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Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick (November 19, 1926 – December 7, 2006) was an Americanmarker ambassador and an ardent anticommunist. After serving as Ronald Reagan's foreign policy adviser in his 1980 campaign and later in his Cabinet, the longtime Democrat-turned-Republican was nominated as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and became the first woman to hold this position.

She is famous for her "Kirkpatrick Doctrine," which advocated U.S. support of anticommunist governments around the world, including authoritarian dictatorships, if they went along with Washington's aims—believing they could be led into democracy by example. She wrote, "Traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies."

Kirkpatrick served on Reagan's Cabinet on the National Security Council, Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Defense Policy Review Board, and chaired the Secretary of Defense Commission on Fail Safe and Risk reduction of the Nuclear Command and Control System.

Early life

Jeane Duane Jordan was born in Duncan, Oklahomamarker, the daughter of an oilfield wildcatter, Welcher F. Jordan, and his wife, the former Leona Kile. She attended Emerson Elementary School there and was known to her classmates as "Duane Jordan". She had one sibling, about a decade younger than her, Jerry Jordan. At age 12, her father moved the family to southern Illinois where she graduated from Mt. Vernon Township High School in Mt.marker Vernon, Illinoismarker. In 1948, she graduated from Barnard Collegemarker after receiving her Associate's Degree from Stephens College (then only a 2 year institution) in Columbia, Missourimarker. In 1968, Kirkpatrick received a PhD in political science from Columbia University. She spent a year of post-graduate study at the Institut des Sciences Politiques at the University of Parismarker, which helped her learn the French language. She was also fluent in Spanish.

Though she was to be ultimately known as a figure of conservatism, as a college freshman in 1945 she joined the Young People's Socialist League of the Socialist Party of America, a membership that was influenced by one of her grandfathers, who was a founder of the Populist and Socialist parties in Oklahomamarker.As Kirkpatrick recalled at a symposium in 2002, "It wasn't easy to find the YPSL in Columbia, Missouri. But I had read about it and I wanted to be one. We had a very limited number of activities in Columbia, Missouri. We had an anti-Franco rally, which was a worthy cause. You could raise a question about how relevant it was likely to be in Columbia, Missouri, but it was in any case a worthy cause. We also planned a socialist picnic, which we spent quite a lot of time organizing. Eventually, I regret to say, the YPSL chapter, after much discussion, many debates and some downright quarrels, broke up over the socialist picnic. I thought that was rather discouraging."

Professor at Georgetown

At Columbia University, her principal adviser was Franz Neumann, a revisionist Marxist. In 1967, she joined the faculty of Georgetown Universitymarker and became a full professor of government in 1973.

She became active in politics as a Democrat in the 1970s, and was involved in the later campaigns of former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey. Along with Humphrey, she was close to Henry M. Jackson, who ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972 and 1976. She was opposed to the candidacy of George McGovern. In 1976, she joined with George V. Allen and others to found the Committee on Present Danger for the purpose of warning Americans against the Soviet Union's growing military power and the dangers of the SALT II treaty. She also served on the Platform Committee for the Democratic Party in 1976.

Kirkpatrick published a number of articles in political science journals reflecting her disillusionment with the Democratic Party with specific criticism of the foreign policy of Democratic President Jimmy Carter. Her most well known piece was "Dictatorships and Double Standards," published in Commentary in November 1979. In that piece, Kirkpatrick mentioned what she saw as a difference between authoritarian regimes and the totalitarian regimes such as the Soviet Union; sometimes it was necessary to work with authoritarian regimes if it suited American purposes. She wrote: “No idea holds greater sway in the mind of educated Americans than the belief that it is possible to democratize governments, anytime and anywhere, under any circumstances... Decades, if not centuries, are normally required for people to acquire the necessary disciplines and habits. In Britain, the road [to democratic government] took seven centuries to traverse... The speed with which armies collapse, bureaucracies abdicate, and social structures dissolve once the autocrat is removed frequently surprises American policymakers.”

