jeane kirkpatrick 1926-2006
Former Reagan advisor and United States Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick died yesterday. She was 80 years old. The obituaries I have found on the internet focus on her major contributions to (neo)conservative foriegn policy thought, including the so-called "Kirkpatrick doctrine" outlining the difference between "authoritarianism" and "totalitarianism". This delightful bit of intellectual gymnastics was used by the Reagan administration to justify support for murderous right wing "traditional" regimes, as well as the illegal destruction of democratically elected governments.
What is less reported is that Kirkpatrick started her political life as a socialist. Her break with the left was steady but gradual, and by no means unique. The link between staunchly anti-communist strains of socialism and the "muscular" neoconservatism which surrounded the Reagan administration is quite fascinating. Given my own strident anti-communism, I find the lives of people like Kirkpatrick to be cautionary tales.
I wish death on no one. I do, however, wish that Kirkpatrick and her coterie were given the justice that they deserved for helping engineer one of the most outrageously criminal foriegn policy adventures in recent American history. Let's not forget: these are the folks who sold arms to Islamist Iran in order to fund terrorists fighting to undermine a democratically elected government in Nicaragua.
While I'm dismayed by the political direction he has taken, Daniel Ortega's re-election last month does provide a sweet irony here. I do hope that Ms. Kirkpatrick heard the news before she passed on.
This has been a bad month for right wing heroes. Milton Friedman has also shuffled off this mortal coil, leaving a body of work which will continue to fuel cynical attacks on the most precarious members of society. William Greider has written a rightfully unsympathetic obituary in the Nation.