brain like a loud burrowing insect:

The ideology of the international proletariat erupted in the crucible of the class
struggle, as Marxism, becoming Marxism-Leninism and, subsequently, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Thus the all-powerful scientific ideology of the proletariat, all-powerful because it is true, has three stages: 1) Marxism, 2) Leninism, 3) Maoism; three stages, moments or landmarks of its dialectical process or development; of a single entity that in a hundred and forty years, from the Manifesto, and in the most heroic epoch of the class struggle, in the bloody and fruitful struggles of the two lines within each communist party and in the immense labour of the titans of thought and action that only the proletariat could generate, three inextinguishable luminaries stood out: Marx, Lenin Mao Tse-Tung, who through three leaps have armed us with the invincible Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, today principally Maoism.

Ayacucho University itself had been in abeyance since the seventeenth century; the Peruvian government thought to revive it as a means of developing the economy of the local area, one of the poorest and most backward in the country, and bringing to it a modicum of social progress. What it brought instead was a Peruvian Pol Pot (who had written his thesis on Kant), who was easily able to influence and indoctrinate young men and women who were the first generation ever to receive tertiary education, and who were, in all truth, the scions of an immemorially oppressed people.

The combination of millenarian hopes and age-old resentments is an unfortunate one, to say the least; Gonzalo Thought, so called, gave ideological sanction to bestial brutality, and turned sadistic revenge into the fulfilment of a supposedly scientific destiny. From what I personally saw in Ayacucho on the eve of the election, which had the atmosphere of a city under siege, waiting for the barbarians to arrive and carry out their long-announced massacre, I was convinced that, if Sendero achieved power, millions would be slaughtered.

I also saw, and heard about, actions by the Peruvian army that were less than gentlemanly. People suspected of Senderista sympathies were disappeared (it took the twentieth century to turn the verb ‘to disappear’ into a transitive one). I saw relatives petitioning the local garrison officer for news of their husbands, sons and brothers whom the army had whisked away and obviously consigned to permanent oblivion. The army did not say please and thank you for what it commandeered; it was more an occupying force than a protector of the people.

Still, it was what stood between Peru and the Apocalypse. But, at the time of Fujimori’s election, it looked as if it might collapse.

On my way back to Europe, I happened on the aircraft to sit near a man who turned out to be an investigator for Amnesty International. When I told him about what I had seen the Peruvian Army do, he looked like a man who had just been fed with a tantalisingly delicious dish, or a cat at the cream; it was, it seemed to me, exactly what he wanted to hear. He almost purred. But when I told him what I had seen Sendero do, his expression turned sour; and he looked at me as if I were a credulous bearer of tales about unicorns or sea-monsters. He turned away from me and took no further interest in my conversation. No doubt illogically, I lost a great deal of my respect for Amnesty after that; constituted governments do a lot of evil, but they are not the only ones to do evil. In this case, the government was the lesser evil, and by far.

But it was very weak. The egregious Alan Garcia was the president, and when it came to corruption, and no doubt many other failings, he could have taught Fujimori a thing or two. At the end of his mandate, he sailed away like a Spanish viceroy of old, to enjoy ill-gotten millions.

It was under Fujimori’s presidency that Sendero was defeated. The odious and murderous Guzman was captured, and made to look ridiculous as well as hypocritical. This seemed to me an immense achievement, an uncommon victory over evil.

But, of course, some of the methods used to achieve that victory were not up to the standards of Scandinavian democracy. Years later, after Fujimori had shown an uncomfortable attachment to power, and the memory of the situation he inherited had faded somewhat, he was charged with having ordered kidnappings and murder, as well as other offences. And indeed, he was guilty of these things.

How does one assess his moral, as against his legal, guilt? Is it permissible to commit a lesser evil to avoid a greater one? I am not a utilitarian, but it seems to me unrealistic to say that we should never depart from the ideal in order to prevent a much greater departure from the ideal; that, like Kant, we should tell a murderer where his victim is simply so that we do not commit the moral fault of telling a lie. On the other hand, the doctrine that the end justifies the means has been responsible for many horrors, large-scale and small.

