Given conservatism’s understanding of flawed, immutable human nature, our outlook can tend toward the cynical. (Or, as we like to call it, the realistic.) But every now and then, event turn out somewhat better than we expected. The most peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union was one example, and the reign of the post-Apartheid government of Nelson Mandela, who died today at age 95, was another.
Conservatives were deeply skeptical of Mandela’s African National Congress due to its close ties to the South African Communist Party at a time when brutal communist regimes were making life hell for the citizens of Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique. SACP was fond of “necklacing” political enemies by placing tires filled with gasoline around their necks and setting them on fire. Conservatives wanted to end Apartheid, but didn’t think sanction or Mandela were the right way to do it.
Nelson defied our expectations by presiding over a mostly peaceful, mostly legitimate and mostly democratic (and, ineed, far more of any than the average state in Sub-Saharan Africa). South Africa did not descend into civil war like Mozambique, or become an economic basket case like Zimbabwe. For that all the world owes Mandela thanks.