Reagan's Cabinet

This piece came to the attention of Ronald Reagan through his National Security Adviser Richard V. Allen. Kirkpatrick then became a foreign policy adviser throughout Reagan's 1980 campaign and presidency and, after his election to the presidency, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, a position she held for four years. She had never been around a Republican before. On the way to her first meeting with him, she told Allen, "Listen, Dick, I am an AFL-CIO Democrat and I am quite concerned that my meeting Ronald Reagan on any basis will be misunderstood." She asked Reagan if he minded having a lifelong Democrat on his team; he replied that he himself had been a Democrat till age 51, and in any event he liked her way of thinking about American foreign policy.

She was one of the strongest supporters of Argentinamarker's military dictatorship following the March 1982 Argentine invasion of the United Kingdom's Falkland Islandsmarker, which triggered the Falklands War. Kirkpatrick sympathized with Argentina's President Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, whose military regime "disappeared" critics, a position on which she and Reagan's Secretary of State Alexander Haig vehemently opposed each other and which upset Margaret Thatcher. Her support became muted when the administration ultimately decided to declare support for the British.

At the 1984 Republican National Convention, Kirkpatrick delivered the famous "Blame America First" keynote speech, which re-nominated Reagan by praising his administration's foreign policy while excoriating the leadership of what she called the "San Franciscomarker Democrats"—the Democrats had just held their convention in San Francisco—for the party's shift away from the hawkish policies of former Democratic presidents such as Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy to a more stringent anti-war position that the left-wing of the Democratic Party had pushed since Vietnam. It was the first time since 1952's speech from Douglas MacArthur that a non-party member had delivered the Republican convention keynote address.

Kirkpatrick, a member of the National Security Council, did not get along with either Secretary of State Haig or his successor, George Schultz. She disagreed with Schultz most notably on the Iran-Contra affair, in which she supported skimming money off arms sales to fund the Contras. Kirkpatrick and Schultz actually came to physical violence in their disagreement over whether to find extra funding for Nicaraguanmarker contras, with Schultz telling Kirkpatrick that it was an "impeachable offense." Kirkpatrick wished to be Secretary of State or head of the National Security Council, which did not help either. Shultz threatened to resign if Kirkpatrick was appointed National Security Adviser. Kirkpatrick was more closely allied with Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and head of the CIA, William J. Casey.

Ambassador to the UN

Kirkpatrick once said, "What takes place in the Security Council more closely resembles a mugging than either a political debate or an effort at problem-solving." Still, she finished her term with a certain respect for the normative power of the United Nations as the "institution whose majorities claim the right to decide - for the world - what is legitimate and what is illegitimate." She noted that the United States had increasingly ignored this significance and became increasingly isolated. This was problematic, because "relative isolation in a body like the United Nations is a sign of impotence," especially given the ability of the United Nations to shape international attitudes. Kirkpatrick was ambassador to the U.N. during the Sept. 1, 1983 Soviet shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007marker. KAL 007 had carried 269 passengers and crew including a sitting congressman, Larry McDonald from Georgia. She played before the Security Council the audio of the electronic intercept of the interceptor pilot during the attack, after which the Soviet Union could no longer deny its responsibility for the shootdown.

According to Jay Nordlinger, on a visit with American dignitaries, Soviet human rights activist Andrei Sakharov said, "Kirkpatski, Kirkpatski, which of you is Kirkpatski?" When others pointed to Kirkpatrick, he said, "Your name is known in every cell in the Gulag," because she had named Soviet political prisoners on the floor of the UN.
 Kirkpatrick said she would only serve one term at the UN and stepped down in April 1985.

Views on Israel

She was a staunch supporter of the State of Israelmarker. During her ambassadorship at the United Nations, she considered its frequent criticism and condemnation of the Jewish State as holding Israel to a double standard. She attributed it to hostility and considered it as politically motivated. In 1989, Mohammed Wahby, press director of Egyptmarker's Information Bureau, wrote to the Washington Post saying, "Jeane Kirkpatrick has, somehow, consistently opposed any attempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict." Kirkpatrick had warned Secretary of State James Baker and President Bush, in an op-ed, not to get involved in the conflict, because any intervention "will fail."

Kirkpatrick frequently expressed disdain for what she perceived to be disproportionate attention on Israel at the expense of other conflicts. She "declared that what takes place in the Security Council "more closely resembles a mugging than either a political debate or an effort at problem-solving."

