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Jeane Kirkpatrick

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Official portrait of Jeane Kirkpatrick.
"..more fool than fascist..she appears to be one of America's own-goal scorers, tactless, wrong-headed, ineffective, and a dubious tribute to the academic profession to which she [expresses] her allegiance."
British ambassador Sir Nicholas Henderson[note 1]

Jeane Kirkpatrick (1926-2006) was morally insane (or, if you're Noam Chomsky, the "chief sadist-in-residence") one of the most influential neoconservatives in the Reagan administration, serving as Saint Reagan's foreign policy adviser. Today, she is most well known for unapologetically defending authoritarian governments so long as they took an anti-communist stance. Her justification for this is that they weren't as bad as potential Marxist governments (this failed before, and she allowed it to happen again). The governments she supported most were El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina, and even the Philippines. Despite her supposedly "anti-rebel" stance (on the basis that traditional dictatorships were better than new ones), she supported the Contras in Nicaragua. During the Falklands War, she favored neutrality, as she supported Argentina's Videla junta. She clashed with Secretary of State Alexander Haig's pro-British position, eventually leading to her downfall in the Reagan administration.

She usually responded to her critics by addressing them as "San Francisco Democrats" who were part of the "blame America first crowd" (blowback never existed, you know), making her favorite defense something of a mix between a strawman and an ad hominem. She also wrote an essay about how Democrats weren't much better about supporting dictators, so she didn't deserve criticism.[1] If you couldn't tell yet, her tendency to defend her policies through blatant logical fallacies doesn't make her a very endearing figure to the majority of people who aren't hardline neocons.[2]

Despite all of the above, she has won the Presidential Freedom Award, which is only slightly less ironic than Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

In yet another horrifying twist, she headed the US delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, where she is best known for dying before she could convince an Arab delegation to support the Iraq War.


Kirkpatrick is known for being very quotable, though not in the way she probably wanted to be.

I don't think the government (of El Salvador) was responsible. The nuns were not just nuns; the nuns were political activists. We ought to be a little more clear-cut about this than typical. They were political activists on behalf of the Frente, and somebody using violence to oppose the Frente killed them.
—Kirkpatrick on three American nuns who were raped and murdered on behalf of the El Salvadorian government.[3]
No idea holds greater sway in the minds of educated Americans than the belief that it is possible to democratize governments anytime and anywhere under any circumstances.
Americans need to face the truth about themselves, no matter how pleasant it is.

See also[edit]


  1. Henderson was antagonized when Kirkpatrick didn't want to support Britain during Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands because she had a "soft spot" for the Argentinian dictator.