Let us take the Fujimori case. Our assessment must depend upon things that cannot be known indubitably. For example, can it be known for certain that Sendero might have won the war in Peru? No, it cannot. Such knowledge is radically beyond our powers to attain.

Can it be known for certain that Sendero would have been as bad as I have suggested? The only guide we have is other regimes that have espoused a similar ideology, and they have all committed terrible atrocities, some of the worst in human history. Sendero had so far given every indication of following the pattern; it committed many atrocities even before it reached power. My assessment is therefore surely a rational one. But just how certain does one have to be of forthcoming evil to be allowed commit lesser evils oneself in order to avert it? Who can say for certain, or even in probability, what the assassination of Lumumba averted?
And while it is true that Sendero was defeated by the methods employed, can we know for certain that it could have been defeated only by the methods employed? This would have to be shown for a complete vindication of Fujimori, even on an ends-justify-the-means view of political morality. Again, the answer must be no, we cannot know it. Common sense suggests that a Peruvian catastrophe (if we accept there was going to be one) could not be averted by men with entirely clean hands: but we can’t say we know this beyond all doubt, or exactly how minimally unclean those hands had to be, and whether Fujimori kept that uncleanliness to an absolute minimum.

Similarly, we can’t know for certain how important Fujimori was to the defeat of Sendero. No man could have defeated the movement single-handed; Fujimori was not engaged in personal jousting with Guzman in a mediaeval tournament. It was the intelligence services that found Guzman in hiding and decapitated the movement thereby, the single most important blow ever struck against Sendero; this might have happened whoever was president and had no human infringement of human rights by government forces taken place. Would Sendero have been defeated if Vargas Llosa had been president and had used different methods? Indeed, would Vargas Llosa have used different methods? Again, we can’t know.

By contrast, we can know more or less for certain that such-and-such a person was killed illegally, and at such-and-such a person’s orders. We know the harm Fujimori did; we don’t know the evil he averted, if indeed he really did avert it.

If I had been President of Peru at the time when it looked as if Sendero might win, and that Guzman might never be found, could I have been persuaded that extra-judicial killings were necessary to defeat it? I hope I am not revealing a disgraceful character when I say that I think I could have been so persuaded. I am not at all sure I should have been able to face down commanders in the field who told me they were necessary, or that my high-minded phrases about the end not justifying the means would not have dried in my throat as I uttered them. This is not to say that I would have been right; I am only relieved that I have never been put in the way of such temptation and that no such responsibility has ever devolved on to me.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: dalrymple; fujimori; maoism; peru
I searched and didn't find this article. Apologies if it is a repeat.
1 posted on 08/05/2009 11:08:33 AM PDT by AreaMan
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To: AreaMan

interesting read. Almost like the riddle that stretches the imagination, “Is Dr. Albert Schweitzer responsible for AIDS or Ebola? Was it one of those people he saved or a descendant who became Patient X?”.
As the author states, we will never know.

2 posted on 08/05/2009 11:18:47 AM PDT by fortunate sun ("HIS JUDGEMENT COMETH AND THAT RIGHT SOON")
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To: AreaMan
Fujimori was imprisoned because Peruvian government is still controlled by Sendero's acolytes. They could not kill him but they can imprison and humiliate him.

They would not apply the same rules to anyone else guilty of his crimes. It's an Alinsky principle: force your opposition to play by his own rules, but don't waste your time doing that yourself. Second, he was Asian, and racism against Asians - especially successful Asians - motivates more then just the Leftists in Peru.

Eventually Peru will descend into the madness that Fujimori staved off for a few moments in its history. Handing over the government to the indigeanos will result in bloody regression to an animist past, the end point of which will probably be takeover and domination by a patron tyrant state like China.

The question is, will the U.S. stand by and watch?

3 posted on 08/05/2009 11:22:45 AM PDT by Regulator (Welcome to Zimbabwe! Now hand over your property)
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To: AreaMan

Fujimori made several mistakes that led to his downfall. The first, and most important, was that his chief of secret police was unstable, and prone to committing unacceptable acts, such as a rural sterilization program and blackmail programs.