Anti-Defamation League President Abraham Foxman issued a press release upon her passing saying that "She will be fondly remembered for her unwavering and valiant support of the State of Israel and her unequivocal opposition to anti-Semitism, especially during her tenure at the United Nations. She was always a true friend of the Jewish people."

Political views

Comparing authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, she said:

  • "Authoritarian regimes really typically don't have complete command economies. Authoritarian regimes typically have some kind of traditional economy with some private ownership. The Nazi regime left ownership in private hands, but the state assumed control of the economy. Control was separated from ownership but it was really a command economy because it was controlled by the state. A command economy is an attribute of a totalitarian state."

Explaining her disillusionment with international organizations, especially the United Nations, she stated:

  • "As I watched the behavior of the nations of the U.N. (including our own), I found no reasonable ground to expect any one of those governments to transcend permanently their own national interests for those of another country."
  • "I conclude that it is a fundamental mistake to think that salvation, justice, or virtue come through merely human institutions."
  • "Democracy not only requires equality but also an unshakable conviction in the value of each person, who is then equal. Cross cultural experience teaches us not simply that people have different beliefs, but that people seek meaning and understand themselves in some sense as members of a cosmos ruled by God."

About socialist activism, she said:

  • "As I read the utopian socialists, the scientific socialists, the German Social Democrats and revolutionary socialists — whatever I could in either English or French — I came to the conclusion that almost all of them, including my grandfather, were engaged in an effort to change human nature. The more I thought about it, the more I thought this was not likely to be a successful effort. So I turned my attention more and more to political philosophy and less and less to socialist activism of any kind."

After the Reagan administration

In 1985, Kirkpatrick became a Republican (which The Economist called her "only recourse" after her speech at the 1984 Republican convention) and returned to teaching at Georgetown Universitymarker. She also became a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C.marker think tank, and a contributor to the American Freedom Journal. In 1993, she co-founded Empower America, a public-policy organization. She was also on the advisory board of the National Association of Scholars, a group that works against what it regards as a liberal bias in academia, with its emphasis on multicultural education and affirmative action.

Kirkpatrick briefly considered running for President in 1988 against George H.W. Bush, because she believed he was not tough enough on Communism. Kirkpatrick endorsed Senator Robert Dole of Kansas, who was the runner up to Bush. Despite a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, Dole's campaign quickly faded after losing the New Hampshire primary in Febrauary 1988. Kirkpatrick was an active surrogate campaigner for Dole even as he was losing, as was her old foe, Al Haig, who endorsed Dole after ending his own '88 campaign several days before the New hampshire primary.

Along with Empower America co-directors William Bennett and Jack Kemp, she called on the Congress to issue a formal declaration of war against the "entire fundamentalist Islamist terrorist network" the day after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centermarker.

In 2003, she headed the US delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Kirkpatrick was appointed to the Board of Directors of IDT Corp. in 2004. It was revealed after her death that in 2003, she was sent as a US envoy, to meet an Arab delegation and attempt to convince them to support the Iraq War; she was supposed to argue that pre-emptive war was justifiable, but she knew this would not work and instead argued that Saddam Hussein had consistently gone against the UN.

Personal life

On February 20, 1955, she married Evron Maurice Kirkpatrick, who was a scholar and a former member of the O.S.S. (the World War II-era predecessor of the CIA). Her husband died in 1995. They had three sons: Douglas Jordan (1956–2006), John Evron, and Stuart Alan (a.k.a. Traktung Rinpoche, a Buddhist lama).

Kirkpatrick died at her home in Bethesda, MDmarker, on December 7, 2006 of congestive heart failure.She had been diagnosed with heart disease and had been in failing health for several years.


  • "When Marxist dictators shoot their way into power in Central America, the San Francisco Democrats don't blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies. They blame United States policies of 100 years ago. But then they always blame America first."
  • "Russia is playing chess, while we are playing Monopoly. The only question is whether they will checkmate us before we bankrupt them."

