With the sad passing of Jeane Kirkpatrick on Dec. 8, the United States lost a true champion of liberty and freedom whose valorous efforts were indispensable to victory in the Cold War. The “Reagan Democrat” was a pillar of American foreign policy intellect, both during her years in the Reagan administration and after, and she was a tireless defender of human rights.
As one of the very best U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, Mrs. Kirkpatrick proved her effectiveness as a stalwart defender of U.S. interests, a point emphasized by an emotional John Bolton, who said that she “made it clear during tensions in the Cold War that America’s interests here at the U.N. were advanced when the cause of liberty was advanced.” Appointed by President Reagan in 1981, Mrs. Kirkpatrick arrived at the United Nations an outspoken reformer, determined to vigorously advance U.S. interests and values and flatly reject any defensive or apologetic posture.
In a landmark speech that still very much resonates today, Mrs. Kirkpatrick at the 1984 Republican National Convention excoriated the liberal wing of her Democra- tic Party, the “San Francisco Democrats,” for having an ostrich-like attitude (“convinced it would shut out the world by hiding its head in the sand”) towards foreign policy and a propensity to “blame America first.”
In her important and influential 1979 essay “Dictatorships and Double Stan- dards,” Mrs. Kirkpatrick took the Carter administration to task for its foreign policy decisions, noting that “The U.S. has never tried so hard and failed so utterly to make and keep friends in the Third World.” The essay, published in Commentary magazine, decried the Carterites’ self-defeating role in working with revolutionary forces in Iran and Nicaragua, as well as their failure to form an implementable and realistic plan for dealing with autocratic governments facing a Soviet threat. “The foreign policy of the Carter administration fails not for lack of good intentions but for lack of realism about the nature of traditional versus revolutionary autocracies and the relation of each to the American national interest,” Mrs. Kirkpatrick wrote. The traditional autocrats were not only less repressive and “more susceptible of liberalization,” she argued with characteristic levelheadedness, but were in fact “more compatible with U.S. interests.”
Jeane Kirkpatrick was a remarkable woman who deserves the heartfelt appreciation of all Americans for her years of service and for her substantial contribution to winning the Cold War. One of the 20th century’s foremost defenders of freedom and human rights, she will be sorely missed.