Another mistake was in not building populist support, but instead relying on the military and the police for support. After dismissing the unpopular and corrupt judiciary, he should have gone to lengths to involve the public in the creation of a popular and far more honest replacement.

His national parliament, as well, needed to be redesigned and supervised with a republican, all politics is local, concept in mind. As much as possible, the representatives should live with the people they represent.

He personally should never have been an issue. Even if he didn’t want to delegate power to his lieutenants, it should be believed by the public that they were initiating and executing policy independent of him. However, when things didn’t work, then he could have stepped up and assumed responsibility, which would make him the good guy.

Largess is peculiar in central and South America, and keeping the quantities up, and price of staple items low can mean a government stands or falls. Tortillas and beans and rice can make or break a government, where more important issues are ignored.

4 posted on 08/05/2009 11:35:05 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: fortunate sun
Well, we do know about Fujimori. He saved his country not only from the Shining Path, but from the even more brutal Tupac Amaru terrorists. He is a great man and typically he is being demonized and jailed by the Leftists who will finally get their wish.

I was in Lima when he was president and the people adored him and credited him with their rescue from the Maoists.

As with Pinochet, no great liberator goes unpunished.

5 posted on 08/05/2009 11:44:19 AM PDT by Deb (Beat him, strip him and bring him to my tent!)
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To: Regulator
You can bet Obama will stand by and do nothing. Turning his back on true democrats is what he does best. Colombia, Honduras and Iran come to mind.

The people whose lives he saved know the truth about Fujimori. It breaks my heart that the bad guys are winning again.

6 posted on 08/05/2009 11:47:13 AM PDT by Deb (Beat him, strip him and bring him to my tent!)
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To: AreaMan

Excellent post; thank you.

7 posted on 08/05/2009 11:53:53 AM PDT by TopQuark
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy
You call on Fujimori to behave like the leader of a liberal democracy when Peru and other South American countries (except Argentina) are third world countries with huge poor, isolated populations that are totally ignorant. He existed in the middle of a Moaist swamp that was closing in and using the people's ignorance and superstitions against him.

The chief of his secret police had to do things (like wearing hoods) to protect the identities of his men so they and their families wouldn't be murdered in their sleep. The re-emergence of the Shining Path will test whether Fujimori and his tactics were justified. My guess is, at some point, the people will rise up and demand he take back the reins of the country.

8 posted on 08/05/2009 11:57:16 AM PDT by Deb (Beat him, strip him and bring him to my tent!)
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To: Deb

That’s why Leftists must be exterminated.

9 posted on 08/05/2009 12:01:37 PM PDT by fortunate sun ("HIS JUDGEMENT COMETH AND THAT RIGHT SOON")
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To: fortunate sun


10 posted on 08/05/2009 12:04:10 PM PDT by Deb (Beat him, strip him and bring him to my tent!)
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To: Deb

I do not argue that his efforts in those directions were wrong, nor that they were unsuccessful. But where he was neglectful was what caused his downfall. The same can be said of both Porfirio Diaz in Mexico and the Shah of Iran. Strong leaders who did much for their nations, but were deposed because of their flaws.

I cited that Fujimori was correct in deposing the corrupt and unpopular judiciary. But that was only half of that problem. He was neglectful in replacing them in such a way as to make them both a stronger institution and appreciative of his efforts. Had he done so, a strong and healthy judiciary would not later have tried and condemned him.

And the same applies to the Peruvian government. Though it was a serious scandal when his chief of secret police was caught blackmailing leaders, had Fujimori properly reordered the parliament, it would not have caused the downfall of his regime.

Likewise, though Fujimori had lieutenants, he should have created an organization that reflected his intentions. This is a common enough failing of strong and effective leaders, who never plan for a succession, and end up with a weak or ineffective replacement, who ruin much of what they have achieved.

Instead, when Fujimori left office, under whatever circumstances, things should have continued as if he was still there. The organization maintaining continuity of his leadership and ideas. Had he done so, his nation would still have the benefits he created.

11 posted on 08/05/2009 1:33:15 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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