Neocons and the revolution

Jeane Kirkpatrick was angry. In August 1997, I visited the retired diplomat at her spacious corner office at the American Enterprise Institute. "I guess they thought it was worth publishing," she spluttered. What had got her so steamed was my allusion to a recent philippic Robert Kagan had published in Commentary called "Democracies and Double ...

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jeane Kirkpatrick was angry.

In August 1997, I visited the retired diplomat at her spacious corner office at the American Enterprise Institute. "I guess they thought it was worth publishing," she spluttered. What had got her so steamed was my allusion to a recent philippic Robert Kagan had published in Commentary called "Democracies and Double Standards."

In his article, Kagan repudiated Kirkpatrick's famous 1979 essay "Dictatorships & Double Standards" in the same journal, which denounced U.S. President Jimmy Carter and caught the eye of his successor Ronald Reagan, who appointed her ambassador to the United Nations. As Kirkpatrick saw it, Carter had hustled the Shah of Iran and the leader of Nicaragua, both of them pro-American autocrats, out of office. The results were disastrous. Friendly authoritarians were gone; true totalitarians were taking over in both places. While authoritarian regimes of the right could mellow over time into democracies, totalitarians ones of the left would not. Anyway, it required "decades, if not centuries," she observed, for "people to acquire the necessary disciplines and habits" to create a viable democracy.

Jeane Kirkpatrick was angry.

In August 1997, I visited the retired diplomat at her spacious corner office at the American Enterprise Institute. "I guess they thought it was worth publishing," she spluttered. What had got her so steamed was my allusion to a recent philippic Robert Kagan had published in Commentary called "Democracies and Double Standards."

In his article, Kagan repudiated Kirkpatrick’s famous 1979 essay "Dictatorships & Double Standards" in the same journal, which denounced U.S. President Jimmy Carter and caught the eye of his successor Ronald Reagan, who appointed her ambassador to the United Nations. As Kirkpatrick saw it, Carter had hustled the Shah of Iran and the leader of Nicaragua, both of them pro-American autocrats, out of office. The results were disastrous. Friendly authoritarians were gone; true totalitarians were taking over in both places. While authoritarian regimes of the right could mellow over time into democracies, totalitarians ones of the left would not. Anyway, it required "decades, if not centuries," she observed, for "people to acquire the necessary disciplines and habits" to create a viable democracy.

Read more.

 

<p> Jacob Heilbrunn is senior editor at the National Interest. </p>

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