Awards and honors

Kirkpatrick received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. The Kennedy School of Government at Harvardmarker created a Kirkpatrick Chair in International Affairs in her honor. Kirkpatrick received an honorary doctorate at Central Connecticut State University in 1991. She was also awarded an honorary degree by Brandeis Universitymarker in 1994, but her honor was met with protests from some professors and students. One of the 53 (out of 350 total Brandeis faculty) opposing professors said, "We oppose the degree because she was the intellectual architect of Reagan administration policies that supported some of the Latin-American regimes with the most repressive records."

In 2007, Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) honored Jeane Kirkpatrick with the creation of the Jeane Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award. The first recipient was Marine Corps reservist and correspondent Matt Sanchez. Kirkpatrick was inducted in the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1984.

In popular culture

Kirkpatrick was portrayed by Lorelei King in the 2002 BBC production of Ian Curteis's controversial The Falklands Play.

In Berkeley Breathed's weekly comic strip Bloom County, Kirkpatrick becomes former Meadow Party Presidential candidate Bill the Cat's love interest, the two sharing an interest in guns and, apparently, survivalist outings, judging by 'pictures' of them together, both dressed in fatigues and holding firearms, the latter of which seem to have a central role in their relationship. She is also mentioned in a dream Opus the Penguin has of chairing the United Nations, (we only hear him speak his part of the dialogue while seeing Opus asleep) in which all members assenting to his motion are asked to shout "Jeane Kirkpatrick is nobody's baby!" An image of Kirkpatrick (drawn by Breathed) appears on the cover of the fourth collection of Bloom County material, Bloom County Babylon. Her face is on one of the buttons pinned to Opus's top hat (yellow, rimmed with red, close to the brim), as are those of other characters of the strip and, for some reason, Nancy Reagan.

In an October 1987 sketch on Saturday Night Live, Kirkpatrick (portrayed by Nora Dunn) is a contestant on a game show called "Common Knowledge" (in which answers to questions are determined by 17-year old high school seniors).

Books authored

  • Making War to Keep Peace, 2007 (ISBN 0-0611-9543-X)
  • The Withering Away of the Totalitarian State—And Other Surprises, 1992 (ISBN 0-8447-3728-3)
  • Legitimacy and Force: National and International Dimensions, 1988 (ISBN 0-88738-647-4)
  • International Regulation: New Rules in a Changing World Order, 1988 (ISBN 1-55815-026-9)
  • Legitimacy and Force: Political and Moral Dimensions, 1988 (ISBN 0-88738-099-9)
  • Legitimacy and Force: State Papers and Current Perspectives 1981–1985, 1987 ISBN 9999962750
  • The United States and the World: Setting Limits, 1986 (ISBN 0-8447-1379-1)
  • The Reagan Doctrine and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1985 (ISBN 999650591X
  • Reagan Phenomenon and Other Speeches on Foreign Policy, 1983 (ISBN 0-8447-1361-9)
  • U.N. Under Scrutiny, 1982 (ISBN 99938-872-9-3)
  • Dictatorships and Double Standards: Rationalism and Reason in Politics, 1982 (ISBN 0-671-43836-0)
  • Presidential Nominating Process: Can It Be Improved, 1980 (ISBN 0-8447-3397-0)
  • Dismantling the Parties: Reflections on Party Reform and Party Decomposition, 1978 (ISBN 0-8447-3293-1)
  • The New Presidential Elite: Men and Women in National Politics, 1976 (ISBN 0-87154-475-X)
  • Political Woman, 1974 (ISBN 0-465-05970-8)

See also


  1. Kirkpatrick, Jeane J., Legitimacy and Force Vol. 1 (Oxford: Transaction Books, 1988), xvi.
  2. Kirkpatrick, Jeane J., "Standing Alone" in Legitimacy and Force Vol. 1 (Oxford: Transaction Books, 1988), 193-194.
  3. Kirkpatrick, Jeane J., "Standing Alone" in Legitimacy and Force Vol. 1 (Oxford: Transaction Books, 1988), 195.
  4. Kirkpatrick, Jeane J., "The UN as a Political System" in Legitimacy and Force Vol. 1 (Oxford: Transaction Books, 1988), 222.
  5. The United Nations and Israel by Mitchell Bard
  6. Speech at the 1984 Republican National Convention
  7. Speech given during the 1988 Barrick Lecture Series at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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