The American Iron Lady

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She became a public intellectual, writing books on the changes in the Democratic Party, and essays for Commentary magazine. Disturbed by America’s foreign policy retreat and Soviet expansionism after Vietnam, she joined the Committee on the Present Danger and supported anti-communist Democratic Senator “Scoop” Jackson’s brief bid for the 1976 Democrat presidential candidacy. The disastrous presidency of Jimmy Carter, which saw a global epidemic of Soviet aggression, culminated in the annus terribilis of 1979, when Iran and Nicaragua, deemed insufficiently respectful of human rights by the Carter administration, were both allowed to fall to brutal, repressive regimes hostile to America’s interests. Kirkpatrick’s journey was now nearly complete, the dangers of American global retreat sharpening to urgency her personal intellectual and political development.

At this critical moment she wrote for Commentary the essay that earned her opprobrium as a fascist apologist from the left, and praise from traditional anti-communist liberals, “the signature piece of writing,” Collier writes, Kirkpatrick “would have to defend . . . for the rest of her life.” “Dictatorship and Double Standards” straightforwardly exposed the moral idiocy, delusional idealism, and self-abasement of the American foreign policy thinking that had led to the abandonment of flawed yet useful allies, and that had created openings to communist and totalitarian regimes much bloodier and more oppressive than the governments they replaced. As Kirkpatrick pointed out, autocracies can evolve into democracies, as was happening in Spain, Greece, and Portugal, but communist regimes never do so without enormous external pressure and resistance. Kirkpatrick also scorned the self-abasing double standards that condemned pro-American authoritarian regimes while history’s most murderous abuser of human rights, the Soviet Union, was given a pass. Nor did she suffer the “posture of continuous self-abasement and apology,” as she called it, “vis-à-vis the Third World,” a masochism “neither morally necessary not politically appropriate.” One has only to remember Obama’s disastrous apology tours abroad to feel the truth of Kirkpatrick’s insight.

The essay brought Kirkpatrick to the attention of Ronald Reagan, who made her his ambassador to the U.N. Her tenure at the U.N. was one of the great achievements of American diplomacy. She forcefully rejected that corrupt and venal body’s reflexive anti-Americanism and active hostility to U.S. interests, making it clear that the Reagan administration was keeping score and would remember its enemies when it came to doling out foreign aid and contributions to the U.N. budget. It wasn’t easy, particularly for a woman. She had to face resistance from her own State Department, who seemingly put the interests of the U.N. over those of the U.S. She battled the spineless European bloc, whose nations “have long since accepted their prescribed role” in the U.N., she said, and “grown accustomed to being ‘it’ in a global game of dunk-the-clown, and have opted to ‘understand’ the point of view of their Third World accusers.” She changed the way the U.S. conducted business, replacing a flabby one-world idealism with something more like “a political operation in Chicago,” Collier writes, “where tough deals cut on the basis of enlightened self-interest trumped the theater of idealistic rhetoric.” And she had no patience with the egregious double standards of the General Assembly, which, as she put it, judged the U.S. and Israel in particular “by the Sermon on the Mount and all other nations on the curve.”

Finally, Kirkpatrick was a stalwart friend of Israel, resisting the hatred heaped on that vulnerable nation, and fighting against what she called “a systematic totalitarian assault on language and meaning” that cast the Israelis as Nazis and the Palestinians as victims of genocide. Nor did she tolerate in silence a Security Council that in 60 meetings during 1981 had failed to do anything about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia, Iraq’s invasion of Iran, or Libya’s of Chad, yet still found time at 45 meetings to take up Arab complaints about Israel. Kirkpatrick’s forceful leadership at the U.N. was a major factor in the recovery of American prestige that contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union.

After internal White House politics led to her ouster from the Reagan administration, over the succeeding decade Kirkpatrick became a popular public speaker and newspaper columnist, continuing to warn against impractical idealism even when it came from her own side, and to counsel against “expansive, expensive” global projects that she believed eventually harmed American interests. This put her out of favor with the neoconservative ascendency and its program of spreading democracy, “as if,” she wrote, “democracy could imbue chaotic societies and unstable governments with a respect for what we respected: the rule of law, basic human rights and a peaceful world order.” The sting of being summarily dismissed by the American Enterprise Institute that had long been her intellectual home was salved by the sale of her last book to HarperCollins. Unfortunately, she died in 2006, just before the publication of Making War to Keep Peace, an “inquiry into the use of the American military when vital national interests were not at stake,” Collier writes, and a “critique of the misuse of the American military in misbegotten multilateralist adventures, of internationalist power grabs of by the UN, and of futile efforts to plant democracy in barren soil.” Most of the book’s attention, however, came from its criticism of the Iraq War, which obscured the larger, more important argument.

