We Should Find and Support the Next Pinochets. Not Really, But Sort Of.

Augusto Pinochet was a corrupt tyrant in Chile. He also reformed Chile’s economy, drove out the communists and socialists, and put Chile on the path to reform and stability. President Trump should seek out future Pinochets in Central and South America. The United States needs to get its hands dirty in the Western Hemisphere and be willing to support tyrants and autocrats who do not share our view of human rights. We need to do it because China is doing it, Russia is doing it, Cuba is doing it, and they have no qualms about human rights. We need to do it because we value free markets and stable, pro-America regimes that will fight MS-13, failed socialist policies, and a socialist-communist resurgence in the Western Hemisphere that threatens our borders.

According to the most conservative estimates, President Trump’s wall will cost $11 billion. The House Republicans have set aside $5 billion. But consider what we currently spend in just a few problematic governments in Central America.

In El Salvador, we spend $75 million in foreign aid.

In Guatamala, we spend $297 million in foreign aid.

In Nicaragua, we spend $31 million in foreign aid.

In Honduras, we spend $127 million in foreign aid.

In Mexico, we spend $88 million in foreign aid.

Combined, that is $618 million in foreign aid for four countries that are causing or contributing to the migrant caravan. If we doubled what we spent in those countries, we would still only be spending around 12% of the cost of the wall.

If we spent the money wisely, we could support strong leadership in those countries willing to do our bidding who might resist the lure of China, Russia, Cuba, and even Venezuela.

Yes, we are dealing with corrupt regimes. We will probably not stamp out the corrupt. But, again, consider Pinochet. He was a corrupt tyrant who ruthlessly exterminated communists, cracked down on criminal and gang elements, and moved Chile into a stable, free market country.

Our foreign aid in Chile these days is only $2.3 million. We need to find future Augusto Pinochets in Central and South America and get behind them, support them, teach them about and help them promote free markets, provide them a few helicopters, and then let them ruthlessly deal with their nation’s gangs, communists, and others who are causing the caravans of people fleeing those failing nations.

We could spend less in one decade solving the problems causing these caravans of migrants than we spend building the wall and, in the process, we would curtail China and Russia’s incursions into the Western Hemisphere. The stakes for hemispheric stability are great. The United States needs to be willing to get its hands dirty again.

Now, everybody breathe.

No, I’m not actually fully on board with my own idea. Pinochet was actually a ruthless dictator who dropped people out of helicopters. And I actually think Pinochet has been treated more unkind by history than he should be, but only by a bit.

I didn’t support Trump because I acknowledged that even if I got everything I wanted from him, he was still a terrible person and we shouldn’t be propping up terrible people to give us what we want.

The same goes for abroad.

The point in laying all of this out and getting some of you nodding along with it is this — there are real problems in Central and South America that are causing the migrant caravan heading north. Building a wall won’t fix those problems and at some point there will be a Democrat President again who might just fling open the doors even if you have a wall.
The United States needs to deal with the root causes and can actually deal with those causes cheaper over the next ten years than building a wall that remains unfunded and hypothetical.

While we are not dealing with those problems, China is. It has no qualms about backing distasteful autocrats who abuse human rights. We have no competing systems and policies in place to respond. So in addition to not dealing with the root causes of the repeated caravans, we are letting a despotic, communist regime plant roots in the Western Hemisphere and doing little to nothing to respond thereto.

We need to. And that will actually require we ally with some unsavory types more likely than not. The left has a bit of hypocrisy on this front because they’re perfectly fine cutting deals with Iran, treating Qatar favorably, and even working with those affiliated with Hamas. They may get bent out of shape by the suggestion that the United States work with thugs in the Western Hemisphere, but frankly I’d rather a pro-America thug running Venezuela than the guy there now.

We do not even have to engage in regime change in these countries. We can spend money openly and surreptitiously. We too can scheme in these countries to both push back growing Chinese influence and also the laundry list of problems causing the caravans.

You build that wall if you want to. But we will keep dealing with caravans and we will get a Democrat President willing to open doors within the walls. And, by the way, it is far more likely you will get funding for engaging with this problem than you will get funding for the wall.

But keep screaming “build the wall” if you makes you feel better. There are just cheaper solutions, but ones you can’t fundraise off of.

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Erick Erickson

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