Collier’s narrative of Jeane Kirkpatrick’s  “big little life,” as she called it, is important not just for skillfully capturing the life, times, and independent mind of this quintessential American patriot, but for reminding us of a time when American foreign policy shed its internationalist infatuations, unwarranted self-abasement, and utopian nostrums, and restored to America a well-earned pride at being the greatest global force for freedom and goodness.

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  • Rod McGregor

    This is the same Jean Kirkpatrick who confessed to not knowing who was the head of state of Grenada AFTER the invasion by US forces. Embarassing to see her being informed it was the Queen of England. Whoops. That's Secretaries of State for you. Well informed. Not!

    • PDK

      Rod, the article I just read refered to Jean as Ambassedor to the UN, not Secretary of State. I do not recall her being a SofS ever. I could be wrong but I think you are misinformed.
      One and done! Nobama 2012, vote republican. Thank you.

    • ruth

      pick, pick, pick, pick….

  • H&R_ Barack

    Ms. Jeane Kirkpatrick the no-nonsense, straight-talking ambassador was also a formidable Georgetown dinner hostess whose credo was, "Never apologize."

    Once when entertaining an influential group of Washington elites in her tony district apartment, she failed to fully thaw the Cornish game hens she was serving. A guest, attempting to spear the frozen fowl with the tines of their fork; sent the cold bloody bird sailing across the dinner table and onto the floor.

    The unshakable Ms. Kirkpatrick, continued with her conversation and meal as if nothing happened. This by her own account in a Vanity Fair-type publication some years ago. She was remarkable,

    • Rod McGregor

      Oh, so she couldn't cook either.

      • H&R_ Barack

        Dumbass McGregor, the Scottish Bard of Nonsense………

        In the arena of general erudition and a faculty of reasoning and understanding; – – –
        Ambassador Kirkpatrick would have cooked your dull-witted goose and still had time to fly to France.

  • David M

    Jeane Kirkpatrick was an American Iron Lady and the USA has a living Iron Lady that so-called MSM dare not name her. She is the most courageous American, intelligent, eloquent, self-made, pro-life, pro-America, pro-Israel, and pro-First and Second Amendments. Liberals afraid of her and the so-called Conservatives ( Glenn Beck, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh,…..) are not better. Her name is ANN BARNHARDT and she has a site:

  • Looking4Sanity

    My favorite phrase in this article is "liberals being mugged by reality". Oh, God! How I do love to watch THAT happen! They're ALL going to get "mugged by reality" on November 6th. I'm hoping that they'll all be left rhetorically comatose by that ideological beating.

  • Sid Harth

    My Sister, Jeane Kirkpatrick, A Political Babe and

  • Ghostwriter

    Uh moore,what does THIS have anything to do with the topic at hand?

  • wctaqiyya

    Yeah sure, it's amazing that a mere women can achieve anything? Sexist pigs.

  • mrbean

    Unlike the hag Hillary Clinton who only through her husband achieve stature and failed at everything she touched, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Margret Thatcher made on their own and were highly successful.

  • sfsikores

    R Bonner's book, Waltzing With a Dictator, a history of the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos reign as dictators, paints a negative image of Kirkpatrick and her strong Reagan support for the Philippine dictatorship. Reagan as an anti-communist ideologue cozied up to the Marcos dictatorship (along with central American dictators) and Kirkpatrick was in full support. Human rights violations, widespread torture, cronyism, and a complete looting of the Philippine treasury and resources were ignored by Reagan and Kirkpatrick as the US continued to send billions in payoffs just to keep Subic Bay and Clark Bases functioning (who many military experts felt totally unnecessary). Kirkpatrick was a direct opposite of human rights supporter … she and Reagan did everything possible to keep the evil Marcos dictatorship in power. With no help from the US, it was the Philippine isurgency, the Aquino movement … that toppled the gangster regime. A reason why the US is so hated in so many parts of the world is their support for oppressive dictators who provide military base access. Waltzing With a Dictator opened my eyes to the systemic failures of our foreign policies. Kirkpatrick was an anti-Commie ideologue with accomplishments and baggage.

  • wctaqiyya

    Kirkpatrick is not impressive, not at all. Sorry, she was just another functionary who would say or do whatever her master commanded. She will be quickly forgotten and that is, as it should be. I, being aged and wise, can add many others to this list. But, that's another comment.

    • Roger

      Really? I remember her in her position as UN Ambassador.
      After a typical anti-American rants she stood and started reading a list of countries and the amount of foreign aid sent by us to them.

      It was quite effective.

      • wctaqiyya

        Well, if by effective you mean she succeeded in illustrating the stupidity of American foreign policy, then yeah.
        And good for her that she rose to some level of prominence. However, being the UN ambassador, while nice, is not quite the same thing as being a policy maker. She forged no new ground, made no grand diplomatic breakthroughs and solved no problems. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't she pretty much just read from her script? I mean, she was no Marshall or Kissinger was she? So, I remain unimpressed. I won't dump on her, but she's no Bismark or Talleyrand. So, put away the ticker-tape and recycle that bronze you hoarded for her statue.

        • Roger

          She stood her ground and temporarily put a stop to the rampant American bashing at the UN.

          That's a good thing, at least to someone that believes in American exceptionalism.

          • wctaqiyya

            Yes, it's the America bashing that's the trouble. It's not the funding of our enemies. Funding our enemies is something we can be proud of. Because we're exceptional like that, exceptional like special Ed. Your hero might have made a better impression if she just sang the nursery rhyme about sticks and stones. Bragging about paying the same people who bash you is just stupid.

          • Roger

            Feeding the poor, providing malarial drugs, technical knowhow, and all sorts of humanitarian needs to others shows a nobility to our culture.

            For them to stab us in the back shows a lack of it in theirs. And for her to point it out shows a shrewdness that you seem to find threatening. So, how much foreign aid has your muslim friendly country accepted from us infidels?


    can she smash islam ? can she do it ? In islam logic and logical questions are blasphemy ….by the second question islam murders the questioner. This cult has to be wiped out . we have to do it …but who will? What will it take ? Who will smash islam ? Who will get into tomorrow’s history / herstory books? What will happen to our children’s children’s children if we don’t stop islam now ish ? Women and children will be ruined …’s mind blowing …. just imagine….. DUNE the novel was fantastic…the spice eating blue eyeballed natives were slightly cultish no doubt and the islam angle comes in brilliantly because islam is in fact a blood cult. That’s the whole thing with horrible islam ….all islam is a cult. A horrible cult…for women and children factually . islam is a cult …on steroids…. islam gotta go …mecca medina is gonna be on no one’s must-visit list soon.

    islam is being documented. The file is fattening.

    The macabre cult of islam corrupts the human mind ….the very fact that the good muslim is still in the macabre cult of islam means that he is open to the idea of his children being force fed hate and his corrupted children will definitely be dangerous to our children. We have to stop the macabre cult of islam in its tracks. We have to think of our children’s lives because the macabre cult of islam makes muslims think of our children’s death so then only the macabre cult of islam wins. The macabre cult of islam is in a losing position if even one non-muslim is alive. Do you understand all this ?
    What part of “NUKE-EM” don’t we understand ?
    Islam is cancer, the cure is radiation!

    Who will get into the textbooks of future-history as the planet’s real savior ?
    I HAVE A FEELING IT WILL BE AN INDIAN OR AN IRANIAN. MAYBE EVEN AN AFGAN who read his Buddhist history and came to his senses…. I HOPE IT’S A WOMAN BECAUSE IN THE END IT WILL BE A WOMAN’S JOB TO CLEAN UP THIS macabre MESS THIS ONE MAD MAN CALLED MOHA-MAD WRECKED ON THIS PLANET FOR THE LAST 1400 YEARS. All the blood and gore will come to an end at last and peace will come for our women and children. I have a feeling it’s going to be a woman who smashes macabre islam by speaking and facing the truth of this horrible creeping blood cult.
    islam has to be smashed for your sake.
    For muslims isake slam has to be smashed.

  • terria

    your mom

    • lisa

      thts not nice